When I was a kid, a picture like this would have made me drool with envy. The sight of all this candy oozing gooey fillings and bright sugary centers would have been more than I could contain in a single day. The image would implant itself in my brain and I would recall it so often that I could almost taste it. Such is the path of a kid with an apparently genetic sweet-tooth, but a childhood in a health food conscious home. I had seen pictures of some of these candies, the "Big Cherry" "Cherry Mash" and "Idaho Spud" off and on over the years. These fabulous names for candies from a bygone era inspired a wild imagination about ripe fruit crushed with sugar, coated in a chocolate shell just waiting to burst with deliciousness. These old fashioned candies have always held some special sense of delight for me, like something out of a movie, precious and near perfection. So, after years of anticipation, when I finally found these candies in a store when I was out west, I jumped on the chance to get my hands on them. As it turns out, every single one of these candies was absolutely, positively and completely, gross.
None the less, the candy shrapnel on display above was totally and completely fun. It is the day before Halloween, and I'm trying to get enough real food into my kids to balance out the sweets and treats they will be eating at the endless Halloween festivities this year with the holiday falling on a Sunday.
The big thing I noticed when tasting these candies compared to their contemporary counterparts is that the quality of the ingredients is just not good. And this is coming from a woman who doesn't even consider the list of words on modern candy labels to be real ingredients or food. Most of these candies were made starting in the early 1900's, the cherry ones especially, and I don't think that the recipes have changed at all. The chocolate is oily and waxy, the cherry flavor exceedingly artificial, and the filling overly sweet.
from left: Twin Bing, Big Cherry, Cherry Mash, this is the real color!!
A while back I read up on the three chocolate, cherry, peanut candies, wondering why that combination was so popular. Peanuts were a huge crop in the middle and western parts of the country, but why cherries and chocolate? I wonder if cherries were particularly popular for some reason? Someone must know, but I couldn't find much info online. Each of these candies is from a specific region of the USA, and two of them, the Twin Bing and the Cherry Mash were made by produce companies that went into the candy making business to make more money, and then ended up shuttering the fresh fruit business in favor of the candy business. A clear indication of where our national food system was headed: highly processed, empty calories replacing fresh, healthy foods.
The Valomilk cream cup was the candy I was the most excited to try, but the cream center had a metallic taste that was disappointing. I thought it would be more like the Mallow Cup I remember from my youth. Honestly, that might be gross now too, I haven't tried it as an adult, so you never know.
The "Original Cream Center" bragged about on the label was dried out and hard, definitely not creamy.
The Idaho Spud was the most intriguing, with a molasses flavored marshmallow covered in chocolate and shredded coconut. The texture of the marshmallow however was unappealing, there was too much gelatin and the grayish color off putting to our modern sensibilities.
So, I'm glad I got to try these candies, it was fun, and now I can let go of the fantasy. I'll save my sweet eating treats for some good chocolate, some delicious fruit or something that actually tastes good. I do wonder as I watched my kids actually enjoy tasting these if there is something different about kid's taste buds that lets them like these things. One of my fondest Halloween candy memories was of these small candies from the mid 80's called skull crushers. A small white chocolate skull filled with strawberry cream. You squished it with your finger to make it look like blood oozing out. My sister and I used to buy them at the pharmacy on the corner, and I haven't tried them since. They still hold that mystique, but they are nowhere to be found in this country anymore. I wonder if I crushed one of those buggers today, would I still like it?
Do you have any great candy memories or experiences?
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