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Why do so many Americans hate fruitcakes? We first became aware of this phenomenon when we read a story by the New Zealand Herald's New York correspondent, Roger Franklin, under the heading A time when aliens feel like fruitcakes.

"For some reason, on this side of the Pacific, fruitcakes are not merely disliked, they are detested and vilified," Roger reported. "To present one as a gift at Christmas, as an otherwise gracious hostess icily informed me many years ago, is to risk giving serious offence.

"Why this should be the case is a mystery, but it is nevertheless a fact. One night last week, for example, TV comic Jay Leno devoted an entire segment to fruitcake gags and the audience roared at pretty much every one."

Not all Canadian care for fruitcakes, either. We found this report in the Toronto Star of December 11, 2003:

Chefs-in-training at George Brown College began measuring ingredients today for about 400 fruitcakes they plan to ship to Canadian troops in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Sierra Leone.

And you can set aside the lame jokes about how the soldiers can use them for mortar rounds or to weigh down the tents in a wind storm.

These cakes are being made with an extra dollop of care and concern for soldiers serving overseas, and they'll be accompanied by cards, notes and other greetings from students and faculty.

John Walker, dean of hospitality and tourism at the college, says even though some of the approximately 3,800 soldiers at the receiving end might not like fruitcake, it's the thought that counts.

Back in the U.S., the city of Buffalo, New York, conducted a nationwide Fruitcake Amnesty Campaign, a public service to collect and consume all uneaten fruitcakes left over from the 2003, 2002 and 2001 holiday seasons.

"Fruitcake recipients from throughout the United States are free to mail all unopened, uneaten fruitcakes to Buffalo, no questions asked," said the mayor. "Organizers have designated a special 30,000-square-foot warehouse in anticipation of the fruitcake influx."

The International Federation of Competitive Eating got in on the act as a co-sponsor. "I have speculated, based on absolutely no data whatsoever, that we will receive 100,000 fruitcakes" said George Shea. "I believe there are 100,000 neglected fruitcakes in the U.S.A."

The Rochester (New York) NBC TV station's website provided further details: Drew Cerza, a Buffalo events promoter, said the idea was to get people to give not only fruitcakes but also more palatable fare in danger of going to waste to the Food Bank of Western New York.

"Fruitcake is one of many unwanted foods that people have in their cupboards," he said. "It's really a creative way to give the food bank a boost in the arm."

Fruitcake wasn't all bad, Cerza said, noting its high-protein, high-fibre nutritional qualities. And, he added, it was also useful in holding down pool covers in winter.

Some of the cakes which had been rounded up were consumed in a fruitcake-eating contest on December 30. Sonya Thomas, a 105-pound professional eater was crowned Fruitcake Champion after swallowing more than two kilograms in 10 minutes. She beat 405-pound Eric (Badlands) Booker of Long Island by about 3.5 grams.




Two small towns in the US, Corsicana, Texas, and Claxton, Georgia, both claim to be the Fruitcake Capital of the World. A third American small town, Bear Creek, North Carolina, also has a great family-run bakery famous for its fruitcakes. For this story, written in 2001, click on the UK foodzine BARE INGREDIENTS.

Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

Story first posted February 2004

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