KMC’s Dr. Scheppers will gladly grind your unwanted fruitcake

LIHU’E – Over the years, no Christmas gift has been more maligned than the poor fruitcake.

It’s probably a good thing that the things keep for years, because folks probably keep them for years. Even if it’s just for the tin they come in.

Worse than the dreaded bedroom slippers, light-up ties, that third or fourth blender or food processor, home furnishings you have no room for or desire to find room for, or other unwanted or plain loathed gifts, the fruitcake has found itself nearly alone as the gift given to folks you really didn’t want to buy a gift for in the first place.

But there are a few fruitcake fans left, including Dr. Dennis Scheppers, a family-practice physician at Kauai Medical Clinic.

The fruitcake has gotten a bad rap, he says. And he’s not sure why. With healthy nuts and dried fruits, the fruitcake is nutritious, low in fat, and much better for people than, say, chocolates or other traditional edible holiday gifts, he said.

Nuts are a good source of fiber, said Scheppers, who has hit near bottom in his fruitcake quest and has ordered one for himself this year in anticipation that none of his friends or loved ones will give him one.

“If you’re not diabetic, they’re nutritionally sound,” he said.

“I fell in love with fruitcakes long ago,” after being encouraged by his grandfather to try lots of different kinds of foods when he was growing up, he said.

“My grandmother used to make them, and that’s kind of how I got hooked on eating fruitcake every year. It became a joke, because hardly anybody likes them,” he said.

“So they would just all kind of (say), let’s give it to Dennis,” and on the Mainland Scheppers became known as the person who would warmly welcome unwanted fruitcakes.

“My wife said, ‘You know, these things are expensive, and people don’t want theirs. They might as well just give them to you.'”

And a tradition started.

“It’s kind of a fun thing to do at Christmas time,” he said.

“They’re not that bad for you,” said Scheppers, who may be the island’s only fruitcake cheerleader. “The dried fruits that they use, other than a little bit of extra sugar, which most things have, anyway, are not bad for you. The nuts are a good source of fiber and, actually, a lot of the cake ingredients are a good source of fiber,” he extolled.

His friends and relatives on the Mainland have quit sending him his favorite Christmas gift, he figures because they think he gets his fair share from Kaua’i patients, friends and relatives.

But over the past few holiday seasons, though, that has not been the case.

Scheppers is not alone in his fruitcake fondness.

His son, Stephen, enjoys fruitcake, too. “I don’t know why he likes it, but he loves fruitcake, so it’s kind of a fun thing for him and dad to have fruitcake together,” Dennis Scheppers said.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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