The new fruitcake

When I was a kid, people always had a fruitcake or two in the cupboard to give as unplanned gifts. Sadly no one likes fruitcake. There were only two people in my family who ate it and with all the other wonderful baked goods, why would you eat fruitcake?

When I worked, a bottle of wine was the fruitcake substitute. You brought bottles in and everyone exchanged a bottle of wine. It’s a great way to try something you wouldn’t normally buy, like wine that tastes like cheesecake or whipped cream. Since I’m not a big wine drinker and the beloved husband rarely drinks it, we either serve it to unsuspecting guests or gift it.

I saw a Saturday night skit with a candle as the gift that was passed around. I can remember buying some extra holiday candles (scents like gingerbread, pine, butter cookies, Christmas cat farts, etc.) to have on hand. This year I lit up my last extra gingerbread candle and I’ve had a craving for gingerbread since Thanksgiving.

Candy is also a fruitcake substitute. It’s easy peasy and who doesn’t like it? Anyone who is diabetic or watching their weight or doesn’t have a sweet tooth. Yes, some people do not eat sweets by choice. The beloved husband is one of them. The best he will do is ice cream or the occasional dessert that is served at a dinner. Every Halloween I throw out the candy from the previous year’s Halloween. I like chocolate in my coffee but not in little pillows stuffed with mystery filling or wrapped in paper. (Yes, I was one of those kids who poked holes underneath to find out what the filling was.)

So what is a perfect gift? I don’t know. I’ve gotten over the “I have to give someone a gift because they gave me one or showed up unannounced” attitude. Perhaps you, my gentle readers, have some advice.

60 thoughts on “The new fruitcake

  1. I completely understand your point, Kate, and it’s a challenge for us all, I think. Now here’s the funny thing, though. I LOVE fruitcake. Love it! Love it! My sister-in-law and i are the only ones in the family who do, however, and she bought one this year for us that may be the best one I’ve ever had. I know they technically don’t spoil, but I’ve never had one long enough to find out how long it could last. I made myself wear jeans today to remind myself that there could be some very serious consequences to eating the whole thing myself! 🙂

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  2. I find gift cards useful, too. We keep some on hand and if they are left over after the season then we can use them ourselves. They don’t have to be big — just enough for a cup or two of coffee.

    One gift sort of thing I was part of once was someone else’s idea, but it was really fun. A group of people got together and donated toward a beer fund then the friend bought a bunch and divvied it up and we have the 25 beer days of until Christmas. A different flavor for each day. Great conversation pieces!

    Could be done with teas or coffees as well.

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  3. A handmade gift always seems to be right on target, whether it’s a candle, a few sweet treats in a nice mug or a hand painted set of note cards or small bar of goats milk soap that I periodically put together. Nothing fancy or big, just a little something for those times when I feel the need for a little holiday gift sharing.

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  4. Little gifts for people you aren’t expecting to have to give things to are hard to pick out. Our grocery store sometimes has little pampering bath kits – with some epsom salts and fancy soap and so on. I sometimes buy one or two of those for unexpected retaliatory gifting. On a side note, I actually make a variant fruit cake that tastes good! I make pound cake and instead of the nasty candied fruit, I mix in regular dried fruit that I have soaked in rum overnight 🙂

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  5. We always had fruitcake when my mom was still here. I don’t care for it personally, but we got one of those skinny fruitcakes just for Mom and the Vortmann Gingerbread men for me … we were both taken care of for the holiday season and no mess making these treats. Sometimes we got a German stollen as well for Christmas morning – they were okay, but kind of on the dry side.

    Fruitcakes used to be a big deal in Canada – my grandmother lived in Toronto and whenever someone came to visit her, if it was around Christmastime, they bought a fruitcake. She had a back kitchen, attached to the house, but that was not heated and used to line them up in there there. If you went to visit her, she always had a ham in the fridge or in the back kitchen, so you got a ham sandwich and a couple of slices of fruit cake. And that was year around! In Canada, they make the wedding cakes out of fruitcake and I recall my mom would tell me, that the fruitcake slices were an oblong piece, then wrapped in shrink wrap and a doily around it with a ribbon tie. So most people did not eat it right there and then and the bride/groom always had a separate small “real fruitcake” (as opposed to a fake cake with wrapped fruitcake slices inside) and put that in the freezer for their first year wedding anniversary or first born. My parents kept theirs for my debut.

    It has been years since I worked in a regular office environment – Robb/I left the Firm 01/31/03 so no more of those Secret Santas or gift exchanges so I’m happy for that. I actually bought no gifts for anyone and have not since my mom passed away in 2009. (I know – shocking!)

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      • I think my mom grew up with it so that’s why she liked it. I am not a fan of candied fruit. I’m more of a texture eater … if I’m going to have a treat, I’d prefer something with some crunch to it. I think I get more “bang for my buck” that way. After I sent this comment last night, I remembered that my mom’s friend sent us some wedding fruitcake mementos from her granddaughter’s wedding … I think that is why I recalled what it looked like.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. We used to keep a Christmas mug on hand if we needed to give an unplanned gift. We still have the last one, quietly whiling away its time with the decorations. If someone gives us an unexpected gift, we thank the giver graciously without feeling guilty.

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  7. When we stopped giving gifts, our enjoyment of the holiday season increased ten-fold. It took me a while to convince a few friends but I think they appreciate it now too. I wonder if donations to charity shops increase after the holidays, as people off-load all those unwanted gifts they received? I hate the thought that someone took their time and money to buy me something that I really don’t need or want. I appreciate the effort and thought but I wish they spent it on themselves or their family.

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  8. It would seem to me that the card principle appears to apply to gifts very well. i.e. Don’t send cards “just because”. The card gesture which is not reciprocated does not tend to get repeated. Likewise only give gifts to those who you really want to give gifts to. The others that come along are likely not to be repeated the following year unless the giver wants something!. 🙂 Merry Ho! Ho! Ho! Christmas. 🙂

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    • Very astute observation. There is only one person that I send a card to who does not reciprocate. She is an old friend with many health ailments. My card list has dwindled considerably in the last few years. Many of my friends no longer send any cards preferring to do a general Happy Holidays by email or Facebook. You are right about gifts. Some people seem to love to give something small to everyone. I don’t feel badly about not being one of those people. Many times that something small ends up in the trash.

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  9. My mom and her sisters used to make fruit cakes. I can eat it if I have to be polite, but I would never make it, or buy one. Long out of the work force and into retired life we really don’t do much for gift giving anymore. I don’t even remember the last unexpected gift I was given. I think chocolates work for a generic gift or a Starbuck or Tim Horton gift card.

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  10. I haven’t seen a fruit cake in years and have no extra little gifts stashed in a cupboard somewhere. Gift giving at Christmas time is so overrated. I would much rather get an unexpected gift out of the blue at some random time during the year. August for instance! My children have informed me that their children need nothing. They already have too much stuff. So I give movie gift cards and all are happy. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We don’t drink champagne. One year we went out to dinner for New Year’s Eve with friends and stopped back at our house to toast at midnight. We pulled out a bottle that we had for a while. Our friends tasted it and said it was good. I had some and it was vinegar. I took it from their hands and threw it out. Obviously our friends were not wine connoisseurs. I buy the small 4 packs to cook with it. Wines makes a great pot roast! As for gift cards, we’ve had restaurants go out of business before we got there. Use them quick!

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  11. I used to be so afraid of someone giving me an unexpected gift and me having nothing to give in return. I used to keep extra “generic” gifts on hand for that purpose – sometimes candles, sometimes something I had made in my kitchen (a jar of jam or fancy pickles or a soup or cookie mix). I’ve changed greatly over the years and am not the Christmas nut I once was. I still love to give gifts (not limited to Christmas, either) but don’t stress about it like I used to. Now if someone unexpectedly gives me a gift and I don’t have anything in return, I can give a heartfelt thank you and leave it at that.


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    • When I worked I was more conscious of gift giving. Now I don’t care much. Generic gifts are hard too. One year I gave out those fluffy socks to lounge in and one of the recipients couldn’t stand to have socks on her feet.

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