...for the love of candy, it's Halloween
In honor of Halloween and trick-or-treat night, the following is an account of various love affairs I've had with various candy throughout my life. Mind you, I'm not including anything chocolate in this because that's a whole different kind of love affair.
Bazooka gum in a tube
I can't think of a better way to promote good dental hygiene than putting sugar-packed Bazooka gum in a tube exactly matching a tube of toothpaste.
Although short-lived, this candy sticks in my head for some reason - perhaps it made its way there from my teeth because I remember it would have the most awesome almost-crunchy-it's-so-sugary flavor for a good minute and a half, then it would slowly turn into the consistency of silly putty and get all kinds of stuck in your teeth. Once the TMJ started kicking in because of chewing so hard, all that was needed was another squeeze from the tube and a perfect circle of future cavities would be complete.
I went to Transfiguration Ukrainian Catholic School, but received my First Holy Communion at Holy Rosary Church in Elysburg. When I was a little kid, I would sit in church and, just as it does now, my mind would soar at things which were too huge for my little mind to comprehend. One, in particular, was what on earth did those little communion wafers taste like?
With all due respect, this is speaking from the mind of a child. I understand the sanctity of communion now; this is hindsight.
I figured, at one point, they may be similar in taste to pancakes or cookies, because, well, those things were both round and that's how my mind worked back then. I mean, did it melt in your mouth. Do you chew it? Is it like a cracker? I saw some people coming back from the communion line chewing, some just reverently bowing their heads. Some took it with their hands; some with their mouths. There was so much I didn't know about this sacrament.
Come the day of my First Holy Communion, not that my halo wasn't shining brighter than any other day - I was filled with the light of the heavens after all - but all I could think about when I sat in that pew was, first of all, how am I going to take it - hand or mouth? Second, what was this going to taste like? What if it was really strange? What if it was super delicious and I wanted another one? I was kind of hungry that day; I could use a snack. My stomach was growling and I'm certain everyone in my First Holy Communion class heard it.
As I approached the priest - the first person I knew on this Earth with a remote starter for his car, so he was kind of a rockstar/magician in my eyes - I must have made a quick decision on the mouth or hand debate, though it escapes me which I chose, but I recall vividly thinking, wow, communion wafers taste exactly like my favorite satellite wafers without the tiny little candies rolling around inside.
As I knelt back down in the pew, saying my prayers, I tried to chase out the satellite-communion revelation and focus on the task at hand, but, a little piece of me could not get over, after all my wonder, it turned out that way.
Wax bottles were fun. There was about a half a teaspoon of syrup inside which tasted like I would imagine putting your head under the spout of a slush puppy flavor would (note: I tried that later in life, not at all what you would expect), but the cool thing about wax bottle candy was, after you sucked the syrup out, you had all that wax to play with.
Listen, I grew up in the 1980s and nothing was cooler in the 80s than having braces and/or a retainer. I remember envying those with dental misalignment so bad, I would take the left over wax from the wax bottle candy and I would press it to the roof of my mouth, then unbend a paper clip to make my very own DIY retainer which totally didn't look legit or stay in my mouth, but nonetheless, made me feel a little cooler for about a half a second.
Will someone please ship a box of these to my house or to The News-Item? I'm not supposed to accept gifts, but what are the odds my editor and publisher are reading this? (Hi guys, I'm just kidding)
Anyway, hot cinnamon toothpicks came in a little plastic pack, kind of like what the peanuts for a hot fudge sundae at McDonald's comes in, but bigger and, although it's a reach to categorize them as candy, they were amazing.
What were they?
Well, for starters, they were hot, they were cinnamon and, OK, they were just toothpicks, but they had flavor that would last for what seemed like days. You could chew on it and a burst of hot cinnamon goodness would overcome your taste buds. They were just hot enough to be dangerous and plenty sharp enough to kill you had you aspirated one or tripped while chewing on it, sending it like a trajectory through your windpipe.
You know I love something with a dangerous side.
Maybe Johnny Castle had nothing to do with me liking bad boys. Maybe hot cinnamon toothpicks was the start all along.
Root beer barrels
I'm not going to lie. When I was a kid, I chubbed it up for a while when I hit puberty.
I remember the dread of going to the doctor's office and being weighed; the number grew and grew as I grew and grew. I should also mention my mom was the nurse at my pediatrician's office, so there was no fudging numbers or fibbing about my diet. Given my brother ate everything he wanted and was completely fit, I never understood why I gained weight at a young age. I mean, all I ate were salads. Well, let me explain to you what my salads looked like when I was a kid.
I would get iceberg lettuce, maybe a tomato if they were in season, perhaps a few baby carrots and that's where the nutritional value would end. I would then proceed to douse the entire thing in bacon bits and grate sharp cheese over top until no red or green of any kind of vegetable was visible. The whole thing was topped off with enough Hidden Valley Ranch dressing to drown a horse. The cheese, ranch and bacon bits stirred together had the consistency of spackle with gravel mixed in, yet I couldn't for the life of me figure out how a girl who lived off salads could keep gaining weight.
And salads were only part of the problem. I no longer care for really any hard candy, but I apparently had a thing for root beer barrels at some point in my life.
One day, as I sat in the doctor's office, all banged up about putting on a few more pounds, weeping while boasting about my all-salad diet, my doctor stressed to me the importance of good nutrition in an obvious attempt to curb my forthcoming battle with childhood obesity. As timing would have it, as I wept, I don't know if I reached in my pocket for a tissue or what, but at one point, about six root beer barrel candies came flying out and scattered themselves about the cold, hardwood floors.
About my diet. Sure, doc; I'll get right on working on that.
And that was the day I fell out of love with root beer barrels. I kept an on and off affair with root beer floats, though, for a good 10 years after that, but slowly that died off, too. The only recent root beer encounter I had was when I made pulled pork. A friend of mine, who I think is probably one of the best cooks I've met in my life, advised me to slow cook the pork in root beer, then drain it off and go from there and it was all sorts of delicious.
I hope all the trick-or-treaters get the candy they are looking for tonight and have stories of their own to tell someday of the sweet treats that made them smile - and don't let your parents take all the good stuff.
(Jenna Wasakoski, a News-Item editor, is a graduate of Von Lee School of Aesthetics and is certified as a professional makeup artist.)