Candy Freak Posted by Hello
The lovely Bakerina gave me this book recently during one of our roasted chicken and sangria evenings at Pio Pio, mt favorite Peruvian chicken place. I devoured the book and now, of course, must testify about my own candy freak-y behavior.
Growing up in a small town in CT, I was down the street from a small general store called Phil's. Phil's was run by five different elderly women each one with white hair and blue eyes. They sold stuffed animals, small ceramic figurines, games, models, and penny candy. When I was say penny candy, I mean real penny candy. The kids in the neighborhood and I would trudge up the hill (if you saw this hill, you would realize what a harship this was) and take our twenty-five cents and deliberate, and for what to our parents if we conned them into stopping on the drive home what seemed an interminable length of time, about what to buy. We would get a little box and use tongs to pick out from the thirty small jars our candy ration for the week. It was here that I developed my taste for swedish fish, red dollars, cows eyes, squirrel nut zippers, and mary janes. Later when I got more money, I would pick out packets of sweettarts, nerds, and bottle caps ( I was a big fan of Wonka candy).
( All of things sold at Phil's would become popular with the kids at one point: first stuffed animals, then ceramic figures, next stickers, then models, and finally ceramic figures to show one was finally a young lady. Of course once Middle School began Phil's was forgotten for the 24 hour store which sold Slush Puppies, Hostess Cakes, and, my personal favorite, Mello Yello.)
The lure of candy was so strong that my mother used it one Halloween. My mother and I made a real scarecrow out of cornhusks. We stuffed the itchy husks into the overalls and shirt. Suddenly when the scarecrow was complete, I became terrified. The scarecrow was meant to be an indoor decoration for the Halloween party we were throwing. It remained in our study, but I refused to enter. My mother couldn't understand it. She tried reasoning, she tried showing me, but I wouldn't go into the room. Finally she put lollipops in the scarecrows pocket. After two days, she noticed a missing lollipop. She replaced the pop. Over time, more and more pops went missing until finally I entered the room without being afraid of whatever heinous acts a scarecrow could commit. The scarecrow became tradition as did the lollipops in his pocket.
Big holidays like Halloween and Christmas meant not only a large quantity of candy, but good quality as well. I had a drawer in the kitchen. It was my candy drawer. It was where I kept my bounty from Halloween or Easter depending on the time of year. The candy from Phil's would find a temporary home there, but it was mainly to stretch out large amounts of candy over a long period. Often my candy would go bad. I would try to stretch out christmas candy canes until easter or easter peeps until, well, until June and end up with some sort of sugary cure of cancer. The smaller items jelly beans, malted chocolate eggs, crispy santas, all were eaten fairly quickly. It was the items I really liked, the ones I wanted to be able to savor when I really needed to, which would find a bad fate. I would try to save marshmallowed filled chocolate eggs until the end of the school year, which was always stressful. Finally the day would come and I would open the candy drawer to find a fine layer of melted marshmallow coating the drawer and adhesing all of the other candy to the bottom.
The candy that I liked the best was from a local chocolatier called Munson's. We drove by it often and there were always tours of the facility. They made great chocolate including my favorite chocolate covered pretzels. My mother was a fan of the rocky road, and so for christmas and easter I would get chocolate covered pretzels, a slab of rocky road and a chocolate bunny. My mother always wanted a piece of the rocky road. I never understood why she just wouldn't buy herself some when she bought mine. (Later I realized she probably did and then ate it all on the way home.) But I wouldn't begrudge my mother chocolate ( although I was fierce about the pretzels, I was fairly generous with the chocolate bunny). In fact strangely over the years I have lost my taste for plain milk chocolate, even quality milk chocolate. I would eat the ears off my chocolate bunny and donate the rest to my grateful mother. Now I wouldn't even do that, my chocolate must be cut with nuts or crispies or caramel.
It's been a long time since I've been to Munson's ( you could smell the chocolate in the parking lot), but I still salivate when thinking of those chocolate covered pretzels, although Neutchatel's chocolate covered potato chips are a kind New York consolation. ( The same combination of salty and quality chocolate). But the truth is I am not a real candy freak, my grandmother is. With her high blood sugar, she shouldn't even think about chocolate, and yet stashed all over the house are boxes of Russell Stover samplers and bags of Milky Ways and Three Musketeers. She hides them under the couch, behind sofa cushions, under the linens in the closet. A casual search for paper towels may reveal not just one bag but several in different locations. A person invited to sit on the couch may hear the tell tale crinkle of cellophane as he or she settles into the cushions.
As Steve Almond correctly claims, candy is a great unifier. You can get people going about candy from their hometown or childhood. The chalky evilness of the conversation hearts, the fear surrounding the red M&Ms, the supposed link between smoking and gum cigarettes. Even now the lovely Bakerina and I are planning quests to Econo candy for goo goo clusters and Dylan's candy bar for abba zabbas and Look bars. Hopefully this weekend, you will find me surrounded by wrappers totally incoherent except to repeat over and over again "Mmmmmmmm.....chocolate."

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