As a kid of the 60’s and 70’s, I became a candy connoisseur. I am a fan of everything from Necco Wafers to Zero bars to the original Willy Wonka gold bars, and I have rarely met a piece of chocolate I didn’t enjoy. My waistline has suffered, and my dentist has profited from my bad candy habits.
June is National Candy Month and truly never has anything deserved its own full month as much as candy, perhaps discounting National Coffee Month, which of course pairs very well with candy and is a life-blood type fuel for me.
I am not sure what you have to do to get your own month. I mean having your own day is one thing, but it seems that a whole month is big stuff. I have seen National Red-Head Month, which is totally unfair. If your genetics just handed you a month, that seems too easy, and it excludes us bottle brown and blonde folks.
I saw National Math Teacher month advertised recently, and I am for sure okay with that one. Anybody who A. understands math, and then B. has the guts to teach it to the rest of us deserves a month for sure. But I digress.
I blame both sets of my grandparents for my entry into Candy Land. At Grammy and Grandy’s house, there was a beautiful dish on the mantle, containing butterscotch hard candy in cellophane wrappers, and if my sister and I so much as glanced that direction we got to have a piece. Or three pieces.
I can remember rolling my tongue over that sweet butterscotch and trying so hard not to bite down on it. I would eventually give in and have the sweet sticky mess stuck to every molar in my mouth.
Grammy and Grandy also kept Russell Stover Chocolate boxes on their big piano. Grandy was an accessory to the crime of sticking our fingers into the bottom of a chocolate to see if we could grab a caramel or a strawberry cream instead of a gross nougat. Sometimes we had to poke lots of holes before we settled on one I could enjoy.
At Nannie and Pa’s house, the candy sometimes came right off Nannie’s stove, as she whipped up divinity and peanut butter candy. As an adult, no matter how many times I try to recreate her holiday treats, they never taste quite the same. But I persevere, testing batch after batch in the name of preserving history.
We also were the recipients of Life Saver story books at their house each Christmas. It was such a thrill to know that all the candy was just mine, and the tattered wax paper under the colorful sleeves was evidence of the fact that when it came to Wild Cherry, I had no willpower to resist.
As I became a wage earner, pulling down that $1 an hour for babysitting neighborhood terrors, some of my first purchases were candy. The jaw breakers from Wheeler’s Drug Store were fully worth the Huffy bike ride up there, and I am guessing I never donned my skates with pom poms on any Friday night without having a Hershey bar and blowing huge bubbles from chewing that grape flavored Bazooka.
I became proficient at dismantling Easter bunnies ears and tails first, and I even enjoyed the eggs with the shellacked outer shells and the marshmallow center, trading away jelly beans to my sister to get them. I remember when there were two shades of brown M&M’s, and the blue ones were just a thing of fantasy, much less any M&M that had a filling other than milk chocolate.
As a college student, Reese’s became my go to pick me up. If you would have tapped my veins in those days, I would only have bled out Reese’s, those dry orange crackers with the peanut butter centers, and Mountain Dew. Gross.
As a beginning teacher, I upped my game and grabbed an occasional Snickers, convincing myself the peanuts would fill the void of the lunch I had missed as I made copies for my next class. I sometimes wonder how those school vending machine guys are enjoying their retirement in the Bahamas or another lovely place, because they sure made some bank off us hungry teachers in those days.
I recently received an email with a website containing candies of old. They used names like nostalgic and retro, making me feel ancient. I could have had my share of Bit O Honey’s, wax pop bottles, giant Sweet Tarts, black licorice, Mounds, Almond Joys, Wacky Wafers, Tart ‘n Tinies, Banana Bites, Astro Pops, cherry sours, Fruit Stripe Gum, Chiclets, Marathon bars, Pixy Stix, even candy cigarettes.
I resisted the temptation to just order a whole bunch, using as an excuse that I wanted to show my daughter what I had growing up. But two things finally made their way into my cart, and I don’t regret purchasing either one of them at all.
I order a whole pound of Brach’s chewy candy, the kind that used to live with no expiration date in bins in the supermarket, where you could fill your own bag and weigh it. The caramel goodness wrapped around fake raspberry, vanilla, and orange flavors had my mouth watering.
I knew I risked the chance of ending up with some root beer barrels or even one of the white nougats with jelly like fruit pieces in it mixed in the assortment, but I didn’t care. The last of them are riding around in my purse today, collecting fuzz, before I act like my great Aunt Pauline and hand one off to some unsuspecting kid in church.
The other was a less conventional choice, one some scientist is still earning royalties from, based on that one day in his lab when he thought, “What kind of candy could I make that would basically explode in someone’s mouth?” And thus was born Zotz. I scarfed down a sleeve of blue raspberry flavor the day they arrived, the only telltale clue a blue stained tongue that I could not explain away.
I saw a meme the other day that said, “Okay, hear me out. An old-fashioned candy necklace, but with Tums and ibuprofen.” I’d be down for it! Happy Candy Month!