Here’s a holiday quiz to see if you can name the item. You can use these instead of sandbags during the next rainstorm. Use them as speed bumps to foil the neighborhood drag racers. Cut slices for your next skeet-shooting competition. Give them to your child for a science project. Use them as blocks for step aerobics. What is it? It’s fruitcake!! Why do people laugh when you tell them you’re going to send out fruitcakes as presents? What is this thing about fruitcake?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that fruitcake will last two to three months in the refrigerator without spoiling, will maintain its quality if stored up to a year in the freezer and will be swallowed whole within 5 minutes of opening after a 4-20 party in Colorado.
Older folks probably remember when the holiday fruitcake arrived and sat there unopened for weeks and months because Aunt Betty believed that fruitcake, if unopened, could last well into the Spring season. Not true. It’s much longer than that.
I found a deal on 5 one-pound packages of fruitcake in sealed, full color cartons on sale for $41.95. That’s seven dollars a pound. Where can you give a gift that keeps on giving for seven dollars? What do I mean by ‘Keeps on Giving?” Because recipients have been known to send them along just like a chain letter to someone on their list that could appreciate a good joke or is just on the bottom of their Christmas gift list. This means the post office has been handling the same fruitcakes for years. It’s like they never really stop traveling. I’m sure some fruitcakes have more frequent flyer miles than some pilots. Post office clerks may even recognize familiar fruitcake packages. Fruitcakes are made to last. There’s one from 1902 in the Smithsonian that has been sent around the world 187 times. The honor for the oldest known existing fruitcake used to be for one that was baked in 1878 when Rutherford B. Hayes was President. That makes it 144 years young, but the grand prize goes to one unearthed in the tomb of Tutankhamun. When a slice was cut off and heated, it was good as new although a little ‘sandy’. Don’t you wish your shelf life was as long? Where did it take on this quality of timelessness? Is it the ingredients?
A Claxton fruitcake is approximately 72% fruits and nuts. By themselves, these are not heavy ingredients. A fruitcake does, however, have the mass of a black hole. How does it do that? No one really knows but astronauts couldn’t even bring a slice onto the space station because it weighed too much.
Let’s go back to the post office. At this time, most of the holiday mailing is over. The post office says their heaviest day of the year is Dec. 16th when you are assured of delivery by Christmas. They call it ‘customer appreciation day’ and hand out bags of chips, cookies and crackers to those in line. I guess they expect us to be there long enough to need what the airlines consider a meal. Why don’t we just cut out the middleman, and send a virtual fruitcake by email? It will lighten their load and the money you save on postage will pay for some fruit and nuts for your New Year’s party.