Dave and I have always thought we were the sole lovers of Christmas fruitcake on the planet. Every year, we have become used to seeing stacks of the little ruby-studded fruitcake that made Claxton, Georgia, a household name.
Fruitcake seems perfect for that not-too-pricey last-minute Christmas gift. After all, they keep virtually forever, especially when soaked in rum, and the fact that you can give them away secures their role as the answer to the everlasting question, “What should we give the mailman? Or the kids’ piano teacher? A next door neighbor? A fellow employee?”
The reality is that none of these people may like fruitcake either, but that isn’t the reason that a whole community is based on the fruitcake market. Fruitcake isn’t about eating. It’s about making money.
Forgive if I sound cynical, but it’s true. If you produce a product that nobody wants, you find another use for it, in this case, perhaps as a doorstop or as bait in a mousetrap. Or as an unwanted gift for our fellow travelers in this vale of tears.
I guess Dave taught me that. It’s capitalism, he says. Manufacturers don’t put back-up video systems on their rear bumpers to aid the prospective driver whose driveway is a magnet to small children. They put them in because another company has pre-hyped the product and made would-be buyers ashamed if he doesn’t care enough about his neighborhood children to buy one.
It isn’t the nobility. It’s the money.
Some years ago one of the popular scientific publications said that flowers and fruit and colorful birds and just about everything we admire in the universe were not made colorful or shapely to please the human eye. They are outstanding in their appeal to others of their ilk in order to promote the one drive shared by all living things: the furthering of their own genomes, DNA if you will, commonly called the theory of Origin of the Species.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the beauty that makes the natural world so delightful to human senses. But to think that a scarlet tanager was created for our appreciation is naïve.
He got that color because his mother’s forbearers fell for his great-great-grandfather’s stunning feathers. We don’t swoon over the same process in the mosquito’s survival techniques.
But I digress. Back to the lowly fruitcake. It is not to be found in Fayette County, Georgia, at Christmastime 2013. We let it go until the last minute, figuring they’d be marked down to sell by about Dec. 20, but they were gone. The guy putting out baked goods in the back corner of the Braelinn Kroger told us not to plan on getting one before the end of the year. They ran out of them a week earlier and the supplier said he had no more, and wasn’t expecting any. Period.
To be absolutely truthful, he handed us a pale brown fruitcake that didn’t look very promising, made by a different company and with a Kroger label. Actually, it was delicious, but it wasn’t a Claxton fruitcake.
“Last year, nobody wanted them,” the grocery guy said. “We marked them down to about a quarter and still couldn’t sell them. Nobody likes fruitcake.”
Waitaminute. Stores couldn’t stock them because nobody was buying them? Isn’t that a little like the line, “Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded”?
Not entirely convinced, we went to the “big Kroger” in Kedron Village Center. Same story: They hadn’t had Claxton fruitcake for weeks. Got the same response at two of the Publix stores in Peachtree City. I wanted to cry.
Where did these people come from, these people who hate fruitcake yet scour them from the grocery shelves?
Sorry to vent like this. Remember when I said writing this column is therapy? There you have it. I have gifts not yet wrapped and cookies that didn’t happen. My birthday was this week, marked by Dave in a wonderful meal at Pascall’s Bistro.
I took a chance and sent Christmas cards mostly by e-mail this year. I’ve had no criticism for doing so. Blessings are usually mixed. When your fingers will not work and you can’t even read notes or numbers you’ve written yourself, it’s a blessing to have the tried-and-true methods like typing, which still works. Technology has certainly made life easier in that respect.
May your Christmas be a happy one, and may all those you love let you know they love you too. They do, you know.
Merry Christmas, merry Christmas to all, and not a bit of irony in it.
[Sallie Satterthwaite of Peachtree City has been writing for The Citizen since our first issue Feb. 10, 1993. Before that she had served as a city councilwoman and as a volunteer emergency medical technician. She is the only columnist we know who has a fire station named for her. Her email is SallieS@Juno.com.]