How do you feel about fruitcake? I know for a fact that my dad loved it. He only liked one kind though, and that’s Claxton. Claxton fruitcakes are made in a little Georgia town called Claxton, GA. As far as I know, the folks in Claxton do not grow any of the fruits typically baked into a fruitcake, but apparently that doesn’t matter, because they were grown before any of us was born anyway.
When I was a little girl, my mom used to make all three of us kids go to visit her dear friend every Christmas, an elderly woman in an upscale retirement community here in Atlanta. She would make me take my ukulele and play songs for her, and we kids would get to take a piece of candy off of her Christmas candy wreath that she hung on her door. That was pretty much the highlight of our trip. All three of us knew what was coming before we would leave. Mrs. Washington (mom’s friend) would drag out a fruitcake and share a piece with all of us. Not a big deal really, unless you consider all the factors at play.
First, my mother had a hard and fast rule about food offered to us by someone else: you had to eat it, no matter what. I think this rule is a direct result of her growing up during the Great Depression. Food was never a given, never to be taken for granted. This was a problem for kids of Depression-era parents. We ended up overweight and were conditioned to eat dog poop if someone handed it to us on a pretty napkin.
Now Mrs. Washington’s fruitcake was not of the Claxton variety. I’m sure it was a very expensive delicacy, and I am doubly sure it was soaked in rum or brandy. Maybe both. It was crammed with petrified, gelatinous fruits and nuts; there was no eating “around” the fruits, like you can with a Claxton in a social pinch. My siblings and I would eye each other as she produced the cake and carefully sliced off a tiny, one-pound hunk for each of us. We’d try NOT to look at each other as we took the first of what seemed like hundreds of tiny bites, our mother looking on to catch any signs of a gag or an attempt to wad up the confection in a napkin. She never missed a trick. I will never forget those annual pilgrimages to see Mrs. Washington and her never-ending fruitcake, God rest her soul. I’ve often wondered if they buried the cake with her.
Second, I think I always left her apartment in the upscale retirement community with a bit of a buzz, though I didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time. Apparently both rum and brandy increase in potency when paired with candied fruit.
Someone asked me the other day that old familiar question, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what’s the one thing you’d want with you?” I answered, “fruitcake.” Portioned out sparingly, you could live off of just one of them for decades. And if it’s one of those expensive ones, you could maintain just enough of a buzz to not care that you were stranded on a desert island.
Because of this childhood memory that has obviously stuck with me, I have always enjoyed the seasonal jabs people take at fruitcake. These are just a few of the suggested uses I’ve heard over the years. Honestly, some I’ve added myself: door stop, paperweight, tire chuck, footstool, coffee table, curling stone, Christmas tree stand (just shove the trunk right down into the middle of it), the last gift you’ll ever have to give someone, blunt object with which to stun an ex-spouse.
If you have additional uses you’d like to share with readers, please do.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was named Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with loving humor about the South. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. Follow Carole on Facebook (Carole Townsend-Author), Twitter @caroletownsend