I just carefully and gently put down a newspaper in which there was yet another of those strange jokes about how horrible fruitcakes are and what an unwelcome gift one makes ...
Actually, in the interests of journalistic accuracy, I should rephrase that slightly... first of all I should make it clear that I only surmised that it was a joke because of its location in the funnies and then again my reaction had a little bit less to do with the gentle and the careful than it did with that wilder territory of crumpling, rending and hurling.
I mean, I mean, what is it you guys have against the fruit cake. The situation's got so bad here that for the duration of this essay I will have to be very careful when refering to our subject so that you fruitcakes out there don't think I'm insulting anyone: that by wanton use of the term 'fruitcakes' I'm suggesting that anyone is, in effect, air-headed or foolish (by the way this application of fruitcake is really ironic as you'll see in a moment). And anyway I don't understand it.
Why all the antipathy?
Why the vicious humour?
And why, why, the unbridled loathing of such a fine and innocuous food?
I suppose I should set the record straight right now and admit that I love fruit cake, and the more dense and the more fruit and the less cake the better---why I even have my parents send me at great expense and probably in the very face of the US Dept of Agriculture that ultimate in cakeless fruit the real home-made Great British Christmas Pudding. Repleat is the only word for the Great British Christmas Pudding: and repleat it is with raisins and chopped citrus and dates and glacé cherries and nuts and now-a-days sadly no sixpenny-bits since they started messing around with the coinage, but most of all with substance, with bulk even--dark and glistening and airless and solid Ahh! The very antithesis of air headedness!!
What was it Robert Burns wrote "But mark the rustic fruitcake fed, The trembling Earth resounds his tread..." though, hang on, come to think of it that was actually about the Haggis---but that's just a detail, and after all it's the thought that counts.
Now compare that firm dose of reality and truth-in-advertising with what generally passes for a cake over here. Your paltry American cakes: spongy, ephemeral things made of equal parts of fat, sugar and air, and often topped with some sort of vague oleaceous terror and probably all laced, moreover, with one of the most evil addictive drugs known to medical science--gasp!--chocolate. The whole thing amounting to no more than a sort of stealth version of cardiac arrest on a bun--and all the while managing to be totally unsatisfying of either hunger or taste!
In fact the only contribution to cakedom of any worth made by these here United Cakes of America is the carrot cake which is, I'm forced rather reluctantly to admit, frankly delicious and even hints at being, at least nominally, slightly sort of almost healthy-ish--and yet, and yet, I've noticed with horror over the last few years how even this delight is becoming less substantial and probably more fatty as the evil lords of the bakery brainwash America's tastbuds.
And this frothy insincerity in baked goods extends even to the most serious and symbolical of cakes. To such cakes as are even central to our lives.
Take, take for example wedding cakes over here, or actually on second thoughts let's not.
If I start discussing the anthropology of serial poligamy in America in the context of baked goods you'll all think I'm a fruitcake...
Cheerio for now
from Richard Howland-Bolton
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