The joy of fruitcake

I like fruitcake.

Perhaps I feel a kinship to the fruitcake, having been called a fruitcake more than once in my lifetime.

Maybe I just like those green cherries.

I'll admit that consuming fruitcake is like eating a cherry-flavored Mack truck. I wouldn't be surprised if fruitcake remnants remain in your digestive system until the following Christmas.

I don't care. I still like fruitcake.

But a question looms in my mind: what is in those green cherries? Are green cherries found in nature?

I thought I would find the answer at the Society for the Protection and Preservation of Fruitcake Web site (mbgoodman.tripod.com/fruitcakelinks).

Although the site features an article entitled, "Et Tu, Fruitcake", as well as a fruitcake haiku and an article linking CAT scans and fruitcake, I could find nothing on those mysterious green cherries.

Eventually, I found a Web site that sold candied fruit, and discovered how the green cherries are made.

Ignorance, as they say, is bliss.

After being picked, maraschino cherries are "processed". The cherries are first preserved in a brine mixture. This draws out the color and sugar (a.k.a., the flavor) from the cherries. The cherries swim around in the brine mixture for a good long time to make sure they are sucked of all color and flavor.

Here's where it gets weird. The now-bland cherries are then soaked in a liquid sugar mixture to add the sugar that was just sucked out of the cherries. Then the artificial color (usually red or green) is added, along with artificial flavor.

Let's recap: The company takes out the natural flavor and color and puts in artificial flavor and color.

Wait. It gets worse.

Candied fruit - the stuff inside the fruitcake - happens when the fruit (in this case, maraschino cherries) is cooked in a sugar solution and, when dried, might even be glazed with sugar. The sugar content in the final product may account for up to 75 percent of the weight of the fruit.

Several Web sites sell this candied fruit, including thenutfactory.com. Patrons visiting the Web site can choose between a sort-of mutated cherry/pineapple fruit, a fruitcake assortment that comes in colors never found in nature and pineapple, which, for some reason, is green.

And of course, the company sells the candied maraschinos in both red and green.

If you order them, the company will probably send them in discreet brown, unmarked envelopes. Because really, who wants to admit they ordered green cherries?

Now that I have grossed out the few people on earth who liked fruitcake, let me admit that I haven't been deterred. Oh, sure, I probably won't eat as much of it as I used to, but fruitcake is and always will be a holiday tradition and a little of the green-cherried goodness simply must be consumed.

But it is probably a good thing that the holidays only come once a year. It takes that long to digest the fruitcake.

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