The Furious Fight Over Fruitcake

A light snow falls on a cold December afternoon. Up pulls the delivery person with a parcel for you.  As you eagerly await them to make their way up to the entryway, you can’t help but wonder what kind of treasure may rest inside.  After feigning indifference to the whole excitement at the door, you quickly make your way to the kitchen table and open it up. Inside, your favorite aunt has dutifully and carefully wrapped…a fruitcake. You do which of the following:

A.     Excitedly reach for a plate and a nearby knife.
B.      Sob uncontrollably in disappointment and throw it.
C.      Rewrap it and go visit your sister and her kids.
D.      Hide it away only for your consumption (along with those boxes of chocolate covered cherries).

Perhaps the answer is obvious to you…perhaps not. No holiday dessert has drawn in such debate like the fruitcake. As The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Fruitcake (yes, indeed) stated, fruitcake has been “the butt of many jokes and practical jokes-and yet” fruitcake is “esteemed by many, and an important part of many folks’ holiday.” This is certainly true, perhaps even within families: with the pro-fruitcake consortium on one side and the fruitcake defamation league on the other side.

Johnny Carson once famously launched a thousand fruitcakes out of the front door when he quipped, “The worst gift is fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.” The amount of energy that has been put into picking on the fruitcake has been met on the other side with a passion for promoting this cake, often filled with nuts and fruit, and sometimes soaked in liquor or wine.  For instance, “Isabelle” is the author of the blog, “Mondo Fruitcake.” The blog is meant to be a means of sorting through her frustration with “the state of this nation’s attitude toward fruitcake.”  It features a year-round look into the world of fruitcakes.

Made in monasteries, bakeries, home ovens, and in many other places, the fruitcake pulls in some heavy support from a diverse crowd of consumers, just as it draws its detractors. Wherever your passions may rest, we can all appreciate that the fruitcake is a standard for the holidays in the United States.  Its long history (dating back to ancient Rome!) and its ability to draw in such passion and detachment is a pretty impressive mark on American culture during the holidays. So, grab a knife and a cup of coffee, or package it back up and send it off…no matter, the fruitcake will persevere.

A Picture of Mathew J. Bartkowiak, Ph.D.

About Mathew J. Bartkowiak, Ph.D.

Laboratory Products Department Manager, Nelson-Jameson, Inc.
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