I’ll Have My Fruitcake and Eat it Too by Rich Barnett
December 19, 2014 § 4 Comments
The fruitcakes showed up each December, a half-dozen brick-shaped white boxes from Claxton, Georgia, emblazoned with a horse and carriage drawing and the phrase “world famous.” They were gifts from my father’s Southern relatives.
That was back in the days before divorce and death began dismembering my family, carefree Christmas holidays when my brothers and I would toast and slather slices of fruitcake with peanut butter for breakfast and then sneak out with the remainder of the heavy pressed loaf to use in our touch football game. Just like the Kennedys, we used to joke. And, while it’s impossible to throw a spiral pass with a Claxton fruitcake, you can certainly bust out a kitchen window or give a butter-fingered receiver a black eye…
Fruitcake is said to have originated with the Romans. Exactly how the confection made it to the New World is up for debate. Nevertheless, it arrived, and a lot of people wish it hadn’t. Dense and dry, pockmarked and pumped full of green cherries red dye number two, it truly is the most hated cake in history.
Not to me. I relish the humble fruitcake in all its shapes and styles, from cupcakes to stollens to big bundts that look like hemorrhoid cushions. I’ve eaten fancy cakes from Neiman Marcus in Dallas and bourbon-soaked ones made by Trappist monks in Kentucky. I have baked my own. And, while I consider myself a connoisseur of sorts, I’m here to tell you there’s still none I’d rather have than a classic Claxton – the spam of fruitcakes – chock full of glow-in-the-dark candied fruits, sticky pecans, and, most importantly, bittersweet memories. I say that with a smile, not a sneer.
Rich Barnett shuttles between his work for an environmental think tank in Washington, DC, and his writer’s life in Rehoboth Beach, DE. He writes the “Camp Stories” column in the magazine Letters from CAMP Rehoboth and is the author of The Discreet Charms of a Bourgeois Beach Town: Rehoboth Beach Stories. His work has appeared in Chelsea Station Magazine, Saints and Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival 2014, and Shore Life Magazine.