Listeners Defend the Fruitcake

Our story last week about a California fruitcake festival brought letters from listeners who love and defend the much-maligned fruitcake. NPR's Liane Hansen reads a few of these letters, and then hears from one listener who was moved to song.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Last week's segment on the fruitcake festival in Independence, California, brought back a lot of holiday memories for many of you.

Isabel Volhart(ph) of Ashland, Oregon, wrote: I, too, had been propagandized by others that fruitcake was something nasty and unpalatable. Then, one Christmas, my great uncle, who lived in Australia, mailed me a fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. So not being in a financial position to just throw out food, I figured I'd better at least try it before I wasted it. Turns out, it was excellent.

Ms. Volhart added this: Fruitcake fearers, you don't know what you're missing. It wasn't too sweet, wasn't too rummy, wasn't too crumbly, wasn't too fruity, wasn't too nutty. It was a great compliment to breakfast coffee and eggnog in the evening. I ate mine within the month.

Mary Douglas(ph) of Weybridge, Vermont, wrote this: I almost fell off my treadmill laughing at your story on fruitcake. However, as a Brit, I feel I have a responsibility to educate America as to the true nature of fruitcake, a.k.a. Christmas cake. A 10-month-old fruitcake would still be in its infancy, according to my grandmother, who would frequently pull a three or four-year-old cake from the back of her pantry.

The secret weapon is about a bottle of brandy poured over the cake after baking. And so potent, one mouthful would leave you unfit to drive. In fact, the top layer of a British wedding cake - again, usually fruitcake - is traditionally saved for the christening of the first child. No doubt those new parents are going to need it.

And finally, Doug Kibbers(ph) of Sedalia, Missouri, says our story reminded him of an era of slower paced holiday gatherings usually around his family's kitchen table.

Mr. DOUG KIBBERS: This would involve stories, sometimes some libation. And the evening might degenerate or elevate - depending on your point of view - into song. And one of the favorite songs had to do with fruitcake, which brought me to this point. I've been told I have a face for radio and a voice for the shower, so it might sound a little better if you just sway back and forth a little bit during this song.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KIBBERS: (Singing) Away, away with rum by gum, rum by gum, rum by gum, away, away with rum by gum, the song of the Temperance Union. We never eat fruitcake because it has rum. One little bite turns a man to a bum. Can you imagine the greater disgrace for the man in the gutter with crumbs on his face? Away, away with rum by gum, rum by gum, rum by gum, away, away with rum by gum, the song of the Temperance Union.

HANSENL: You can sing to us or write to us by going to our Web page, npr.org, and clicking on the Contact Us link.

This is NPR News.

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