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No More Fruitcakes! (A Metaphor for Life:)


Have you ever received a bad Christmas present, a real downer, but were too polite to refuse it? 

If you haven’t, let me introduce you to the FRUITCAKE. Yes, the FRUITCAKE . . . that 17 lb. heap of candied fruit, nuts and crushed barley that masquerades itself as a culinary dessert “gift”.  Sure . .  

I’ve not only been the recipient of this hideously dry rubble;  I’ve  prepared one myself.  Just once, I might add.  I was a mere school girl, thrilled with the prospect of having my deep-South neighbor teach me how to prepare – and bake – this “special” Christmas gift tradition.  I remember shopping at the local grocery for all the overpriced ingredients (none of which were in our kitchen pantry – the first clue that something was wrong here), taking a whole Saturday afternoon to prepare it, and hoping in my childhood optimism that the final product would exceed the sum of its precarious parts. WRONG.  

By the time we finally finished “baking” this thick, brown gravel, laced with a fruit called currents, it was already dark and too late to play outdoors with friends.  Oh, well, I reasoned. At least I made a special, homemade gift.   

Christmas Day arrived and, following dinner, I proudly presented this hefty gift of holiday grit to those gathered round the dining table. After commenting on the “lovely” spectacle known as the FRUITCAKE, some adults politely postponed the invitation.  “Oh, thanks, I’ll wait till later –  when I have some room!” Others opted to take ”only a sliver,” confidently declaring, “I’m dieting.” Finally, some others responded, “You know I only take coffee for dessert . . .I’ll just have a tiny taste of yours, Maura!”

Not to be daunted  by their reticence, I courageously asked for a large piece and dug right in. In my anticipation, I eagerly championed the first forkful. For the next,  I asked for a glass of milk. For the third bite, I added a huge dollop of vanilla ice cream, only to find that this baked bundt of yuletide joy had the utter audacity to swallow any and all liquid up for itself! (I was too young and inexperienced a baker to douse it with brandy.)  The rest of the FRUITCAKE just sort of sat there, alone, speaking louder than words, till I found a legitimate enough distraction to leave the table, never to return to it that night.  

I’m not exactly sure what happened to that FRUITCAKE . . . I think it was first returned to its vacuum-packed sleigh-and-holly decorated round tin. I do recall it making a brief public appearance on the kitchen counter through New Years Day (“in case anyone would like to help himself”).  Next, I think it was relocated to the kitchen closet where it remained front-and-center for a time. A few weeks later, it was probably shoved to the back of the pantry, later repositioned to some obscure spot beside the Special K with freeze-dried strawberries (anyone remember how big of a hit that product was.  . . .not!). Finally, a year or two later, it was  surreptitiously thrown out  while I was at school.   No one ever spoke about this FRUITCAKE again. . . including me!

Now. .. since this is My Public Domain . … let me declare:

1. There will be NO MORE FRUITCAKES!

2. If FRUITCAKES were so great, people would buy them all year.  Marketing-wise grocery chains would be regularly advertising Buy-One-Get-One-Free specials on FRUITCAKES . . .but they don’t.  And we all know why. 

3. There are fewer than a dozen FRUITCAKES in the world and nobody knows how to get rid of them.  They just keep getting politely accepted, regifted and recirculated so the next person can pass them along to some unsuspecting novice. 

4. These seemingly eternal cakes refuse to decompose. Rumor has it that the longest preserved FRUITCAKE dates all the way back to the Roman Empire. Even these ancient people knew to refuse them.

5. Rumor also has it that eBay, the purveyor of all things, has refused to carry “FRUITCAKE” as one of its products unless it’s accompanied by an all-expense-paid, first class cruise aboard the QEII, at which time  the FRUITCAKE can be discreetly disposed of in some back alley cannister in Southampton.  

6.  If you’re still too polite to say, “NO” to this poor excuse for a present, here’s a foolproof pass-the-buck response for you: “Oh, I’d love to accept . . .but I’ve been advised by my periodontist that FRUITCAKES would cause my teeth to pop out.  So sorry . . . .!”

Finally. . . , because I’m Queen of My Public Domain, let me be perfectly honest. I DON’T LIKE FRUITCAKES!

Save yourself the money and enjoy the holidays!

Maura is an International Speaker on Self Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

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