Having a natural hatred for Christmas fruitcake

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Pictured is the lapel pin that Pat Van Dyke has worn every Christmas for more than 20 years. “It’s worked like a charm because I haven’t been given a fruitcake for 20 years,” she said. Photo by Pat Van Dyke

It’s almost Christmas and it’s my favorite time of the year. For many, Christmas is a world of snow, Christmas carolers, the sounds of sleigh bells, the smell of warm apple cider and fruitcake. A picture perfect Hallmark card. My Perfect White Christmas. Well, that’s kind of how I remember Christmas.

If you take away the smell of apple cider and replace it with the smell of cow and the substances that come with them and then take away the sounds of bells and replace that with milking machines you might still have Christmas. But to truly have a California-dairy-Christmas-experience you also have to take away the Christmas carolers and add silly city folks trying to tip a cow (which is actually impossible – It’s just the way that dairy kids get city kids to run through a soggy corral in the dark and take home some of the dairy smell of Christmas) and fog, lots of fog! To those of us who grew up in the farming areas of Southern California, this is Christmas!

I did live in the Midwest for 11 years; college and my first eight years of marriage. During that time, I never saw carolers randomly walking on the sidewalks or heard bells as a sleigh rode by. I tried warm apple cider and fruitcake and discovered that I didn’t like either one. My perfect Hallmark Christmas scene was what I thought it would be.

Oh, there was snow – tons of it! Our first winter in Michigan there was 157 inches! They called it the “lake effect snow.” I called it totally unnecessary. I spent more time sliding and falling than anyone else. There was one day when I was backing down the driveway of our house in Illinois and lost control of the car on the ice and came within inches of making our church a “drive-in-worship experience.”

And sleigh bells? Yes, I heard them, plenty of them when I was teaching at a junior high in Michigan It was usually some obnoxious student who had them hid and would ring them in class at just the opportune time. Since I could identify with that obnoxious student, being an obnoxious teacher myself, I usually joined in the fun at just the opportune time. Staff Meetings, Parent-Teacher Conferences, morning announcements, and any other time I thought that a little Christmas cheer was in order. After all, I grew up in Southern California and I had a lot of “Christmas traditions” that I still hadn’t experienced.

I tried to drink warm apple cider and usually with cinnamon sticks included. This was not right! In California, apple juice is cold just like orange juice is cold. In California, hamburgers are eaten with fresh tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles and Thousand Island dressing. They are not eaten with just a bun and hamburger patty like White Castle Burgers are. (I did a little research and discovered that some people think that White Castle adds peanut butter to their patties. That’s crazy. Almost as crazy as those of us who order their In-N-Out fries “animal style.”)

And then there’s fruitcake. This deserves a column all by itself. I agree with Johnny Carson. There are only 350 fruitcakes in the world and people just keep re-gifting them each year. I have considered using them as a hockey puck, boat anchor and spare tire. Right now, I have one I use as a doorstop. If you get a fruitcake from me, you can be assured that it’s a re-gift from several years ago. I don’t like the smell, the taste, or the sight of a fruitcake. For some reason, I have a natural hatred of fruitcake. It’s not an inherited trait because my parents loved fruitcake

I did discover why I have such an aversion to fruitcake. Just reading about the process was uncomfortable. The recipe read as follows: “After you bake it, it is time to give the finished fruitcake its preservative treatment: Soak cheesecloth in brandy, bourbon, whiskey, rum or other liquor and then wrap it around the cooled fruitcake. Cover with aluminum foil, or seal in plastic wrap or a storage bag, and put in a cool, dry place to allow the fruitcake to ripen and age. Once a week you should brush the cake with more liquor.” It stated that you could store fruitcake up to four years! By that time, I would expect my fruitcake to go out and get a job – if it was sober!

When I consider snow plus the carolers with sleigh bells drinking hot apple cider and then throw in a fruitcake or two, my Southern California Christmas wins every time!

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Pat Van Dyke