Stick Miller: As nutty as a fruitcake
We all have our personal likes and dislikes. Sometimes it goes farther than that. Sometimes we can get as “nutty as a squirrel” over something (or more often someone) and we do things we wouldn’t do otherwise. I readily admit that I am as nuts as the next guy when it comes to some things. I am, as my mother would have said, “As crazy as a loon.”
There are things I like, but don’t go crazy over. I like real Coca Cola® and sweet tea, but I know that drinking too much of either could make me fat. I’m not crazy about being fat. I like fried chicken (or fried anything) but I that eating too much will make me grow feathers and will plug up my arteries. I like a lot of things but most of the time I know better.
I throw caution out the window when it comes to one of my favorite desserts. I love fruitcake, and I’m not the least bit ashamed. I loved the dark spice cake that my Grandmother Miller used to make. It was brimming with raisins and other dark colored fruits. She didn’t use the red or green dyed fruits found in many lighter colored fruitcakes. I say I loved it because I haven’t tasted one in the 43 years she’s been in heaven. I can remember it just like it was yesterday. I probably continue to love it because I loved her so much. Grandmomma invited her grandchildren into her kitchen. It was under her tutelage that I learned to make biscuits, singing while stirring and occasionally stomping the floor for no particular good reason. She was a love and I loved her fruitcakes even though I know of no extant copy of her recipe.
I also like light colored fruitcake. My father-in-law, Jim, makes a wonderful light fruitcake. He’s a purist, and no matter how many times he’s fixed a dish, he always reads and follows the recipe to the letter. His cakes are made with golden raisins. I frankly can’t tell the difference from dark raisins, but they do make a pretty picture. I didn’t get a Jim Shisler fruitcake this year, but I expect to beg next year.
I really like the booze-soaked fruitcake made by my good friend and neighbor, Jim. He usually gives me a fruitcake at Christmas and it rarely lasts long enough to save a slice for Santa. His recipe is splendid as are many of the things he cooks. He is an Auburn fan, but he can’t help it … bless his heart.
While I really love the homemade cakes I occasionally receive, man cannot survive on homemade fruitcakes alone. I need more than my friends and relatives are willing to provide. So my search for more fruitcake led me, many years ago, to southeastern Georgia and the town of Claxton. And this, my friends, leads me to the point of my story.
At Christmas it is my mother-in-law’s habit to give me a Claxton® fruitcake. She knows how much I like them and she knows that she is continuing a tradition started by my mother over 50 years ago. It is our “thing.” I love Claxton® fruitcakes not only for their flavorful goodness, but because they remind me of my mother now gone almost 10 years.
Yes, that gift is special to me, and when, just after Christmas I unwrapped my present and proceeded to cut myself a hearty chunk of goodness, I could tell something was amiss. The cake didn’t smell right and it certainly didn’t taste right. My fruitcake was spoiled, or at the very least, not up to standards.
I tossed it in the trash and retreated to my room to mourn. Then after thinking about it I fished the offending cake from the trash. A long-distance call to Claxton, Georgia resulted in assurances that the Claxton Bakery would make things right. All I needed to do was to send the label and a note and they would “take care” of it. I did so, and sort of forgot about it.
Then, at our local grocery store, I noticed a table full of Claxton® fruitcakes. Quickly, I picked up three and took them home with the idea of making them last at least until New Year’s Eve. Then I found out my mother-in-law would be visiting us in January so I hid them. Not only did I not want to cheapen her gift by buying in volume, I didn’t want her to know that the original cake was not up to standards. So I hid my three new cakes and acted like I had eaten the original.
That visit went well, but I had hidden the fruitcakes so well that I couldn’t find them, no matter how hard I tried. I was about to give up when I received a letter, accompanied by a package. The contents of that post have renewed my faith in mankind and have endeared the workers and management of Claxton Bakery to me forever.
Let me quote from the letter in part: “Dear Mr. Miller: We apologize in the fact that you were disappointed in the fruitcake. We are sending you a fresh baked fruitcake to replace the one you purchased. We trust that you will find it up to our usual high standards. Please accept along with our sincere apologies.” It was signed by Paula P. Claxton.
That, my friends, is the way to make friends and influence customers. Since 1910, they’ve been doing things right. Bravo.
Now I want to encourage my talented friends and relatives to keep up the good work, for if they don’t I can always call my friends at Claxton Bakery to satisfy my cravings. And if any of you naysayers out there have unwanted fruitcakes, send them my way.
You’ll have my eternal thanks and you might even get your name in the paper.
Boyce “Stick” Miller is an award-winning columnist living in Americus, Ga. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org