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by Brenda Wall

And I am not talking about the election. The fruitcakes are already out in the stores for this season. I have friends who eagerly await their arrival. I can remember the first time I ever saw a store bought fruitcake. I was appalled that anyone might consider putting that in their mouth. I come from the land of real fruitcakes and homemade pimento cheese.

My mother baked fruitcakes every year. She would begin before Thanksgiving chopping fruit and nuts and flouring and soaking and doing this whole long ritual before the cake part even began to take shape.

Once the cake was finally in the oven, no one was allowed near the kitchen. The fruitcake was on, and boy, did it smell good baking what seemed like three days. It smelled so much better than it looked.

When the fruitcake was finally done, three or four neighbors would have to come help get it out of the oven. It weighed a ton. They would flip it over and the cake would fall in one beautiful swoop out onto clean towels where it would set to cool for a spell.

Then began the long process of turning what some would consider a finished product into a fruitcake. The road is long and arduous. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is a ritual that requires dedication and know how.

Once the cake is cooled, it is wrapped in an old diaper (cloth of course) which has been lightly soaked in a cheap, sweet, dark, overbearingly pungent wine. The cake is set down in the middle of the cloth and the ends are pulled up and crammed down into the center hole of the cake.

The wrapped bundle is then placed in a tin, a fruitcake tin, and a shot glass filled with the same cheap wine is placed gently in the center hole of the fruitcake. The lid is placed on the container and the cake is stuck back in a closet.

On a schedule only the baker understands, the cake is removed from hiding, opened, bathed in more cheap wine, oohed and ahhed over and then rewrapped and replaced back in the closet. This goes on for weeks.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, the baker says “let’s cut the fruitcake” and all the adults just get downright giddy at the thought. The cake comes out of the closet. It is carefully unwrapped and everyone admires the dark, glistening orb.

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It is sliced and the difference between the real thing and store bought is evident. It is the difference between real jewelry and costume, real iced tea and instant. There is no doubt.

There is no one left in my family who can bake a fruitcake. We don’t have to worry about having to eat any to be polite. We never did, actually. To get a slice, you had to pass a written exam and suffer scrutiny by the Fruitcake Police. We never made the grade.

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