Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Day 14 - Fruitcake (It's in the Genes)

Holiday Lament (The Fruitcake Song)

On some level, I think even fruitcake knows how awful fruitcake is.

Dislike of fruitcake supposedly dates back to the American Revolutionary War.

Legend has it that Commander-in-chief George Washington approached Benjamin Franklin one day to ask for barricade ideas to stop advancing British forces. Franklin suggested using his mother-in-law's fruitcake... apparently his uncle had broken a tooth on one the previous year.

It is doubtful that Washington took Franklin's dubious advice.

Another legend proposes that George Washington, upon hearing from one of his men that they were out of ammunition, suggested that they fire fruitcakes at the British. Apparently many British soldiers were killed or maimed that day.

Finally, there was the story published in the New York Times in 1983, which tells of Russell Baker, the lucky man who inherited a family fruitcake that had been baked in 1794 as a Christmas gift for George Washington. Washington apparently sent it back with a note of thanks, explaining that "he thought it unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter."

Mr. Baker coined the phrase, "Fruitcake is forever."

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I can only guess that my Colonial ancestors also had an aversion to fruitcake, since I have such a supreme distaste for it, myself.

If fruitcake is forever, then dislike of it must be in the genes.

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This post is part of the "2012 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories," and was originally posted on December 14, 2009. Slight modifications have been made.

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Funny song from the original holiday musical revue, "That Time of the Year." See http://www.thattimeoftheyear.com/.

"Fruitcake is Forever," Russell Baker, New York Times, December 25, 1983, Section 6, p. 10, column 3 (subscription required to view the article).

Copyright © by Elizabeth O'Neal

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