31 October, 2013

I Remember Chocolate

Lately I've been asked it in hallways and via various friends' status updates. It was a simple request but one that I had a bit of trouble fulfilling confidently. You might think such memories would be indelible.

"Tell me what your favorite Halloween candy was when you were a kid." Oh, dear. I replied, "I’m not sure I could tell you, but it’s unlikely to have changed." What I did know for sure was that it's not going to be just one favorite candy.

So to be properly responsive all I had to do was think of what I enjoy today. Ah ... if only it were that easy. It isn't. Surely my tastes have changed somewhat, and I don't eat much candy anymore. Chocolate covered nuts have always been a favorite though and remain so. Peanuts, almonds, whatever. Delicious clusters. Yum. I do, however, tend toward the darker chocolates today; that is surely a change.

Okay, what do I remember? I seem to remember that I often received a small box of Hershey bars at Christmas. If I got those year after year, then surely that must have been a favorite. It also has the ring of truth since I still enjoy Hershey products - especially the regular bars with almonds. One memory, of course, triggers another, and I can remember also enjoying a Mr. Goodbar which, let's face it, is just a Hershey bar loaded with peanuts. After all, we southern boys do love our peanuts. And ... who doesn't enjoy a Kiss every so often.

I guess we need a story here. In my senior year of high school I participated in an exchange program with another US high school. Two or three dozen of us spent a week going to Hershey High School in Hershey, Pennsylvania and living with families there. A month or two later the students from our host families traveled to Virginia Beach for a week of attending our classes.

My Hershey experience, however, was extended because I began dating a young lady from there. I went back more than a few times to see her in her home on Chocolate Avenue with its Hershey kiss-shaped street lights and the scent of chocolate in the air. During our exchange visit we even had a VIP tour of the factory - not the pretend tour they offer today but one where we actually stood beside a huge vat of molten chocolate. There was a row of these vats, each a couple of feet deep and maybe eight feet wide and 80 feet long. Holy Willa Wonka. I was partial to Hershey's long before this sweet experience though.

One of the students who participated was Skip Reese whose family created those wonderful peanut butter cups. I love those - then and now. Who doesn't? The Reeses, by the way, eventually sold their company to the Hershey Corporation.

Other remembered favorites (and still favorites) are Dots, Raisinettes, Goobers, Heath Bar, Baby Ruth, Oh Henry! bar, peanut M&Ms, and licorice. In the past, Milk Duds, Tootsie Rolls, caramel cubes, and Sugar Daddys were frequent treats. Chocolate, however, seems to be the dominant note in most of my cravings while the colleague whose question started all of this salivating reminiscence enjoys caramel as the dominant note.

Then it gets complicated. I recall I used to enjoy Butterfingers too, but in the late 1970s many of us began to boycott Nestlé because of their involvement with selling infant formula in Africa (long story). Nestlé products still leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I was worried though. Was I forgetting something important? Just in case, I stopped by a drug store to look at the candy selection. There they were. Life Savers. How could I have forgotten Life Savers? An American icon since 1912. I went through a lot of Topps bubble gum too as I collected all those baseball cards in my Little League days. Oh my, would those be valuable today! IF ONLY they had been kept. Sigh.

Happy Halloween.
Two weeks from today it will be all over but the tooth decay.

What candy did you enjoy as a child?