Why I’m Not Giving Up Sugar For Lent

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Lent crossYesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the church calendar. It has been customary since the days of the early church to observe this season culminating in Holy Week by focusing on repentance, prayer, and fasting. Certainly, by the Council of Nicea in the year 325, Lent was an established tradition. In our day and age, Lent has also become a time for discussion of what fasting means. The term “fasting” normally refers either to going a while without any food, or to reducing the amount or variety of food for a longer period of time. Either way, fasting is usually done specifically for spiritual reasons. In Christianity, fasting is most commonly associated with Roman Catholicism, largely because the Roman Catholic church has codified what, when, and how much someone should eat in order to officially be fasting. (Essentially, Catholics who are fasting can eat one regular-sized meal and two small meals a day, but no snacks and on Fridays, no meat other than fish) However, fasting is also observed by other Christians, although it is generally phrased as “giving up {fill in the blank} for Lent”, where the thing being given up can be pretty much anything. The purpose is not only to exercise self-control, but to draw the focus towards Christ.

As it is generally practiced, giving things up for Lent seems to me to be pretty similar to a New Year’s resolution, except with a specified end date. Some people participate in this tradition by focusing on “giving up” a certain vice, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because it seems to imply that it’s okay to pick up that bad habit again after Easter. Other people decide to give up certain types of food. I get the impression that giving up processed sugars is one of the most common forms of Lenten fasting in twenty-first century America. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel like a lot of people are motivated by the health benefits or the possible weight loss, rather than spiritual reasons.

For a couple years when I was in college, I gave up certain specific types of foods for Lent. The past few years, I’ve considered it. In fact, this year, I had briefly been planning on fasting in a fairly traditional sense by giving up several different types of food and essentially limiting my intake to a few specific staples. The reason I decided against that fast is pretty personal, but I decided to blog about it anyway because it’s helpful for me to put my thought process into words and because there’s a chance that someone out there might find this helpful to read.

Once or twice previously on this blog, I’ve alluded to the fact that I have struggled with eating disordered tendencies. I’m not going to go into the details and tell the whole story, but the relevant detail is that I’m very prone to going through phases where I essentially take a break from normal eating. I’ve never been severely underweight or dangerously malnourished, but I definitely have engaged in eating habits that count as fasting. But for me, it’s not a religious thing at all. On the contrary, it’s a distraction from God.

various types of sugarThat may sound counter-intuitive, so let me explain. In our culture, there is a trend of self-righteous attitudes about foods. Vegans and vegetarians often make it sound as if they view themselves as being morally superior to meat-eaters, which makes some degree of sense, since most people choose veganism or vegetarianism because they’re ethically opposed to eating animals. But people who eat low-carb diets or low-sugar diets or gluten-free diets often act the same way. Overeating and being overweight are associated with a lack of self-control and a lack of priorities, whereas a rigidly defined diet is associated with good self-control and balanced priorities. That’s not entirely wrong, but it’s not morally wrong to have junk food every now and then. In fact, I don’t think it would be taking Matthew 15:11 and Mark 7:15 out of context to mention those verses here. Jesus was referring to the Pharisee’s dietary rules when he said that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but rigid dietary rules defined by health guidelines are comparable to rigid dietary rules defined by Jewish law.

Of course, eating disorders are very different from—and in many ways, contrary to—a focus on healthy living and a clean diet. Even the attitude is opposite, since people with eating disorders are almost always highly self-critical rather than self-righteous. But most people with eating disorders have been influenced by that cultural idea that eating the wrong things is disgusting, unclean, and perhaps morally wrong. Eating disorders that are characterized by undereating are often (if not always) just an extreme of that concept, in which eating is seen as unclean in and of itself. Compulsive undereating tends to be driven by perfectionism and low self-esteem that is so extreme that it’s just as self-focused as arrogance and self-righteousness. For someone with a history of a restrictive eating disorder, even one as minor as mine, fasting doesn’t make room for Christ-centered thoughts, it makes room for more eating-disordered thoughts.

My decision not to give up unhealthy foods for Lent was based partly on the fact that it might lead to long-term unhealthy habits, but it was mostly because it would serve no spiritual purpose for me. I don’t want to sound preachy here, but I think that even people without eating disorders might sometimes be fasting for the wrong reason. Giving up processed sugar or cutting back on carbs or consuming fewer calories are all things that people often do for themselves, either to benefit their health or to make themselves look better. If your Lenten fast is making you focus on your health, then it isn’t really a fast, it’s a diet. Even if you are giving up something that isn’t food and isn’t health-related, it isn’t really a fast if you’re focused on yourself.

The important thing to remember in Lent is that we are all sinners, (no matter how much or how little sugar we eat) and that sin is a big deal. It’s such a big deal that nothing we do, not even willing self-deprivation, can get rid of that sin or fix the problems it causes in the world. The only thing that can solve the problem of sin is Jesus’ suffering and death. This is the time of year for us to remember how sad that is, but when Easter comes, it will be time for us to again focus on the joy we have in our salvation. And that joy and that salvation have nothing to do with what you eat during Lent.

About My Easter Eggs

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Such a helper

Such a helper

It’s amazing the things that you suddenly realize you don’t know how to do. For example, even though I consider myself relatively adept in the kitchen, I don’t know how long it takes to hard-boil an egg. Even though I dyed Easter eggs every year of my childhood, I don’t know how to do it with food coloring instead of with those dyes that are specifically made for Easter eggs and packaged with instructions on the back. Even though I helped my mother make deviled eggs as a kid, I don’t remember exactly what ingredients to add to the egg yolks or how much.

These are all things that I have done in the past week. Since it all turned out relatively well, I decided to use my blog to chronicle the method of my eggsperiments. (Sorry, sorry, I know that’s a horrible pun. I couldn’t resist.)

IMG_0569I actually can’t say exactly how long I boiled the eggs, but it turned out to be the right amount of time. They were easy to peel and the yolks didn’t have that grayish color on the edges that you get when you boil them too long. I put them in the water before I started heating it and left them there until the dye was ready. I put the dye in blue plastic Solo cups, which is something that I ought to have done in the past. When I was a kid, we used those white plastic things that looked like really deep muffin tins; they were basically six attached cups, which meant that if someone jostled the table or dripped dye while taking an egg out, the colors might mix. Using separate cups is so much neater. At one point, we used plastic mugs, but they were the same mugs that we used for drinking, so I still think that my disposable cup method was better.

IMG_0567My dye recipe was approximately half a cup of water, a couple teaspoons of vinegar, and about four drops of gel food coloring. I had seven different colors. The best ones were the ones that had green in them. I had one that was pure green, one that was green and yellow, and one that was green and blue. The green and yellow came out looking almost completely yellow, but it was still a pretty color. The one that didn’t really work was the blue and red. I had assumed that it would be a nice purple color, but it was actually a kind of purplish gray. Overall, I think that the gel food dye came out looking better than the Easter-egg-specific dye tablets. The one downside—which some people may see as an upside—is that the colors didn’t soak through the shells much, so my deviled eggs aren’t quite as colorful as Easter deviled eggs are supposed to be. Some of them do have some colored splotches, though.

IMG_0572This brings me to my new and original deviled egg recipe. I had to put a bit of forethought into this because I had read a recipe online that had pickle relish, which sounded good, but it would mess up the texture. But then I realized that, since I was going to be mashing it with a fork instead of using a food processor, my filling wouldn’t be as smooth as the way my mother makes it anyway. So I decided to go ahead and use the pickle relish. The recipe is as follows. (Note that I didn’t measure out any ingredients, which is why I didn’t include specific quantities. Feel free to taste test.)

IMG_0575Crack and peel the hard-boiled eggs. (If your cat steals one or two or three and smashes them on the floor, go ahead and use them anyway, unless you are serving the deviled eggs to other people, in which case you probably want to keep your cat out of the kitchen.) Cut each egg in half the long way and remove the yolk. Mash the yolks up with a fork. Add miracle whip and mix thoroughly. My egg-yolk-to-miracle-whip ratio was probably about 4-to-1. You want a lot of miracle whip, but mostly egg. Add mustard and pickle relish to taste. I used about two teaspoons of each, for twelve eggs. Put a slightly-heaping teaspoon of the filling into each half egg. Sprinkle with a generous amount of paprika. (Contrary to common belief, the paprika is not optional. The paprika is important.)

Now I have twenty-four deviled eggs, which I have to eat by myself because the cat touched them. I’m not going to be eating much besides deviled eggs for a while. Such is the cost of being an old maid who insists upon dying Easter eggs.

My Recipe for Irish Soda Bread

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These have different amounts of baking soda. The correct amount turned out to be a little less than the one in the middle and a little more than the one on the right.

These have different amounts of baking soda. The correct amount turned out to be a little less than the one in the middle and a little more than the one on the right.

Two days ago, on the morning of Saint Patrick’s Day, I decided that I should celebrate the holiday by making some Irish soda bread for lunch. I’m not a big fan of following recipes, because recipes stifle my creativity, but it’s not easy to make bread without a recipe. Too little or too much of an ingredient can completely mess up the texture. So I decided to compromise with myself and make up my own recipe. I made multi mini-loaves that were slightly different in order to determine the correct proportion of ingredients. The result is that I now have my own recipe for a particularly quick and simple Irish soda bread. I made small, single-serving-size loaves, which isn’t the way Irish soda bread is normally made, but for my purposes, it was convenient. This recipe makes three mini-loaves. I just want to state for the record that I am not an experienced baker and am not claiming that my recipe is the epitome of Irish soda breads, but I thought it turned out decently, considering that I was just making it up as I went along. In the future, I may experiment a little more and come up with an improved version of this recipe, but here is what I have for now.

IMG_0505Preparation time: About half an hour, counting the 15 minutes in the oven

Servings: About 3

Nutrition facts: I have no idea, except that bread is a starch. Also, if I counted correctly, and if that process of baking the bread doesn’t make a difference, each serving has between 150 and 200 calories. Then again, I’m pretty sure that my milk was skim milk, so that kept the caloric count on the low side.

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 ½ cups of flour

Approximately 1 cup of buttermilk or sour milk

Approximately 1 tablespoon sugar (a little extra won’t hurt!)

1 teaspoon baking soda

Caraway seeds

Optional: salt

Optional: fruit, preferably raisins. I used cranberries because that’s what I had.

IMG_0506Instructions:

Mix the egg with a couple tablespoons of the milk. Add the flour and stir. Add milk and stir until the texture is thick and doughy. It will be elastic like yeast dough, but less smooth. Add some sugar and the baking soda, plus a sprinkling of caraway seeds and a very small sprinkling of salt if you want. Stir thoroughly, then fold in the fruit. Divide the dough into thirds and plop them onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about fifteen minutes. The surface should be browned and crunchy.

Things You Shouldn’t Say to Fast Food Workers

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orderAlmost ten months ago, I posted a poll regarding topics for future blog posts. Since then, I have only posted a couple times, so I haven’t used any of the ideas included in that poll. Now that I’m hoping to start blogging more frequently again, the obvious way for me to start is to go back to that poll and write some of the potential blog posts that got the most votes back then. The clear winner was “Things You Shouldn’t Say to Food Industry/Retail Workers”, which, by a lucky coincidence, is also one of the ones that I had already started writing. So I’ve gone ahead and finished it up to post now. I’ve changed the original concept (and the title) a little by writing specifically about fast food jobs rather than including waiters/waitresses and retail workers, since there is a significant difference between those types of work environments. Also, it’s probably worth acknowledging that, because I no longer work in fast food, my perspective on the topic is different than it was when I started writing this post back in March.  With that for an introduction, here is the list.

“Why don’t you have [item not on the menu]?”

Because we don’t have the necessary ingredients in stock. Because we don’t have the necessary equipment in our kitchen. Because we haven’t been trained in a specific procedure for making that product. Because the franchise owners have come to the conclusion that it isn’t financially advantageous for the company to offer that particular product. There are several reasons and none of them are under the control of the employee who takes your order or hands you your food. Personally, I always agreed with the customers who said that they wished we had milkshakes or onion rings or Swiss cheese for the cheeseburgers. (Especially onion rings, because I’ve made onion rings at home before and they’re lots of fun) It’s a little less understandable to be upset about the lack of vegan meals in a place that specifically sells hamburgers, or to take offense that the only way to get a gluten-free burger is to order it without the bun, but even then, I can agree that it would be great if I could have offered those options. But I couldn’t change the menu, and they never wanted to hear me actually answer the question. It’s a rhetorical question anyway; I think anyone who asks it is really just expressing their frustration, not wondering about the answer. And it seems to me that it takes a pretty unreasonable attitude for a consumer to get frustrated that a certain place doesn’t offer a certain product, when they could just leave and go someplace else that does have it. But if you’re ever in a situation where you actually have reasonable cause to be upset that a certain item isn’t on the menu, you should still know better than to take it out on the minimum-wage worker behind the counter. He or she is frustrated too, maybe even for the same reasons, except that it’s a much larger part of the employee’s life. If you can’t buy the chocolate milkshake that you wanted, that’s a very short-term disappointment, but if you have to deal with furious chocolate-milkshake-deprived customers every day of your life, it makes for a very discouraging work environment. For the benefit of those of you who don’t have experience in this type of job, I will clarify that I am not speaking in hyperbole; certain complaints are indeed daily occurrences. If you are genuinely curious about the logic behind the menu, that’s a different story, and it’s certainly okay to ask about it, but I never encountered a customer who asked a question like this out of actual interest.

“You’re new here, huh?”

It should be acknowledged that people who ask this question are usually correct that the employee is new. It should also be acknowledged that this question is usually asked as an indication that the customer understands the situation and is not judging the employee for his or her inadequacies. Nonetheless, it’s never pleasant to hear a customer comment on your work performance. If there’s an actual problem, such as an incorrect order or a defective product or unethical behavior on the part of an employee, then the problem should be reported and solved without any condescending small talk regarding how long the employee has been working there. But if it’s a matter of a cashier taking a few too many seconds to count out change or referring a question to a manager, there’s no need for a customer to make remarks about that at all.

“That’s way too expensive.”

cheeseburgerEvery time a customer said this to me, I wished I could agree and commiserate. The food at my workplace was indeed extremely expensive; the only reason that I ate it was because I got a free meal for every shift I worked. (At least, in theory. There were quite a number of occasions when I never got to go on break and didn’t get to eat at all.) But I was pretty sure I wasn’t allowed to publicly criticize the business for which I worked, and I had absolutely no control over prices. It’s all about what the owners decide, which has to do with basic economic principles. The price of a product is determined partly by how much it costs to produce that product and partly by how much the business can charge for the product and still attract an optimal number of customers. If an individual customer feels that a certain product is too expensive, the obvious solution is to not buy it, or at least to buy it from a different business that has lower prices. Not only does this mean that the customer is saving the money that he or she doesn’t want to spend, but it also means that the business with the higher prices has one fewer customer. If most customers agree that prices are too high, then the business won’t have as many customers as they want, and then they might consider lowering prices, whether that means lowering the quality so that the product can be produced more cheaply or whether it means making less profit on each item sold. For that reason, customers actually have more power over prices than a minimum-wage employee behind the cash register. Of course, a customer doesn’t have any immediate and direct control over the prices, but neither does a cashier. Most customers realize this, but they instinctively take out their annoyance by complaining to the cashier, and some customers add comments along the lines of, “With prices like these, you must make a lot of money working here,” which is an incredibly frustrating thing to be told when you make minimum wage. It’s a little bit hurtful every time a customer speaks to a cashier this way, and it’s extremely discouraging when it happens multiple times over the course of a shift.

“You need better training here.”

I only got this specific comment once, but the situation is an example of the kind of attitude I had to deal with all the time. It happened during the lunch rush on a particular busy day, and I was trying to sweep the dining room floor as quickly as possible so that I could get back to the grills and fryers as soon as possible. But before I could return to the kitchen, an elderly lady poked me on the shoulder so that she and her friend could quiz me on random trivia associated with the franchise. What year was the company founded? In what city was the original location? When did this particular location open? In what region of the country was it most popular? Nationwide, how many customers did we serve each year? To my credit, I actually was able to answer some of those questions, but others of my responses were estimates. At that, the customers sighed and shook their heads and one of them responded with the afore-quoted remark. I actually did agree that the employee training was unsatisfactory, but it was the training methods, not the content, that was problematic. For the record, our training included only a very brief spiel on the history and sales data of the company. Most of the training consisted of learning procedures for how to make each of the menu items, lists of tasks necessary to keep the place clean, and reminders to be friendly to the customers. Considering that those things were all specifically relevant to my position, I think it makes perfect sense that they were the focus of the employee training. But what really bothered me about that exchange was that the customers had the desire to critique me in the first place. I was already busy doing what I was supposed to be doing, and they pulled me away from my actual duties and acted as if they were specifically trying to catch me in a mistake for the sole purpose of making a demeaning remark. I doubt that they actually were being that deliberate about it, but they certainly were being extremely insensitive.

“Can I have a free [item]?”

There were three different types of situations in which people asked this question. Sometimes, customers thought they were being funny by making a deliberately unreasonable request. Just for the record, that’s not a particularly humorous joke. Every now and then, a customer would apparently be under the mistaken impression that we actually did give out free samples. More frequently, a customer would think that we should give them a free item because they had waited a little longer for their order than they had expected or because they hadn’t been fully satisfied with some other aspect of their meal experience. For the record, we did re-make things for no additional cost if something wasn’t right, even if the problem was that the customer had made a mistake while ordering. But no, you don’t get a free order of fries just because your burger had a little more mustard than you wanted. What many customers don’t seem to realize is that, in general, the cashier does not have the authority to give things away for free. Depending upon the situation, it might be technically possible for an employee to hand something over without ringing it up at all, but there are various reasons that such things can’t happen very often. Even a manager, who has override codes that give them extra power within the cash register system, can’t get away with doing anything that will have an effect on the business’s income and expenditures. While individual employees might want to be generous, they are still bound by rules and regulated procedures that are motivated by the company’s goal of making as much money as possible.

“You aren’t listening.”

There are lots of reasons that someone might need to ask a customer to repeat or verify something. For instance, the cashier is usually a lot closer to loud kitchen equipment than the customer is, and it can be hard to hear over all those sounds. A customer might also have an accent, or be speaking quietly, or have their face down because they’re looking at the menu. Sometimes, customers will call an item by a different name than what it’s officially named, which makes it necessary to verify what they mean. (This is especially the case when it comes to sizes. Where I worked, we didn’t have a kids’ menu, but a lot of people would order a “junior” or “kid’s” burger instead of ordering a “little” burger. Sometimes, they really did mean that they wanted the little burger, but sometimes, they thought that we had a wider variety of size options than we did, and I had to clear that up for them.) Also, fast food workers are generally trying to simultaneously communicate with coworkers, interact with customers, and keep an eye on the dining room. And if all that isn’t enough, it’s also worth noting that anyone’s performance will be affected once they’ve spent several hours at work in a loud, chaotic, and busy setting. My cognitive efficiency, hearing, and voice were all temporarily impaired by the midpoint of a typical shift. (I didn’t know until I worked in fast food just how similar the words “one” and “four” sound when yelled across a busy kitchen, or how similar “green”  and “grilled” sound when spoken by a customer who may or may not be actually looking in your general direction while placing the order.) So don’t criticize someone for having to double check to make sure they heard you right, or for asking you to repeat those last two toppings again. Instead, be satisfied that they’re making the extra effort to be sure they’ve got your order right.

“You look [tired, bored, hung over, etc.]”

When I was working in fast food, I was also a full-time graduate student. Yes, that’s right, I had a college degree and worked in fast food. Believe it or not, in this economy, that happens. I lived more than an hour’s drive away from school, (often more than two hours if I got caught in rush hour traffic) so I spent a good deal of time and energy driving, too. And, during some of those eleven months, I was working multiple jobs. Some of my coworkers were in similar situations. As far as I know, I was by far the one with the craziest schedule, but the fact of the matter is that most people who work minimum-wage jobs are very busy, very overworked, and very tired. If I looked tired at work, that’s because I really was exhausted, but that doesn’t mean that my fatigue was a good topic for small talk. Likewise, if I looked bored or uninterested, it was because I was so exhausted that I couldn’t muster much of any genuine enthusiasm. Besides, fast food really is a monotonous and non-intellectually-stimulating line of work. Based on the comments of some customers, I was evidently actually pretty good at keeping a semblance of cheerfulness, but that didn’t stop other customers from commenting when I did fall a little short on the act. But the one that really bugged me was a few times when customers asked me if I’d been partying the night before or said I looked hung over. For the record, I very rarely drink alcohol and have never had enough to get hungover. While I’m not morally opposed to moderate drinking, I can’t help being slightly offended if other people assume that I drink more than I do. I always really wanted to suggest that they try pulling consecutive all-nighters while working eight-hour workdays (sometimes longer) and see how it affected them. But, of course, that kind of remark would constitute bad customer service. Instead, I had to just laugh it off and maybe say something about being tired. Also, I learned the hard way that, when you have a migraine, you should never say that to a customer, because people think that “migraine” is code for “hangover”. When you have a migraine and have to go to work anyway, the last thing you need is customers incorrectly judging you for the lifestyle that leads to having to go to work with a horrible headache.

“What’s the healthiest thing you have here?”

eatingAt some places, this question may be entirely appropriate. For example, many coffee shops and bakeries have food options ranging from light snacks to extremely high-calorie baked desserts. But if you’re really looking for a nutritious and low-calorie meal, you wouldn’t typically choose to get it at a burger place with a reputation for particularly unhealthy food. The answer to this question was almost undoubtedly that the veggie sandwich was healthier than any of our burgers, and that anything on the menu was healthier without fries and soda than with them. But who goes to a burger restaurant for a veggie sandwich and a glass of water?

Anything flirtatious

As much as I wish I was extremely beautiful, I guess I should probably be glad that I’m not good-looking enough that people flirt with me very often, because I get really panicky every single time it does happen. I know that’s not exactly normal, but I think that most people would agree that it’s annoying to have to deal with frequent flirtation from random strangers when you’re just trying to do your job. Since I worked the overnight weekend shift for a while, I did sometimes have to put up with random drunk guys telling me that I was the “sexiest cashier” they’d ever seen, or suggesting that I ditch work and go out for shots with them, or giving me their number even though I didn’t indicate any desire for it, or telling me how sexy it sounds when I say, “What would you like on your cheeseburger?” Even during regular lunch or dinner shifts, I had to deal with the occasional customer who thought they were being clever by ordering “a double cheeseburger all the way, medium fries, and your phone number” or who were willing to hold up the whole line to talk to me about themselves. Yes, I acknowledge that there are some people who might be flattered by that kind of attention. And yes, I acknowledge that working a fairly menial job is not the only thing that makes someone a target for flirtatious conversation. But that doesn’t mean that it’s no big deal to use someone’s customer service responsibilities as a way to force them to converse with you.

The bottom line is that people who work in those types of jobs are not just cogs in the machine of the business or franchise for which they work, and accepting unfair criticism from customers shouldn’t have to be “just a part of the job”. As a customer, you are paying for your food, you are paying for the labor it took to prepare that food and serve it to you, and you are paying for the experience of eating out, but you are not paying for the privilege of being unkind to other human beings. Those of us who are fortunate enough that our jobs come with some degree of dignity and respect should have enough decency to remember that we are not automatically superior to anyone whose job doesn’t require a college degree and does require wearing an apron.

 

Let the Fruitcake Jokes Begin

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Last Year's Fruitcake

Last Year’s Fruitcake

I have a confession to make. A couple days ago, I made a fruitcake. Two fruitcakes, actually. I got a bowl and I filled it with flour, brown sugar, white sugar, baking powder, baking soda, various spices, corn syrup, melted butter, eggs, a little milk, some almond extract, chopped apples, chopped walnuts, and assorted candied fruits, all in relatively arbitrary quantities. Then I poured the whole conglomeration into two greased bread pans and stuck them in a hot oven for a while. Voila, fruitcake. Lest ye think that I am a heinous evildoer for inflicting fruitcake upon an already troubled world, I shall explain my motives.

This Year's Fruitcake

This Year’s Fruitcake

1. I was making supper. Most of the family was out at a Christmas party, so there were just a few of us there to eat supper, and I was therefore supposed to do something quick and simple. The benefit of quick-and-simple cooking, obviously, is that it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, but the downside is that it just isn’t fun. Real cooking is when you have multiple pots on the stove, cutting boards on the counter, and mixing bowls in your hand. Real cooking means juggling several different elements of the meal, constantly doing math in your head, and carefully timing every move you make so that nothing burns and everything is ready at more or less the same time. The fact of the matter is that, after three and a half years in college without access to a kitchen, I am no longer proficient at that kind of cooking, and quick-and-simple is the only kind of meal that’s likely to turn out well. But it’s just so boring to only have one pot on the stove, so it was necessary that I have some other project taking place on the counter.

2. We still had candied fruit from last year. I was actually a little skeptical that it was still good to use, but my mother said it would be fine, and, as far as I can tell, she was right about that. At any rate, we certainly couldn’t let that candied fruit go to waste, could we? Of course, last year’s fruitcake was the reason that we had leftover candied fruit, and at the time, I bought it especially for a fruitcake, so I couldn’t have used this motive to justify last year’s fruitcake.

3. Fruitcake jokes are, as a general rule, hilarious. I don’t know why, but they are. I have heard that Johnny Carson is the exemplary fruitcake-joke-maker, and that his theory states that there is only one fruitcake in the world that just keeps getting passed around and around as a Christmas gift and never eaten. Just like that fruitcake, fruitcake jokes are exactly the same every time, but they’re always funny.

4. I like fruitcake. Yes, really. Apparently, so do other people in my family, because my fruitcakes do get eaten.

So there you have it. I admit that I made a fruitcake, and furthermore, I think I’m going to do it again later this week.