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Jeff Houck

The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.

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This Haiku Contest/Is All About The Fruitcake/Get To Writing, Stat! [Guess Who’s Judging?]

Posted Dec 5, 2013 by Jeff Houck

Updated Dec 6, 2013 at 05:44 PM

Mrs. Lucille Harvey


In 1951, Mrs. Lucille Harvey entered a white fruitcake in a Tampa Tribune baking contest. The recipe became so beloved that reprinting it each holiday season became an annual tradition.

Unwittingly, her beloved recipe inspired a fruitcake-themed haiku contest several decades later. This year marks the seventh year we will attempt to piggyback the popularity of Mrs. Harvey’s holiday treat by inviting readers to send us their poetry.

Last year, Steve Winchell of Sebring won the whole shebang with this lovely poem:

A fan of fruitcake,
I search for a kindred soul.
Alas, fruitlessly.


Kyle Roberts of Tampa took second place by going for the funny, playing off the fiscal cliff the U.S. was headed toward:

The fruitcake cliff nears!
Increase fruit or decrease nuts?
Can’t slice it both ways.

Nice to know that we left all that congressional squabbling in 2012.

Oh. Right. Nevermind.

Other top contenders last year included this one from Esther Sarris Rupp of Seffner:

CAKE? You call this CAKE?
I think it’s a conspiracy
To add fat to thighs.

Janet Watson of Wesley Chapel made us giggle with this ditty:

Sent to a sailor
the cake arrived moldy green
was buried at sea

As in previous years, you are invited to write as many haiku as you care to pen, with the understanding that a perfect snowflake of verse is just as effective as an avalanche.

Perhaps you enjoy writing topical haiku such as:

Sebelius blames
HHS web site problems
on fruitcake eating.

Or maybe:

Obama decides
Health Care Act covers fruitcake.
New name: Bidencare.

Another:

Edward Snowdon says
U.S. spied on allies, but
no fruitcake drone strikes.

Perhaps other current world events will be your inspiration:

Russian meteor
exploding in atmosphere
was a fresh fruitcake.


Or:

Vatican voting
elects a frugal pontiff.
First words: Eat fruitcake.

Then again, there’s the world of entertainment:

Hey Miley Cyrus!
Maybe your big wrecking ball
is full of fruitcake!

Of course, the travails of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem tailor-made for fruitcake metaphors:

Coach Greg Schiano
punishes his quarterbacks
with fruitcake drills.

Injuries, tirades,
MRSA, losses and bad trades
Thank god, no fruitcakes.

Okay, now for the really big announcement.

Each year, I invite an esteemed food colleague to judge the entries in the contest. Previous judges have included baking legend Rose Levy Beranbaum and Shannon O’Malley, author of the book, “Apocalypse Cakes.”

This year’s judge?

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Sorry. I’m hyperventilating as I type this…

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond


Ree Drummond, author of “The Pioneer Woman” blog and star of he Food Network series “The Pioneer Woman.” (I’m sensing a theme.)

Pioneer-Woman-Holiday-Cookbook


Ree has a new book out: “The Pioneer Woman Cooks a Year of Holidays.”

You can read more about it here. Scroll all the way down to find links for ordering it online.

I reached out to Ree because I had a holiday contest and she had a holiday book. One hand scrapes mud off the boot of another, I always say. Also, Ree is a certified 100 percent doll. Just one of my favorite people.

The winner of this year’s contest will win a copy of Ree’s book.

To enter: email your haiku to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with the subject line “Fruitcake Haiku.” Or mail them to:

Fruitcake Haiku
c/o Jeff Houck
202 S. Parker St.
Tampa, FL 33606

All entries must be received by Dec. 11. Winners will be announced Dec. 22 in Baylife.

Best of luck!


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