Thursday, December 18, 2014

To a Fruitcake

An Ode Upon Baking a Seasonal Confection, being loosely inspired by the poems of Mr. Robert Burns, the Scottish Bard, 1759-76


Thy glistening, fruit-filled, cakey batter,

With rum-soaked raisins and rich, fatty butter,

O, what promise of moist, tasty ecstasy!

Thine cherries drenched in Red Dye Number Seven,

And dry ingredients sifted to leaven,

I slide thee hence to preheated oven,

Upon following thine ancient recipe.


Borne on fragrant bouquet now therefore baking,

Upwardly wafting in scented waves thus making,

Thine aromas foster dreams of luscious reveries.

Wouldst some, unkindly, regard thee as a doorstop?

Or e’en call thee a paperweight ‘pon desktop?

Or fear onto their toes thy would drop?

Nae! Not I! For in thee I taste treasured memories.


Three hours hence, I test thy doneness with toothpick.

O, perfect result! So moistly dense, so dark and so thick!

Cans’t I even now taste thy fruity pleasures  to be?

Those who laud their shortbread, sugar cookies and mince tarts;

Figgy puddings, gingersnaps, and spritzes that win hearts,

Ha’e ne’er reached the heights of fine arts,

That a fine fruit cake may inevitably see!

So, come now, thou doubters, and make haste,

A morsel of my cake you must taste,

A’fore judging the fruitcake quality!

With a nice mug of cocoa or e'en a fine cup of Earl Grey,

Thou judgements yet assailing may erelong go ‘way.

For I say to thee, “T’wouldn’t be Christmas, O, happy day!”

If I ha’e nae fruitcake to share with thee!


Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sing Along If You Know This One!

I feel sorry for anyone working in retail at this time of year. I’m pretty sure I would crack under the pressure. And mostly it would be due to ghastly “holiday” music.

I went into a branch of a national women’s clothing chain this afternoon to take advantage of their post-Thanksgiving 30%-off storewide sale. I tried on some corduroy jeans and took a pair up to the cash desk to pay for them. The sound system was playing, “How’d ya like to spend Chrissss-mas on Christmas Island? How’d ya like to spend the holiday across the sea?”

The sales rep made a face like she was going to hurl. I must have looked startled because she shook her head a bit and said, “Oh, sorry. It’s just this SONG.” She shuddered visibly.

I said, “Gosh, it’s early days yet,” thinking there are quite a few days left to go until December 24th when the shopping frenzy’s accompanying music will revert to its banal normalcy.

“Oh, Honey!” she replied. “We’ve been listening to this since Hallowe’en! Over and over and over! I’m ready to stab myself in the ears.”

Her colleague laughed good-naturedly and said it got really bad some days depending on the audio mix of equally irritating songs.

“Yeah, like this one,” my sales associate said, looking toward the ceiling speakers and imitating Burl Ives, “Have a holly, jolly Christmas…” blowing air into her cheeks to look like the holly jolly man that he was.

Her colleague laughed again, this time a bit sadly, I thought, and walked away toward the stock room. “You think I’m kidding!” the sales rep called after her.

“Still. Nobody’s bleeding,” she said, turning her attention back in my direction. I was still thinking about being stabbed.

“Not from the ears, anyway,” I said, trying to lighten the mood.

“No, I meant, it could be worse. We could be treating people in the ER who come in half dead from car accidents. But, noooo! We’re wrapping up women’s clothing and listening to holiday songs!” I sensed a lack of job satisfaction on her part.

She attempted to wrap a piece of tissue paper around my cords. It wasn’t cooperating. She crumpled it and flung it violently onto the floor. She made a noise somewhere between a swallowed scream and an unholy howl.

“AAUUGGH! I have HAD IT with tissue paper, too!” By now, I had backed away from the counter. “Sorry. Sorry,” she said, “Just having a bad day, I guess.”

“Oh, not at all,” I replied and looked around nervously for a diversion. I reached for the sample bottle of perfume on the counter. Normally, I don’t like fragrances and it is uncharacteristic of me to try them on, but I had been experiencing a digestive challenge ever since lunch which was getting worse with this stress and I thought I’d better fend off the inevitable result of the gurgle in my gut by spritzing some odor-masking scent, some eau de toilette, so to speak.

“Oh, for the love of Pete! Don’t spray that anywhere near me!” she hollered at me. I put the bottle down. My hands shot up in the air. “No, No! I didn’t! Sorry! Sorry!” I then asked politely, “Allergies?”

“No, I just can’t stand that smell! It makes me sick. It gets up my nose all day long. I go home reeking of that crap!”

I was thankful that she was now handing me my bag with my cords wrapped and ready to go.

“Well, thanks,” I said, and with just a small measure of irony in my voice, “I’m so glad that you felt comfortable enough with me today so you could get all that off your chest.”

She kind of snorted. It wasn’t really a laugh. “Happy Holidays. Please don’t report me to corporate.”

The opening chords of Bing Crosby’s Kele Kalikie Mucka were just coming up as I hastened for the exit.  

“Hang in there!” I called out to her as I left the store. I imagined the poor woman on Christmas Eve, checking herself into a rest home. Really, I sympathized more than she knew and that’s why I haven’t the heart to report her.

So, my friends, as you wander the aisles of your favorite stores this season of joy, and the ungodly strains of “Alvin and The Chipmunks Sing Christmas” catch your ear, thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to listen to it until New Years and then pause to think about the poor souls who do. And if you find a sales rep muttering to herself, you’ll understand.