Fruitcake and Compost

What a combo. The only way compost gets into a fruitcake is through plants grown in organic soils or an atrocious pantry. I’m not even sure that fruitcake can become compost. Consider how long some fruitcakes are passed around without breaking down. Impressive from a preservative point of view. Maybe the two are mutually exclusive. They do, though, both hearken back to a time when people used words like “hearken”. It was a more frugal time, a more earthy time, and a time when the only things ethereal were god, angels and demons; not esoteric financial instruments, or bizarre tax terms.

Queue up the fruitcake jokes, but I make fruitcakes. Twenty years I baked one for Christmas to see what the jokes were about, thought mine was okay, and didn’t think about it much more. The next year I sent one to my folks, and they said they liked it; but I believed the jokes more than their assurances, so I didn’t make one the next year. Every year since I’ve had requests for them. A few years back I was making so many that my bill for the ingredients was $200. Organic ingredients cost a lot, but evidently the taste was worth it. This year is different because last year I passed the culinary baton to the nieces and nephews by sending them the recipe. I’ve made a couple, and that will be it.

It would be grand if civilization grew in spirals, but history suggests that the path is more convoluted and not necessarily heading towards a destined goal. We continue to try different things, usually by replacing the familiar with the new. We hope for a better life. Occasionally though we have collective remorse and realize we’ve left something vital behind.

Recently the financial community went too far down a new road. Anyone tied to them via credit or debt was pulled along. When they hit the dead-end there was a pile-up that has yet to be untangled. People tightly tied to leveraged debt were caught in the wreck. People less reliant on credit were safer. Those without debt were almost unaffected, unless their employers went down that road.

We are reassessing how we got here and how to get back. The optimist in me is encouraged by the fact that we’ve been saner in the past and that nothing except bad habits stops us from returning to a proper balance of financial regulation and freedom. The pessimist in me worries that the dysfunctional power structure may be too ingrained, more like an addict instead of someone with bad habits.

Last night at a class that was silly enough to ask me to drop by and speak, someone passed along a variant on the K.I.S.S principle. Instead of Keep It Simple Stupid, she suggested Keep It Simple Sweetheart. I’m sure that positive variant has been around for a while, but it was new to me. Sweetheart – how southern.

It is possible to over simplify discussions, and the simple life of the past is only simple in retrospect. But we can take elements of today and simplify them. It is one of the reasons I invest in small companies. Before I buy their stock all I have to research is that one company, its few products, and its key people. Larger, collective investments like mutual funds, involve hundreds of companies, variable strategies, and less-visible managers. Commodities, currencies, and government securities can get wrapped up in global economics, political agendas, and international conflicts. I don’t want to have to understand the effects of Britain’s money supply and the Korean crisis on federal exchange rates. I’d rather try to understand why Microvision (MVIS) is behind on getting its next product out the door, or when Dendreon (DNDN) is going to start its next clinical trial in its fight against cancer.

Fruitcake looks complicated. Slice through and there’s a lot going on in there. But baking one can be very simple. Dump the ingredients in a bowl. Mix. Pour into a baking dish. Bake. Cool. Store. Eat. And yes, fruitcakes were originally intended to be eaten instead of passed along as joke gifts. They were the best way to preserve fruits and nuts for the winter, and were handy for hunters and travelers. They were some of the original energy bars.

More people are returning to days of simplicity. Compost piles were uncommon thirty years ago. Now people recognize that they are a great way to get rid of kitchen and yard waste, and are a lot cheaper than buying more dirt from the nursery. Come to think of it, the recipe is similar to that of fruitcake: dump into a pile, mix occasionally, bake in its own heat, and serve it up to plants so they can eat. It’s an old idea that simply works.

The modern world is inevitably complicated because there are billions of us. The demands of the holidays can be overwhelming, with pulls coming from many directions. But each of us can choose an element or two to simplify within our lives. Simplifying everything at once is too difficult. Fixing all the world’s problems will take time. But simplifying one step, and then moving onto the next is easier and still progressive.

Today I’ll bake a batch of cookies. Yesterday I made the filling. This morning I’ll make the dough. This afternoon I’ll bake them. And none of them will end up in the compost pile. I’m surprised they make it out of the kitchen. Then, soon after Thanksgiving, the cookies and fruitcake will be shipped to family. It is a simple way to start the holidays.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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