February 2, 2010

Fruit Cake

I am joining Rachel in her weekly meme, "True Story Tuesday."

I had a few requests for the story of fruit cake after I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago. There is something you need to know about our family. If you haven't figured it out yet. We are not actually in our right minds. That is the result of mixing Italian and Irish blood. Because corned beef and smelt just don't go very well together. Matters only got worse when I married my Irish/German hubby and we threw sauerkraut into the mix.

We love a good joke around here. And our family is literally scattered all over the world so when I say around here, I really mean anywhere that one of our odd little breed happens to have become rooted. So, we do. We love a good joke. Truth be known, we love a mediocre joke, if there isn't a good joke to be had.

Our entire lives we have cracked jokes about fruitcake. Which was in large part, undeserved. None of us had ever even tasted fruitcake. The jokes we made applied to that brick of a fruit cake you buy at Walmart. In 2007, as I waited for Ellie's delivery, I ran out of things to do with all my nervous energy and made fruitcake from scratch. We loved it. No I am not kidding. It was quite delicious. We particularly liked to slice and toast it and spread it with a little butter for breakfast.

You know how I feel about chemical laden foods and processed foods and preserved foods. So, no, in fact, I have never even yet tried one of those commercially prepared ones, so be sure I am not speaking of those, but I am here to attest to the fact that real home made fruit cake happens to be a pleasant treat.

We don't watch television. Which is why I can not for the life of me remember where I happened to see the commercial. But one year, around Thanksgiving, the post office had a hilarious commercial where one family member sent a fruit cake to another who immediately re-boxed it and sent it to another and so on until it ended up back where it started.

Well, I laughed and laughed and days later I was still laughing. Allen said how that seemed like something my family would do. That was all the encouragement I needed to go right out and buy a fruit cake. It was gift wrapped, boxed, addressed and mailed to my brother, Dan, as quick as you can say, "Fruitcake."

My brother Dan and my mom do watch television and they got the joke right off. What do you think was in my Christmas box? You got it. The fruit cake. The rules of engagement were unspoken but quite clear. That fruit cake could be mailed anytime between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day but not a day before or a day after. The party who held it on Christmas Day was stuck with it until the next year.

Store bought fruitcake is not inexpensive and I being the frugal person I am, refused to buy a new one next year. I put it in the freezer until the following November and then the fun continued. It seems that was a wasted step, though. A few years later, around August, I was at my brother's house and there sat the fruitcake onto of his stereo speaker. I asked him if he wasn't worried about it spoiling or attracting critters and he said, "Kat, with all the preservatives in there do you really think it would rot?" Good point. Oh, but what about the critters? Insert sigh here. "Oh, come on! Not even mice or bugs would be dumb enough to eat that stuff!" Touche!

So he had me. I still kept it in the freezer. For lack of a better place to keep track of it. (I have been known to put things away for safe keeping and never to find them again. Last Spring, Allen and I bought a couple of beautiful shirts to give my brother, Frank, for Christmas this past year. He ended up with deer skin gloves and a nice pen I bought in London. I still haven't found those shirts!)

One year dear old Dan, a real fan of Far Side, found this great Christmas card by Gary Larson featuring 3 Wise men and a fruit cake. The card, in which the sender wrote the date, their name and to whom it was being sent, started traveling with the fruit cake.

Inside it said, "Unbeknownst to most theologians, there is a fourth wise man who was turned away for bringing a fruit cake."

Some time after that, when I had the fruit cake, I couldn't find the thing anywhere. Our freezer had broken that year and I guessed I must have tossed it along with the other contents that had thawed and spoiled while we were on vacation. There was nothing else to do but buy a new one. I put it in the mail to Dan. But it turns out I didn't have the original one, Dan did. Which he put in the mail to me on the same day. So on the last mailing day before Christmas we both held in our hands a fruitcake. Well, the answer was clear. There was only one thing to do.

That, my friends, is how Diann ended up with two fruit cakes in her possession on Christmas Eve. You think she would have learned or perfected her strategy but she was in the ring with professionals. The following Christmas she ended up in the same boat with two fruitcakes AND this beautiful shirt that Dan had found in a size 3X. It, too, started traveling with the fruitcake and the person holding it on Christmas Day was obligated to not only babysit the cake until the following year but also to have their photo taken while wearing this fashionable baby.

Well, revenge is our darling sister's middle name. Let her put her mind to it and everyone in her path had better watch out! One fruit cake went into the mail to brother Dan on the last day for mailing before the holiday. Thereby sticking him with the shirt and the brick of fruitcake.

The piece de resistance was this, though. Somewhere in her travels she came across some bite sized fruitcakes about the size of a credit card and about a half inch thick. She thought she was being so clever, and in truth she was, when she wrapped a couple of them up and hid them in the toe of each of our stockings. Taped to each was a little note that said, "This is what happens when you leave two fruit cakes alone for a whole year." We laughed until it hurt.

Then it occurred to us. We knew Dan had one fruit cake. He had let us know that with certainty. We held the baby fruitcakes. However, the other fruit cake and the Far Side Card was still unaccounted for. Where had it gone?

Joke was on her. We always let the kids open their stockings on Christmas Eve. Surely she must have forgotten that or she never would have slipped up and clued us in to the whereabouts of the other fruit cake. Di and her hubby, Ben, were coming on Christmas Day to spend the holiday with the family and friends at our house. That was the year they gave our family the Old Fashioned Movie Time Popcorn Maker. The day before Christmas Eve we had a party at our house with Allen's family, my family and some friends who would not be able to join us on Christmas Day. Since the box was so large they had put their gift to us under the tree on that visit.

Amateurs! That was their second fatal mistake. It took only a minute to realize they were trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We ran to the tree and read the tag on the box. "To: Allen, Kathleen, Kaitlin, Brianna, Emma Rose, Nathaniel, Aedan, Samuel and Scoot. Love from: Ben and Diann." There were three smaller boxers there. On two of them were similar tags. The third read simply, "To: Kat From: Ben and Diann."

They had given themselves away. I tore open the box to find a fruitcake. We put it back into the box, added all the mini ones for good measure and re-wrapped it in my signature paper. No one was more surprised then Ben and Diann the following day, when amongst our dearest friends and family, they unwrapped a fruitcake and 18 baby fruitcakes.

Well, Di may know a thing or two about revenge. Allen, Dan and I may know a few things about strategy. But Ben... Ben is the true champion.

The following Christmas, 2008, they were celebrating their first Christmas in Italy. We, being several hours behind them, were still sitting around in our pajamas when the phone rang. We had a wonderful chat wishing merry and sharing reports of gifts given and received. The phone, as it does when family calls home, was passed from person to person on both continents. When the connection was finally made between Ben and Allen, my husband disappeared.

I found him outside, under our deck, with a shovel in his hand.

Ben said our gift was hidden there. As Allen dug through the mud and muck the excitement grew to a piercing level.

He made his way through the stone, through the weed barrier and down through the earth to reveal a gallon size zip lock bag with a material that was unrecognizable.

It seems Dan was wrong on both counts. Fruit cake will not only rot, but mice devoured the stuff! Joke was on us either way as we were the ones under our deck freezing our buns off IN OUR PAJAMAS!

Oh, what genius!

Needless to say, I bought a new fruit cake at the after Christmas clearance sale. This past holiday season was a little harried for me. And some how, I actually forgot to put that fruit cake in the box with presents heading to Italy. Besides, that seems so simple up against such an amazing feat of trickery. Just the same, when I was digging in the far reaches of the freezer and happened it upon it half way through December, there was no way, lame or not, I could let the Christmas season come and go without an appearance of the confection.

But what was one to do? There was no way I could get it to Italy in time to beat the deadline. In a moment of panic something Di had said while I was at her house in November came back to me. They can get packages from Amazon.com in a matter of days even though it can take up to a month to get a package from home.

I went to Amazon and typed in fruit cake. A great many gourmet fruit cakes came up. They were all very expensive coming from places like Harry and David. I could not bring myself to pay $30 for a fruit cake, even for a good joke.

I was about to close the page when my eyes landed on this.

The caption read, "Family Heirloom Fruitcake: Inedible--Just Like Grandma's!" The description went on to say, "One of the oldest—and mostly widely ridiculed—Christmas traditions is the giving of that ubiquitous nut-and-dried-fruit-studded concoction known as the fruitcake. Now you can give the gift that keeps on giving without stepping foot in the kitchen or gourmet food store with this fantastic foam fruitcake—guaranteed to become a new favorite family tradition. Uniquely packaged in a loaf-shaped box, this luscious-looking, inedible loaf will make as good a gift in ten years as it does now!

This uproarious kit also includes the appetizing companion volume 50 Uses for Your Fruitcake, which reveals the top 50 uses of the socially defamed taste treat, solidifying its rank as one of the all-time top gifts of the Christmas season—past, present, and future."

Perfect! As fast as my fingers could hit the "buy now with one click ordering" button it was off to Italy. It seems Mom and Dan were feeling a little clever, too, as newborn Gabriel ended up with the other fruit cake and the shirt. For which Ben and Di found a clever use.

Until next year, the fruitcakes rest, once again, in the loving arms of the Rickert household.



  1. OH MY WORD Kat....I never knew the fun that one family could have with a fruitcake. Never underestimate the power of those things. :-) Just you wait until your little family is spread out and the fun jokes they will come up with.

  2. Kat,

    What a great story behind "fruitcake". I don't think I have ever heard of something being so traditional among a family before. What fun it must be to find a new way to regift that special something to someone who is loved so much! Love it!

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  3. Hello! That is so funny!Y'all have a great sense of humor and that is a must!! BTW come over to my blog,I tried your bread recipe !

  4. I must say, I don't think I've ever read a longer blog post. BUt I enjoyed every word of it! What a great story and fun tradition!! I would love to try something like this with my family, but I am not sure if they would play along...Loved the shirt as a baby blanket!!

  5. What a family tradition! LOL

  6. Now that story gives fruit cake a good name. LOL Love the Gary Larson cartoon about the 4th wise man too. That T-shirt is hysterical too. Your family is a hoot.

  7. Good Golly! I want a family tradition like that! I am beyond jealous of the fruitcake hilarity and will be sure to give you full credit should one of those confections find its way to my sister's mailbox this Christmas :)

    Thank you for sharing - I howled along with each plot twist!

  8. Amazon comes to the rescue again!! Yes, you and I love us some Amazon. How perfect that foamed fruitcake was! I can't even believe that Ben and Di buried the thing. I hope it didn't mean you had some new tenants for awhile.


  9. Hilarious! Enjoyed every minute reading this "age-old, family tradition"! haha A cliff-hanger! Cuz I wanted to know how or what you all did to top the previous year's fruit cake delivery.

    How awesome was that inedible fruitcake! Love it!

    Blessings & Aloha!
    (If you have some time, please feel free to come by...and if you do, please leave a comment so I know that you were there :o)