I just read the fruitcake story on page one in today’s FORUM and I laughed out loud at the families who play "pass the fruitcake" each Christmas for the past 20+ years. There are so many fruitcake jokes about doorstoppers, etc. that any time I see "fruitcake" in a story I have to read it. This is as good as the "moleskin pants" story about the two brothers in law (somewhere) who gave each other a pair of moleskin pants at Christmas for years and years…the same pants of course. But they were creative and did all they could to make it impossible for each other (they hoped) to get at the moleskin pants. The tradition continued until one of them put the pants inside an old junker car and sealed the entire thing in concrete. I think the tradition may have had to end that year. I have not read any more tales of the moleskin pants since that year.
The fruitcake story today triggers some other remembrances of odd bits of food that has survived for a long length of time…surely not for 20 years or more but for long periods when most of us would not expect food to last. The advent of food preservatives has enabled food to stay "fresh"…or at least look like it is fresh…for amazing lengths of time.
Years ago when our youngest son was in his preteen years, he loved "Twinkies" and would actually save up his money so he could buy a double pack! He always feared leaving his Twinkies around the kitchen because a couple of times, one of his older brothers found them and ate them before he could get at them himself. So once after buying the double pack of Twinkies, he found the best possible place to hide them from the brothers….in the shelf space under the bathroom sink in our first floor bathroom. This would be akin to my friend Norma hiding the TV remote from Rollie her husband in the family freezer so she did not have to endure his TV channel flipping every night! At any rate, our youngest son KNEW his rat-fink brothers would not find his Twinkies. About 2 years later I was in a housecleaning frenzy and was attacking the first floor bathroom with zeal, emptying out the linen closet, the drawers, the shelves under the sink……..when LO and Behold! I found the Twinkies which had been forgotten long ago and were still lying in their hiding place. I took them out and upon inspection I discovered they were in a state of preservation not unlike an Egyptian Mummy which had been entombed in the last Egyptian Dynasty!!! Preservatives rule and reign! It was a good lesson because we all swore off baked goods that had been mummified with preservatives. (maybe they would make us live longer by preserving US…. but we were not taking any chances after the Twinkie incident!)
Another experiment with preserved baked goods was conducted in our faculty lounge on top of our pop machine a few years before I retired. One day one of my colleagues told a true tale about her mother having put a loaf of Sara Lee bread some place where she forgot about it and after a long period of time passed, she found it, totally fresh and soft as if it had been baked that day! So inspired by scientific zeal, and a desire to conduct a legitimate "experiment" we assigned one of the lunch bunch to buy a loaf of Sara Lee bread and bring it to our faculty dining lounge where we could do all 7 steps we remembered in using the "scientific method" of discovery. The loaf of bread was placed in a warm place–atop the pop machine which generated a good bit of heat from its electrical fan dispelling the pop machine motor’s heat. We watched and waited and watched and waited some more and finally after our agreed – upon time span we opened the Sara Lee bread wrapper and discovered that it was also filled with baking preservatives that had kept it mold-free, soft, fresh and appearing to have just come out of the oven. We all swore off Sara Lee bread and I might advise you, Dear Readers, to do the same, unless you want to conduct another scientific experiment on the possibility of bread preservatives allowing you to live into your high 100′s years of life! Personally, I am unwilling to make myself into a human guinea pig.
I have two home made fruitcakes waiting for me in our "cold room". They have absolutely no preservatives in them unless raisins, cranberries and gumdrops are preservatives. I LOVE fruitcake (my recipe) and can barely wait to sink my teeth into one of them after we get home today.