"It began one Easter in the late 1960s," Pea House co-owner Astrid Addleson recalled. "We were visiting Emmeline's family and she showed us a reenactment of the Passion made from little candy Romans and suffering marzipan Jews. What impressed me was her attention to detail. The spears were made of thin butterscotch brittle and ground pecans. The persecuted Hebrews were glued to handcrafted gummi crosses. You could even see the blood running down their sides, which was made from red licorice. And best of all, they tasted wonderful!"
On that day, a deal was struck and local history made. Kuchenkoch's pastries and assorted goodies became standard fare at the Pea House. But the most cherished culinary treat, according to Kuchenkoch's fans, remains the Christmas fruitcake she prepares only once a year.
Leo Kuchenkoch, Emmeline's youngest son, said nothing surpasses it.
"For most people, fruitcake is a torment forged by Satan on the anvils of Hell, studded with turd-like candied fruits, stale nuts and a sticky brown dough that looks like it came out of a demon's butthole," he explained. "It's a meal you'd serve your worst enemy. But not Mom's. Hers is amazing."
Emmeline sends a cake to each household in her family every December, but during Christmas week, a few lucky Pea House customers get to taste it for themselves.
"People from all over Southern California travel to San Narciso for a chance to try Mom's 'World Famous Fruitcake.' Well, they did. But not anymore. Because it's all a big sham," Leo sobbed, grief-stricken.
Unhappy Holidays: Deceit and Treachery in the Kitchen
Kuchenkoch's four children say she's been referring to her Christmas cake as 'world famous' since they could remember. But a background investigation launched by the owners of the Hearth Attack bakery turned up damning evidence of deceit and misinformation.
Raine Baca, owner of the failing bakery, admitted to hiring private investigators from Few and Shue Security to expose Kuchenkoch's "fraudulent advertising and illicit operations."
"We're a professional bakery, but we've been unable to secure key contracts with restaurants in the area because of this woman's outright lies and criminal undertakings," Baca stated. "I'm not even sure she has a business license, let alone the necessary permits to prepare food for commercial consumption. It's not sour grapes but a legitimate concern for the rule of law. I'm sure she's not paying taxes on this operation. She's a duplicitous con artist who's been lying to her friends, to her family and to the patrons of the restaurants where she sells her baked goods."
In a brief conference with reporters, Kuchenkoch came clean about the scandal, which the Chamber of Commerce has dubbed "Dessert Storm."
"I never thought telling people my fruitcake was world famous would cause so much harm," Kuchenkoch confessed tearfully. "I need to set the record straight. Very few people outside of San Narciso County know about my fruitcakes. I send some to San Diego. Outside the state, a couple make their ways to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. The rest end up in Iowa: Grimes, Polk and Des Moines. They have never traveled abroad, and nobody else in the world is aware of their existence. I'm so sorry to all those I've deceived. I'm a pitiless liar, and I apologize for destroying your faith in me and probably in God."
For Emmeline Kuchenkoch, the holidays will never be the same.
"How do you look in the mirror and not see a stranger?" she lamented. "My daughter refuses to come home for the holidays this year. She said she didn't have a mother any longer, just some fraud who lives in her house and sleeps with her father on special occasions. My boys have decided to spend Christmas with friends who, quote, don't pretend to be people they're not."
Emmeline's husband is still reeling from the shock of the morning's events.
"I found Emmeline crying in the bathroom around seven o'clock," Mr. Kuchenkoch told reporters. "She was trying to...I think she was trying to cut her wrists with a razor. But it was the plastic Lady Bic she uses to shave her legs, so she just ended up with some red marks -- she's very pale. Emmeline wouldn't answer me when I said her name. She kept staring at her reflection and bawling, 'Who are you? Why have you stolen my life?'"
(c) 2012. See disclaimers.