Greetings. It's the holiday season and the one perfect time of year when guests commonly bring fruitcakes to parties. Yes, during the rest of the year they bring treats that people might actually desire to consume. But at the end of December they arrive at holiday gatherings with outstretched hands offering their hosts this incredible dessert made of dried or candied fruits, nuts, spices, flour, sugar, eggs, fruit juice, butter, possibly a bit of brandy, and who knows what else…all formed into a delightfully dense "cake." A gift welcomed outwardly with great joy and thanks, and inwardly with a combination of laughter, amusement, and concern that this tradition seems to have outlived the logic of good taste. Needless to say, at the end of the evening most hosts must figure out what to do with this culinary aberration. Could it be used as a paper weight? Or a boat anchor? Or a weapon? Or something to ward off evil spirits?
But maybe I shouldn't be so quick to pass judgement because some people actually enjoy fruitcakes and view them as works of art, an essential part of their holidays, and even taste sensations. Though I have yet to meet one of these people. In fact, there are even popular folk songs dating back to the 1800's that poke fun with this venerable six hundred year-old creation in the most poetic fashion.
Yes, I'm not a fan of fruitcake–but that doesn't mean that I lack an appreciation for a dessert that has stood the test of time. But why has it remained so popular? Is it because of it's relatively long shelf-life? Probably not. Though I did read an article this week suggesting that a fruitcake baked in the 1920's was recently unwrapped and found to be edible (or as edible as one baked this December). But more likely fruitcakes endure because they come with a six hundred year-old tradition. Otherwise, how would a food item that often strikes fear in the hearts of recipients continue to be such a cherished offering?
So if you're wondering what to do with the latest fruitcake, why not keep it on your desk for inspiration? And each day, try to imagine what you and your company or organization might do to remain relevant for more than six centuries.
All by getting to the essence of this remarkable invention.
We win in business and life when we keep alive traditions that matter. And when we create a smile, albeit an awkward one, tied to a gift filled with meaning.