Fruitcake

By Henry, Lawrence | The American Spectator, July/August 2006 | Go to article overview
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Fruitcake


Henry, Lawrence, The American Spectator


IT's A "STANDING HEAD." That means a headline you can Just let "stand," or stay set in type, because it gets used over and over again. "State Rep. Arrested for DUI." 'Newborn Discovered in Dumpster." "Man Rediscovers Gift Fruitcake From 1962."

The last story, dated April 18 by AP, tells how a man discovered a 40-year-old fruitcake in his mother's attic, originally sent to him when he was stationed in Alaska in the Army. "As best [Lance Testa ] can remember, he packed the cake with the rest of his belongings and shipped it home to Waukesha when he left the military a few years later.... His mom had given him advance warning of the fruitcake [sent by his aunts] back in 1962."

That's the fruitcake in the news. There is also the fruitcake as staple of seasonal comedy. Every Christmas, comedians tell "eternal fruitcake"jokes-the idea being that fruitcakes are so awful, people recycle them as gifts over and over again till someone finally throws them away.

As Dave Barry puts it, "Fruitcakes make ideal gifts because the Postal Service has been unable to find a way to damage them."

MY MOTHER MADE FRUITCAKES and they were terrific. She used to mail one or two to me when I was away at college, and I always kept them, carefully wrapped up in a moist towel, to take a slice off now and then. My roommates and friends seemed to like it, too, except for the guy who said it was just too goyische even to taste.

I called Mom to ask her about the three recipes she used and where they came from. One started from a base of ground pork, one from double-strength brewed coffee, and one from applesauce. She did not, as I suspected she might, learn to cook them from her mother or from any family friend renowned as a cook.

"I just looked up the recipes myself," Mom said. "One came from a cookbook I got as a wedding present, the TuckabackCircle of the Methodist Church in Sioux Falls." One of the others came from Fannie Farmer. As The Joy of Cooking reminds us, "Fruitcakes are fundamentally butter cakes [i.

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