- Online shopping is everyone's fave, because it doesn't involve frostbite or getting mauled in the Barbie aisle.
- People overspent, as usual.
- Techy toys were the biggest sellers (only because sexy toys aren't as widely available, I'm sure).
And people still bought fruitcake.
The stats are in. Fruitcakes are costing us all a lot of money. And we will take a look at these dismal numbers soon.
But first, lets look at the history of this popular holiday commodity:
History of Fruitcake: Non-Perishable Food or Primitive Weapon?
Scholars can't exactly peg the origin of the first "official" fruitcake. However, as far back as 800 BCE it was mentioned that certain societies hurled "edible boulders" at attacking armies.
It's possible that fruitcake was invented as a non-perishable foodstuff to fend off starvation during long winters or during times of siege.
Because the cakes were soaked in "spirits", they were a sort of food/beverage combination. The alcohol level also helped preserve them, and to deter pests such as weevils and teetotalers.
Although fruitcakes were edible, they were most likely used for hurling at deer, birds, rats, and other things with a more pleasant taste.
It is also highly rumored that a certain "Let them eat cake" remark was in reference to a stockpile of fruitcake. Which explains all the indignant bloodshed that followed.
Still, whether used as siege snacks or weapons, fruitcakes allowed societies to flourish. Therefore, they became an honored household symbol.
Eating fruitcake during the holidays became a way of reminding oneself to be grateful for having more dessert options than one's ancestors.
Today, fruitcake is still a traditional gift choice for Christmas. The wisdom is that you get more for your money, since fruitcake can serve a variety of functions around the home (food, doorstop, weapon, step-stool).
Plus, it is virtually indestructible, and we frugal people prefer quality items. Combined with the rich history soaked into every fruitcake, this durability makes each pastry an heirloom.
But it may not be the best investment you can make.
Giving Fruitcake Could Be Damaging to the Economy and Perhaps the Planet...
Expert number crunchers can tell you that fruitcake may not be the most frugal or environmentally friendly gift to give this year.
Behind every fruitcake, there are ingredients. All of those ingredients require energy in order to be grown, harvested, processed and distilled.
The average fruitcake is made of candied or dried fruit, nuts, alcohol, nitro-glycerin, brick dust, fruit tree pulp, pounds of butter, sugar, 200 eggs and a variety of spices, including oregano.
All are somewhat costly to produce, which is why a high quality fruitcake comes with a gourmet price tag.
Aside from the amount of wind, solar and fossil fuel energy spent to create the basic fruitcake, there is the cost of mass production. Since each cake needs to age at least twenty years, there must be a constant output of fruitcakes to keep up with the holiday buying cycle.
At any time, there are probably between 10 and 20 million people employed at fruitcake factories, earning minimum wage for jobs such as drilling the center holes out of round cakes.
Since fruitcakes have to be pretty much sealed up for a couple of decades, there must be a huge storage facility available.
This looks sort of like where they stored the Ark of the Covenant in the first Indiana Jones film, except much darker and danker.
Those kind of units aren't cheap, since they have to be fireproof. We'll get to that later.
Transportation of Fruitcakes
Even more strain goes on the economy when it is time to ship fruitcakes to stores or distributors. The average round fruitcake weighs approximately 75 pounds, and about 500,000 can fit in one freight truck.
The trucks used to haul then use three or four times the normal amount of fuel. Fruitcakes sent by truck are one of the main reasons that highways need replacing in spring, which becomes a burden to taxpayers.
More Statistics On Fruitcake and Money
According to recent studies:
- Every year, more than 1 million fruitcakes are shipped around the country. Some arrive at distributors such as mail order companies, which put the fruitcakes back out on the road again.
- Each fruitcake sent by UPS can slow delivery times by 2 days. (More if they are shipped in metal tins.)
- Of the 1 million fruitcakes shipped out, only about 30% are actually purchased.
- Only 3% of fruitcakes are purchased by a consumer for their own use. The rest are given away.
- The remaining 70% of fruitcakes require costly, storage space.
- Of the fruitcakes that were given as gifts, roughly 2% are served and/or eaten.
This is because the surplus fruitcakes from the year before are still circulating in abundance, which over-saturates the market. (This is why you can find those cheap $1 fruitcake slices in gas stations. Those used to be part of larger gourmet cakes.)
- Because fruitcakes do not (as far as anyone can tell) break down over time, they may account for up to 58% of all landfill waste.
- In a normal year, 82% of all Americans will be given fruitcake in some form. (either as a gift or part of a dessert course) Of these, 99.9% will not eat the fruitcake.
This means everyone who gives a fruitcake as a gift is wasting money by buying the same item over and over again. An equivalent of this would be like buying someone a VCR every year when they don't own a single VHS tape anymore.
- Scientists estimate that of just the fruitcakes made in the past 50 years, approximately 6% have been completely consumed. Another 10% were damaged or lost during natural disasters or weather events.
A Future Paved in Fruitcake?
Fruitcake production is one of the few areas that doesn't pay heed to the traditional rules of supply and demand.
Because fruitcake is mass-produced but only sparingly consumed, it could soon surpass plastic as the biggest environmental enemy, especially with the current health food trends.
People who focus on "clean" or "healthy" eating are only going to eat things that fall into either the "animal, vegetable, or mineral" categories. And most fruitcakes are categorized under "questionable", along with things like circus peanuts and head cheese.
At our current rate, we could be looking at a future where fruitcakes outnumber people. And, as yet, there is no safe, practical way to dispose of the uneaten cakes.
Fruitcakes can be flammable, since one of the recommended ways of storing them from Christmas to Christmas is to soak them in rubbing alcohol or a good cheap gin to retain their natural flavor. (another expense for their new owners!)
Whereas this probably accounts for a lot of holiday flash fires, it doesn't mean fruitcakes can be incinerated. Once the alcohol, gin, turpentine or other soak has burnt off, a lump of slightly scorched fruitcake will still remain.
(It can be brushed off and soaked again for next year.)
A certain number of fruitcakes are being used to stop up fissures in the hopes of preventing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Some cities have started approving of streets and buildings being built from upcycled fruitcakes.
The low cost of maintenance can save thousands of dollars in repairs, and provide affordable housing for the poor.
However, if we don't quickly come up with a permanent solution, either by restricting fruitcake production or finding creative solutions for recycling the surplus, the world will soon be (literally, this time) overrun by fruitcakes.
Our only other choice is to launch them all into space. Which could be seen as a direct attack, and invoke intergalactic warfare.
What You Can Do--Fruit Cake Responsibility
Don't contribute to the fruitcake problem. You can help by:
- Only buying fruitcake if you actually like to eat it
- Not buying fruitcake for other people unless you KNOW they like to eat it.
- Buying smaller fruitcakes that can actually be eaten in one lifetime.
- Make sure your fruitcakes are spayed or neutered before storing.
- Creatively recycling your unused fruitcake.
- Buying secondhand fruitcakes instead of new ones each year.
- Choosing to be buried with your fruitcake rather than leaving it to your heirs.
Just remember, the world's oldest living fruitcake is 4500 years old. Its currently owned by the Smith family of Massachusetts, who enjoy a piece every year at Christmas.
According to Mr. J. Smith, the cake has a unique, smoky flavor from having survived both world wars, as well as the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Be like the Smith family. Don't buy a new cake when there are perfectly good used fruitcakes still in circulation. Don't be the cause of an intergalactic war.
Of course this article was just for fun, and the statistics may have been slightly fabricated. The opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own.
Some folks are already at war over fruitcake, claiming that society has developed negative attitudes about a sacred food item. I think the truth is that there are just some people who really don't like the way they taste.
However, if you like fruitcake, I recommend enjoying them responsibly. Just please don't ask non-fruitcake people to "try just one bite".
We all have. And there is no way you are going to convince us that it tastes as good as chocolate.
Sharesies: Where do you stand? With fruitcake, or at a safe distance?