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The Noble Fruitcake Tradition

As a kid, I loved the holiday traditions. One was going up to the mountains to look for the perfect Christmas tree. My mom always stayed home to cook the meal and I loved crunching through the snow with the smell of dinner in the air as we approached the house. Beautiful times!

Another American Christmas tradition is fruit cake. As a child, I, however, thought it suspicious: the fruit looked like plastic, it was packed with walnuts, which I didn’t like, and was so dense and dark a normal person couldn’t bite through it. But I said nothing when it was passed around the table; I calmly slipped it under the table to the dog.

My mom would give the cakes to everyone and I truly thought there was something wrong with me because all the «friends» seemed simply delighted!

It wasn’t until I got caught feeding it to the dog and the family rallied in my defense: its popularity was a fraud. We all fed it to the dog, secretly.

I was part of a silent vast majority. According to a PBS article by Elson Trindad in 2015, the once-noble fruitcake has been long ridiculed in literature and popular culture from Charles Dickens to Johnny Carson. I assume it’s revered because its eternal shelf life would ensure survival of the troops in the long, cold winters.

Close to my little town in California, there is an even smaller town called Independence. Maybe out of boredom, someone thought up having a Fruitcake Festival; it now gets national attention! To gain entry, festival goers bring a fruit cake or egg-nog. The judges then evaluate the cakes and announce a king. From the same article, I read: The rituals begin with «The entrance of the Fruitcake King, who presides over the event, (and) the introduction of the Archival Fruitcake -- a now-10-year-old fruitcake amended each year with brandy and powdered sugar and sealed inside a Cold War-era Civil Defence barrel stored in a cool basement during the rest of the year. The Fruitcake King selects a willing attendee to eat a piece of it to formally kick-off the festival.

Fruitcake: consume at your own risk!!!

Fruitcake is not only a food type, it is also an expression. We call someone who may lack in judgment, missing a screw etc. a «fruitcake». The current king has reigned the past 10 years and at first he felt it a great honor. Then, he realized that nobody was challenging him and if he didn't take drastic action, it might immortalize him as the Great Fruitcake King of all Time.

But there is hope for this regal individual. Just this year, during our family gathering, my mom clasped her hands, looked up dreamily and sighed: I would love to become the first Fruitcake Queen. We all met silent eyes, even the dog. We camouflaged our flash of horror as we smiled encouragingly at my mom!

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