Friday, December 1, 2023

Insight: No sugarcoating candy and Christmas

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

For those who are inclined to have a sweet tooth, like me, we are entering the most favorable time of the year as candy is everywhere and baked goods are in plentiful supply as the holidays are celebrated.

Since I was young, my favorite candy treat that shows up each year during the holiday season has always been colorful ribbon candy. It’s hard to find, but well worth the search. I remember receiving a small box of ribbon candy in my Christmas stocking when I was 7 and thinking I had hit the proverbial jackpot, while my parents envisioned a huge future dentist bill.

Over the decades since, I’ve sampled many other candies made exclusively for the holidays, but none can match the taste and texture of ribbon candy for me, and it just wouldn’t be the holidays without receiving a box of ribbon candy from my family.

Before her passing in 2018 at the age of 95, my mother preferred receiving a different type of candy each Christmas and it wasn’t hard candy. She enjoyed chocolate covered cherries and her personal favorite was dark chocolate covered cherries instead of milk chocolate. The box didn’t need to be gift wrapped and it was a product that was always offered in stores every Christmas season.

Like many other people, I enjoy marshmallow Peeps at Easter, but for some reason, I can’t get into Peeps for Christmas or during Halloween for that matter. I suppose it’s difficult for me to envision Peeps as anything other than chicks or bunnies, not pumpkins, skeletons, or snowmen. And for the record, changing the color of candy corn to green and red and selling it as “Reindeer Corn” is pretty lame in my opinion.

Speaking of snowmen, recently while I was in the checkout aisle at the supermarket, I noticed they were selling a product called “Snowmen Popcorn Bites.” I didn’t buy it, thinking it was popcorn topped with drizzled sugar and shaped into a mini snowman.

If ribbon candy is not readily available, there have been years where I have received a generous selection of hard candy or a LifeSavers StoryBook in my Christmas stocking.

My appreciation for hard candy stems from my mother always having a filled glass candy jar in her living room. By summer, if nobody had opened the candy jar and sampled the goods inside, the candy contained there would be sticky to the touch and clumped together. That meant if you wanted a green hard candy you had to pry it loose when it would be stuck to a piece of purple or yellow hard candy.

Her hard candy selection always included these small pieces of candy with what looked like a rose inscribed in the middle of them. They almost looked too pretty to eat.

I had liked LifeSavers candy for years when the company came out with its LifeSavers StoryBook product in the mid-1960s. Having six rolls of my own of different flavors such as cherry, raspberry, watermelon, orange, pineapple, or butterscotch, was thrilling and it was gone in just a few days.

It’s kind of interesting that different areas of the country have different holiday candy traditions.

When I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the 1970s, the featured Christmas candy there was candied pinon nuts. They had sort of a sugary and salty taste at the same time.

After my wife and I met and married in Florida, we would stop at a roadside orange grove every Christmas and send a bag of oranges to family living out of state. Once when we were there, I spotted the fudge counter and sampled their homemade orange creamsicle fudge. It was to die for and was immediately added to our holiday candy selection for years before we moved to New England.

I’m indifferent as far as Christmas fruitcakes go. If no other snack is available, I might be tempted to eat it, otherwise, I’d probably opt for something else. Back in the 1990s my mother gave me a small fruitcake that a relative had mailed to her as a gift. She apparently had received the same fruitcake as a gift from another family member, so she gave me one of them.

It sat in my refrigerator for several months before I opened it during the 1992 Duke versus Kentucky NCAA men’s college basketball East Regional tournament game. The game went into overtime and by the time Duke’s Christian Laettner scored the winning basket as time expired, I discovered that I had eaten the entire fruitcake during the game. I can also trace a sudden weight gain to eating that same fruitcake.

I’m not much for divinity, peppermint bark, soft candy, or candy canes at Christmas, but they’ll do if I’m looking for a sweet snack. I have always liked receiving jellied fruit slices, York Peppermint Patties, peanut brittle, Hershey’s Kisses, or boxes of chocolates for the holidays along with my favorite, ribbon candy.

There seems to be no limit to my sweet tooth cravings when the holidays arrive every year and if asked, I recommend my wife Nancy’s Oreo Pie as the perfect way to top off the Christmas season.

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