Monday, December 1, 2008
This is Bethel Beach in all its glory. Beautiful white sand, undisturbed vegetation, some random mutant plant sticking up on the left, and the blue, blue water and sky just beckon you to sit down and meditate. If you gave me a penny for my thoughts right now, you'd march away feeling cheated. My thoughts right now are not worth a penny and are fixated exclusively on that Charlie-Brown-Christmas-tree-looking plant there on the left.
Speaking of pennies, I turn now to the topic of penny candy.
Once upon a time, there was candy made from sugar and not high fructose corn syrup.
OK, not The End, although that pretty well sums it all up.
High fructose corn syrup, besides being a fast and easy way for food companies to simultaneously save money and kill us, just doesn't taste the same--or as good--as pure cane sugar.
When I was young, I used to ride my bicycle down Route 198 to the Gulf Station with one purpose and one purpose only: to procure penny candy. (To any Mathews readers: The Gulf Station was where the Curves is presently, between Hudgins and the old Blakes post office. At one point back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we called it--and I'm spelling phonetically now, so forgive me--Luttalows, after the owner.)
Chesapeake Bay Children? There was a time when people actually bent over to pick up the penny on the sidewalk because they could purchase something with that penny. And it was called candy, and it was good. From your root beer kegs to your Now and Laters, from your Bazooka gum to your grape gumballs, there was something for everyone in the bins of individually-wrapped pieces. You could pick and choose, mix and match, and walk out with a nice paper bag loaded with delectables.
Below is a list of some of my favorites from the Gulf Station Days. Whether or not it's all penny candy is neither here nor there, it's from the same era, namely that era of rotary phones, party lines, rabbit-ear aerials on portable televisions that only received 3 channels, and EXCUSE ME BUT I FEEL OLD.
Wax Lips - Though technically not a candy, they were more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Monkeys who were wearing big red wax lips.
Candy Cigarettes - I never smoked a day in my life (except for those one or two experimental clove cigarettes in college), but I sure as heck enjoyed many, many boxes of candy cigarettes. I laugh when I hear people say they make children inclined to smoke. That's like saying that if you eat bacon, you're going to turn into a pig. Wait a minute....OK, then, it's like saying that if you eat beef, you're going to turn into a cattle rancher. Whatever, you get the picture. Candy cigarettes do not make children smoke. Peer pressure does.
Bottle Caps - Have mercy! 7-Up, Root Beer, Pepsi, Nehi Grape. All these flavors pressed into small circles the size of a nickel and made to look like a bottle cap. They were heavenly.
Pixie Stix - What is better than tossing your head back and swallowing 100% pure, artificially-colored, sugar granules? It saved you from wasting time chewing and, I do believe, ensured a most expeditious journey of the sugar from your mouth/digestive tract to your bloodstream.
Mary Janes - a hard, peanut-buttery candy that many people didn't like, but because Chesapeake Bay Mother liked them, I bought them.
Sugar Daddys - a large, rectangular, caramel lollipop that ensured the local dentists had no worries about their financial future
Fireballs - Oh, oh, oh, how good. I loved them because they lasted so long and there was a surprise waiting around every corner, if in fact a fireball had corners.
Caramel Creams - My favorite, but also good filling-yankers.
Charleston Chew - in a variety of flavors...
Zots and Pop Rocks - There's nothing like putting a piece of heavily-artificially-colored sugar into your mouth and having it explode like a 4th of July celebration. Zots were the sparklers and Pop Rocks were the fireworks.
Anyway, this is but a short list of some of my favorites from a time when 100% sugar was used and high-fructose corn syrup was not even a glimmer in some food scientist's eye.