In Defense of Fruitcake

In our era of political correctness, when racial, sexual and stereotyping “jokes” have finally been swept from the public conversation because of their being disgusting, mean, crass, unenlightened and just plain boring, I find that I must bring to my reader’s attention a small nook of said public conversation that has not yet been tidied: the totally acceptable public humiliation and shaming of those who love what amounts to a small pile of dried and glaceed fruits held together by a winsome batter of butter, flour, eggs and spice. It is time for a new maturity on the part of the pokers and prodders. It is time to stop sending those blasted cards. It is time for the thoughtless, painful, embarrassing jokes to end. I urge you to join me in the ushering in of a renewed era: an era during which fruitcake can take once again its honored place upon the pantry shelf.

Fruitcake. Most Americans today have never tasted a real one. If your idea of fruitcake is something that you can order from a boxed fruit company or buy in a Dollar Store redolent of cheap candy and caramel-corn, well. What can I tell you. Your world is very small. Anything that is more sickly-sweet “cake” than fruit, anything that has small, unidentifiable green things in it, anything that is made by a machine and comes wrapped in plastic is, by definition, not a fruitcake. It’s a pathetic blob of sugars and preservatives aimed at separating the consumer from his dollar by imitating and commodifying That For Which Real Fruitcake Stands.

Fruitcake sums up something iconically American. There is nothing contemporary about its message. Fruitcake is part and parcel with candlelight, the cracking of walnuts, the glass of port, the country dog lying at one’s feet. It accompanies the work-day done, another log on the fire, the reading of "St. Agnes’ Eve." Fruitcake-- the real kind-- symbolizes the keeping of tradition, successful harvest, the idea of comfort, of sweetmeats, feasting, firelight--safety, survival, warmth--home.

Even the cheap fruitcakes in dollar stores, their tins decorated with pictures of sleighs and cottages, offer a desperate nostalgic attempt at these values, at connoting "home". Perhaps that’s why Shoebox Cards finds fruitcake humor so commercially viable. Home being just so, well, over.

It is not without sadness that I recognize that two of my best friends hate fruitcake. I weep for their uneducated palates, their narrow worlds. Through the years, finding their coarse humor unencouraged, they have stopped sending me those damned fruitcake cards. I believe they now send them to each other, finding solace in the companionship of ironic distance.

They’ll never know the secret happiness that fruitcake lovers know—the glow that comes with knowing you've got a carefully wrapped hunk of homemade fruitcake waiting for you. They'll never have that solid fruit-bound assurance that joy will return year after year, in ring form, suitable only for sharing with the truest of companions.