Ah, the poor fruitcake. It’s one of the most maligned foods of the holiday season.
The jokes and long tales have been around for generations.
Do fruitcakes last forever?
The story goes that a soldier who was sent a fruitcake while serving in the Vietnam War forgot about it — and 40 years later, the uneaten but supposedly edible loaf was found in the family attic.
Fruitcakes are often gifts and, thus, regifted over and over. So much so the fruitcake drew the ire of “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson, who quipped it the worst gift ever.
“The joke is that there has only been one made and it just keeps getting passed around,” Janis Doyle of Texas City said. “So I guess you just need to wait your turn.”
Jeff Smith of Friendswood supports the “only one” theory.
“There is only one fruitcake in the existence of man,” Smith joked. “We carved our initials on the bottom of it back in 1968. We got it back in 1975, 1982 and 2004.
“So, no. I do not partake in the fruitcake tradition.”
For some, it may be a generational thing.
“My dad, Ernie Sanchez Jr., is the only one I know who likes them,” Texas City native Lisa Sanchez Quevedo said.
Or maybe a geographical difference.
“Ugh, my husband (Fred) loves them, but he’s from Wisconsin,” Marisa Dickson of Dickinson said. “His mother brings a mincemeat pie to our holiday dinners every year. It’s a Northern thing. Yuck.”
But, really, does the fruitcake deserve such ridicule?
Roman soldiers liked the early version of fruitcakes and often carried them to the battlefield — portable nourishment.
In the Middle Ages, crusaders added preserved fruit, spices and honey to the mix and carried them far and wide.
“Instead of outlawing the phrase ‘Merry Christmas,’ they should outlaw fruitcakes,” Alan Hutchins of La Marque said.
Actually, they did.
Over time, sugar was added and other sweet fruits and at one point fruitcakes — then called plum cakes — were so well liked they were considered decadent and thus outlawed in parts of Europe. The law was later repealed.
The fruitcake does have its fans.
Mary Bass, the executive chef at Haak Vineyards & Winery in Santa Fe, is a huge fan of fruitcakes but doesn’t make them. Someone in her family does, however.
“My uncle keeps our Eisenhour family tradition alive and makes us one every year,” she said.
Mary Flemming of League City has a fruitcake recipe that she pulls out every year and “vows to make one, but never gets done.”
Some like their fruitcakes with a Texas twang.
“I absolutely love them,” Wynette Jameson of League City said. “The juicier the better. Real Texas pecans are a must.”
Pecans are the not-so-secret ingredient of the fruitcakes shipped out from Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana. Readers over and over raved about the company’s fruitcakes and proclaimed them the “best in the world.” The company has been selling fruitcakes since 1896.
Fruitcakes are responsible for more than 80 percent of the company’s revenues, company spokesman Hayden Crawford said.
“And we will make about 80 percent of our total annual revenues in the final quarter between October and December,” he said. “So we truly are a Christmas company.”
Collin Street Bakery often refers to its cakes as Texas Pecan Cakes instead of fruitcake. Pecans make up more than a quarter of the cake’s weight.
The Collins Street Bakery fruitcakes are not just loved by Texans. Crawford said the company delivers to all 50 sates and 200 countries.
While popular in Europe, the Collins Street brands also are the rage in Japan and Mexico, he said.
Collin Street fruitcakes have even been to space aboard an Apollo space craft and featured on several national television cooking shows.
Some would still prefer to have homemade.
“I love fruitcake,” Charlotte Nowicki of La Marque proclaimed. “One day I think I will try and master the art of making one.”
She may want to call on fellow La Marque resident Ann Gonzales, who today is making her traditional fruitcake.
Galveston native Bill Cherry also is a fruitcake maker.
“I make fruitcakes every year from my mom’s recipe accompanied by Paw Paw Kelso’s eggnog,” said Cherry, who now lives in Dallas. “Believe me, family and friends go through both, leaving not so much as a crumb from the cake or a drop from the nog.”