I was going to save this simple observation of fruitcakes for closer to Christmas, but a strange thing happened to me the other day. I was cleaning out a hallway closet, when an extremely heavy, brick like object, fell off an upper shelf, and landed on my large, and usually indestructible cranium. I was surprised, when the impact nearly sent me to my knees. After regaining my senses, I retrieved a solid, rectangular object, neatly wrapped in bright red wrapping paper from the floor. Examining the mysterious package, I noticed a small white label attached with a few, neatly printed words that said, “To My Favorite Nephew. Merry Christmas from Uncle Ned.”
I could only imagine, when I had received the gift, why it was unopened, and how it had ended up in my closet. Stranger still, was the fact that my Uncle Ned, had died under mysterious circumstances, nearly twenty years ago. I slowly opened the package, and was surprised to find the item was encased in a faded type of cloth or linen that looked very old. Delicately removing the wrapping which was dry and brittle, I was astonished to find what looked like – a fruitcake?
On one end was a small brass placard with words inscribed on it. Using a magnifying glass, I was able to read, “Dec.78, Tut Exh., Met. Mus. NY.” Before I attempted to unravel this mystery, I decided to go online, and learn a little more about this well known, and common cake, which is usually given as a gift during the holiday season.
Do you know that fruitcakes have been around for thousands of years, and are made in virtually every country on earth in varying recipes? In the United States, they are commonly made of candied or dried fruits, various types of nuts, spices, sugar, flour, and are often soaked in alcohol to add flavor and help preserve them. No one really knows how long they’ll last, though, I once received one as a gift that had an expiration date that said – “Never.”
I’ll bet most of you have received fruitcakes as gifts at one time or another. I’ve received exactly seven-four over the years. I know this, because I still have them in a big box in the corner of my basement. Actually, there’s only fifty-eight. Over the past dozen or so years, I’ve rewrapped sixteen of them, and gave them as Christmas presents. I know, I know; it is pretty pitiful, but I was short on money, and most of them went to my mother-in-law. The crazy thing is – she ate them all! If you think about it, they are the perfect re-gift item. If you ever get one yourself, all you have to do is open your present, say, “Wow, fruitcake,” throw them in a closet, pull them out next year, rewrap them, and then give them to someone you don’t like.
I would think that if you get a fruitcake from someone for Christmas you’re not at the top of their, “people I like list.” It doesn’t take much effort and thought to grab a fruitcake as you’re waiting in line at a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Every time I get a fruitcake from either a relative, or close family member, I go see my lawyer, and remove them from my will.
Do ever wonder what’s really in a fruitcake? The ingredient label tells us what’s in them, but I think it’s incomplete. A friend once told me he heard they’re soaked in embalming fluid, instead of alcohol. That’s why they last so long. I’m not sure about that, but I do know there’s some crazy things in there. I once cut one open, and recognized a few familiar things like cherries, pineapples, dates, and prunes. I never did, figure out what those little, round green things were. They kind of looked like tiny eyeballs. I ate one once, and it didn’t taste like an eyeball. It was pretty good, though.
I guess, I should let you know that during my research concerning fruitcakes, I’ve uncovered some disturbing, frightening, and possibly life-threatening information. I may have also determined the chain of events leading to my discovery of the fruitcake I found in the closet, and the mystery surrounding its origins. Bear with me, because it’s a complicated tale, which may not have a happy ending for me.
The story begins in 1922, when a British archeologist, named Howard Carter, digging in the “Valley of the Kings,” in Egypt, discovered the nearly intact tomb of King Tutankhamun. Known to us today, as King Tut, he was a pharaoh who ruled ancient Egypt nearly 3300 years ago. In a solid gold coffin, they found the mummified remains of the boy king, along with a treasure trove of priceless artifacts. This next fact isn’t common knowledge, but lying near the great pharaoh, meticulously wrapped in cotton linens used at the time, and perfectly preserved, was a food item made of a combination of various dried fruits and nuts indigenous to the region. In modern terms, it is known as – a fruitcake!
I also learned that during the excavation, and over the next ten years, many of those who were involved in the removal of the ancient pharaohs treasures from the tomb, died under mysterious circumstances. These unfortunate incidents became known as, “The Curse of the Pharaohs.” Legend has it, that anyone removing priceless and irreplaceable relics from King Tut’s tomb, would face a horrifying fate – worse than death. This leads us to the next part of my story. I traced the brass placard from the fruitcake in my closet to December of 1978, when the treasures of King Tut were being exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York City.
Unless you’re bald, the next thing I tell you will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up straighter than the Queens Guards at Buckingham Palace. It just so happens that a man named Ned Dykie worked as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from 1970 until December of 1978, when he was abruptly fired after, what had become known as, “The Fruitcake of the Gods,” disappeared from a display case containing King Tut’s treasures.
From some of my previous posts you’ve seen that I’m a very logical person. I like to do research, accumulate data, study all relevant possibilities, and reach reasonable assumptions based on the available information. After reviewing everything to the best of my skills and knowledge, I’ve reached a few unfortunate, and possibly life-altering conclusions.
“For some unknown reason, my Uncle Ned stole that ancient fruitcake from the display case – He knew it was cursed, and his days were numbered – Yet, he gave it to me as a Christmas present – A fruitcake over 3000 years old is sitting in my hallway closet – I’m strangely tempted to eat the darn thing – I’m surely cursed – And – A fate worse than death could be knocking at my front door at any moment!”
“Knock-knock – knock-knock.” What the heck? I’m sure of three things. That was definitely a knock at my front door, I think, I might have had a little accident, and I know I’m doomed. Well, no one can say Patrick Dykie doesn’t face fate head on. I’m going to answer that door. Oh, thank God. It’s just the UPS man with an enormous package.
“Sir, could you please sign for this, while I get the other twelve boxes from my truck? Just put your signature on the bottom, next to were it says, received “13” boxes. By the way sir, if you don’t mind me asking; what is that horrible smell?”
Okay, let’s see what we got here. There’s a letter with it.
Dear Mr. Dykie,
In celebration of our companies 100th anniverary, you’ve been randomly selected as our grand prize winner. The Claxton Fruitcake Company of, Claxton, Georgia, is pleased to present you with a life-time supply of are famous Claxton Classic Supreme Fruitcakes. We hope you enjoy them.
Claxton Bakery Inc.
Ahhhhhhhhhh. There really is a curse. Ahhhhhhhhhh.