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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I have several exciting announcements today. The first is that there is a winner in the GIRL AT SEA HOLIDAY CONTEST. Marrisa B. won the very first copy of Girl At Sea, which will be out in stores in June. Congratulations to Marrisa!

But wait!

The holiday season is full of unexpected cheer. I received some of this cheer in the form of another spare copy of GIRL AT SEA. I have decided to pass it along, and am hereby extending the contest for another week. If you have already entered, your name is still in! If you have not, you have until midnight on Thursday the 21st to get in a holiday question. I will draw the name of the second winner on Friday the 22nd.

That is also the deadline to get in requests for signed cards from the mj holiday workshop. The workshop will be going into overdrive this weekend, so get your requests in now!

And now, I will answer the very first of your holiday questions!

Q: Who ever decided fruitcake was good?!? Maureen Johnson, I doubt I will ever find the answer to this enigma of holiday gift-giving spirit.

A: I appreciate the direct challenge in this question, and I accept it. To answer this riddle, we must go back to the origins of fruitcake as we know it.

The fruitcake story begins, in most tellings, in the colonization of America. We produced a lot of cheap sugar, which made the inhabitants of Europe a little sugar-crazy. They went on wild sugar binges. Someone discovered that if you stuck fruit in a truly disgusting amount of sugar, you could preserve it. In an unexpected bonus, it also gave the fruit a nuclear-reactor-mishap glow.

Because human beings can never resist the shiny, people tried to eat the candied fruit. I have reconstructed this historical event below.

Look. I poured a bunch of sugar on this fruit and now it’s all chewy and shrunken and it glows.

OTHER GUY: Good one, genius. That should be really useful. Fruit is already pretty sweet, don’t you think?

FRUIT GUY: I don’t need your sarcasm. At least try some.

Well, it is kind of shiny . . .

OTHER GUY tastes the fruit.

OTHER GUY: ^#&*#^&*^@#&*^@#!

FRUIT GUY: Yeah. Sucks, huh?

OTHER GUY: #@^&*$# ^&$^&!

FRUIT GUY: I know. And I made about a thousand pounds of this stuff. What am I going to do with it?

OTHER GUY: $^#&*^$ #&$*(&#*(& @^#*(^@&(*#&(*@&# &@*(#&!

FRUIT GUY: Okay, there’s no need for that, plus that is anatomically impossible. Maybe I can hide it somewhere, make it look like something you’d want to eat. I know . . .

And so, a cake was developed, a cake with a batter so dense that it could imprison the horrendous glowing devil fruit. As a preservative measure, fruitcakes are often soaked in rum or brandy. If properly stored, they can be consumed years after their baking. They are basically fruit mummies. This process has two side benefits. One, it counteracts the overt sweetness of the candied fruit. Two, it lures unsuspecting eaters in with the stench of delicious booze.

FRUIT GUY: Look, I’m sorry about the other day.

OTHER GUY: You should be.

FRUIT GUY: To make it up to you, I baked you a cake.

FRUIT GUY passes over the fruitcake. OTHER GUY eyes it warily, then picks it up.

OTHER GUY: What is this? It weighs as much as a baby.

FRUIT GUY: It is a delicious cake full of rum.

OTHER GUY: Rum, huh? Well, I’ll take it home and think about it.

Two days later . . .

OTHER GUY storms in.

OTHER GUY: You @#($(#&$&(*&$#(*&$!

FRUIT GUY: Sucker.

Two months later . . .

OTHER GUY: What have you done to me? Normal cake goes bad. This never does! It won’t die!

FRUIT GUY: I know. Cool, huh?

OTHER GUY: No, it’s not cool. I can’t get rid of it. It sits there, mocking me.

FRUIT GUY: Look, it’s almost Christmas. Why don’t you just give it to someone as a gift? Then it won’t be your problem anymore.

Now, to get to the question itself, who decided the fruitcake was good? I am going to blame the English. It is very easy to blame the English for things, and this is no exception. The English not only eat fruitcake (or Christmas cake), but they cover it with a hard, white frosting that can only be broken by a chisel. Once you get this off, the cake tends to taste a little better than the American version. However, they also eat plum pudding, an abomination far exceeding the horrors of the fruitcake. Plum pudding is usually a mix of fruit, nuts, booze, and suet (raw beef or mutton fat). This terror is boiled and then hung and dried. The result tastes like how the breaking of a small bone feels . . . a shock, dismay, and a lingering pain.

A plum pudding in captivity.

The English have also given us many bizarre songs about Christmas and figgy puddings, and they have infused our Christmasy visions with their Cockney voiceovers. Taking all of this into account, I have realized that the person responsible is Jamie Oliver. I actually like Jamie Oliver, but it is his fault.

My friend Trevor Dangerous is deeply distrustful of Jamie Oliver. He explains that Jamie is from Essex, which is where Trevor is from. People in Essex do not have that kind of accent, making Jamie Oliver a “Mockney.” Clearly, this man has something to hide.


I should also point out that in the interest of national security, fruitcakes have been banned on Canadian airplanes.

I will continue to study your questions. More answers are on the way.


Anonymous Daphne Unfeasible said...

The English are weird. But I do so like their delicious chocolate malted milk balls. Anyone looking for presents for their very beautiful literary agent couldn't go wrong with boxes of Maltesers. I'm just saying.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well there you go. That would be the only reasonable use of a fruit cake: make it into a bomb. Surely blowing it up would make it inedible...right?

Thanks for that, Maureen!


1:42 AM  
Anonymous Cameron said...

Hi Maureen,

Very, very funny.

I am a 40+ male slogging away at a Fantasy / Humour / Magical Realism novel (even if I finish it, what shelf will they put it on?).

I don't think I fit your novel's intended demographic but your blog cracks me up.

2:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more Christmas abomination: beet cake. [Ew.]

2:02 AM  
Anonymous HANNAH said...





1:39 AM  
Anonymous Becky said...

Thanks for the daily larf.

Okay, I have no idea if the English really say "larf," but I happen to be a great fan of the Georgia Nicholson (or however you spell it) books, and she's supposedly English, and she says "larf," so... My logic is faultless.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Timothy Harper said...

Someone has to stand up for poor fruit cake.

It doesn't have to be that bad.
No, really, some of it is actually very nice, if you leave out the glowing fruits and replace them with things like raisins and currants, and if you refrain from topping it with granite-like icing. I like it. I eat it with tea at least three or four times every holiday season, and if it doesn't precisely make me happy, at least it doesn't lower my cheer quotient.

Of course, I am a Canadian, which is nearly as bad as being British, so it is possible that my opinion is unreliable on this topic. And no, I can't take fruit cake on Air Canada.

2:33 PM  
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