Friday, April 08, 2011

Candy-coated memories

In just over two weeks, we will be celebrating Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday as some call it. During these last few days before the holiday, I seem to notice, more than other times, all the candy. It's in stores, at gas stations, in vending machines... it's everywhere. The holiday just makes it more prevalent with the chocolate rabbits and jellybeans and marshmallow critters, and candy eggs of all types. And this year my wife decided to give up sweets for Lent, so we haven't seen many of the goodies sitting around the house in bright anticipation of a colored basket filled with plastic grass.

I like candy. Always have. One look at my waist size should tell you that. But candy has changed over the years. Sure, the price has changed. I remember the ten-cent candy bars suddenly costing 15 cents. Now, I really don't know if there is a standard price. I haven't spotted a 50-cent bar in a few years, that I know.

But beyond that, it seems like we've lost a lot of the old candy and it's been replaced by, well, not a whole lot. However, candy makers seem to cling to their franchise names. Let's take the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Everyone is at least familiar with the standard two-per-pack round beauties with chocolate outside and peanut butter inside. At last count these gems were also made in miniature cups, in oversized cups, with dark chocolate, with white chocolate, a version with more peanut butter, a version with more chocolate, a version with the peanut butter on the outside and chocolate inside, a cup with caramel added, a cup with marshmallow added, a cup with honey roasted peanut butter, a cup with hazelnut cream, a thicker, darker chocolate cup, and the double crunch cup with a peanut and nougat filling. That doesn't count the special crunchy cookie cup which was a layered cup with crushed cookies and peanut butter that hasn't been made in a decade, or the Elvis-inspired peanut butter and banana creme from a few years ago. Oh, and the peanut butter and banana version was available in standard, miniature, and big cup size. Of course the big cups are also available with white chocolate, with peanuts, mixed nuts, and with a nut and caramel combination. And now, they've introduced the Minis, which are smaller than miniatures and unwrapped (which is good for folks like me who hate wasting time wrapping those little suckers).

Then, you have the other candy bars that the Reese's name has gone on. Certainly you've seen the Fast Break Bar or the Peanut Butter Squares or the Nutrageous or another dozen or so that have hit the shelves. And that doesn't even count the peanut butter eggs or rabbits at this time of year!

So instead of inventing a new candy bar, a familiar name goes on the wrapper every time they stuff something new into an M & M. And in the meantime, some candy bars go missing. As a middle schooler, I remember selling candy bars at a school concession stand. The big favorite among the kids was a Marathon bar. As I recall (I was not a fan of these), it was a thin, stretched-out bar which I believe was chocolate covering some sort of shoe leather. The kids who liked it claimed it was caramel. All I know is, we sold a ton of those at a quarter a pop. And now, the Marathon bar isn't even being sold by nostalgic candy makers who specialize in old candy bars.

And why is it that many of the flavors you get in those Valentine's Day boxes of chocolates don't come in bars? Ever have a candy bar with that orange cream inside? Me either. Even the vanilla creams and maple creams are hard to find. The closest I can get is a Bun candy bar with the maple cream and peanuts. Those used to be made in Fort Wayne, but now the brand belongs to another candy company. It's also about half the size it used to be. Or I'm twice as hungry. I can't be sure.

Once, the bunny drops his bundle of chocolatey goodness on the 24th, I'll see if this year's crop of candy is as good as it used to be. And if by chance my basket contains a Chunky or a Bounty or a Sugar Daddy, I'll let you know.

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