Vintage Candy, A Sugar - Induced Sprint Down Memory Lane - Volume I
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Vintage Candy, A Sugar  -  induced Sprint Down Memory Lane  -  Volume I

Hoping for some "ahah" moment in the kitchen while getting some tea and a snack, I needed something to write about. It came to me in a blinding flash of Gummy Bears. Vintage, old school candy. What better way to work through a sugar craving than to pen about the very candies that trigger childhood memories while noshing on some sugary Ursidae-shaped gelatin?

The confections that I will be reminiscing about were staples in the 1970s in the Canadian prairies. Some of these tantalizing treasures may be globally recognized, some still around today, and some are, sadly, just memories. Take my hand and close your eyes while I lead you down Candy Lane to visit my favourites in Volume I. I will indicate the year it was released to the world, whether or not these candies are, to my knowledge, still around (“SWEET”), or no longer available through conventional retail means, “SOUR”. I will note a number at the end which indicates the number of Clydesdales it would take to pull me off of this treat during a sugar craving.

Candy Necklace 1958

All five senses are stirred with this hybrid jewellery/confection. First you take in the pastel girlyness of the beads, then you smell the sugary perfume from across the room. Before they started packaging them in cellophane, they were thrown, bulk, into a plastic bin, likely touched by dozens of tiny germ infested hands before you. That said, they are responsible for building the immune systems of millions of children. The soft clickety-clack of the beads was hypnotic and comforting. The smooth beads on the springy elastic was impossible not to snap, stretch, swing and finally put around the neck before going in for the killer crunch attack. And what self-respecting kid has not experienced the sting of the snap on their neck or face after an overzealous feeding frenzy? SWEET, 6.8

Cracker Jack 1893

I think 1893 is just propaganda. God himself snacked on this stuff. The shaking of the box itself was enough to draw attention from two blocks away. How could popcorn and peanuts sound like steel nuts and bolts? I never understood the packaging. A horrible card board box wrapped in sticky, equally horrible paper that was harder to open than Christmas gifts wrapped by an OCD mom. You can actually lose weight just trying to break into this package. You have to wonder what happened in the testing room before the product was released. Did they even try to open the package? When you finally did, it looked like the box had been mauled by a bear. It wasn’t the best caramel corn, but it was good. It might have been a nicer touch if the peanuts had the testa (seed coat surrounding the peanut kernel) removed. The prize was always crappy but that never stopped us from going back for more. I wonder how many engagement rings have found their way into one of these clichéd boxes? SWEET, 5

Giant Flat Taffy (McCraw's)

Wax paper never had it so good. Being as landlocked as a person could be, as far away from the sea air of the Eastern Boardwalks during a time when salt water taffy was pulled right in front you, the flat version that I was exposed to in my childhood had its own charm. The sweet and chewy Neapolitan trio of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry rolled into a flat millimetre thick, lasagne noodle shape was unique and pliable. I am not sure how many different ways I attempted to consume this childhood favourite, but if the corner store was the theatre, this candy had a starring role in my childhood. SOUR, 7.5

Popeye Cigarettes early 1900s

These chalky epitomes of bad influence on children were just sweet enough to not be mistaken for classroom chalk. They even went so far as to dye one end red to imply a cigarette ember. Like the lack of smoke wasn’t a dead giveaway, the red ember was to fool the world that you were really smoking. I do not care if I ever see these things again but I do recall buying my fair share of them and being really cheesed off if a bunch of these brittle mock “cancersticks” were broken. Nothing has come close to that chalky, sweet, tooth scraping experience and that is why I probably have a small place for these sticks of fake death in my heart and lungs. SOUR, 3

Gummy Bears 1980

We have already established that I have these in my cupboard right now. They are adorable; they are not quite transparent and not quite opaque. They are enigmatic little creatures that have taken hold of pop culture in a way few other confections have spawning a TV series, song and breast implants. Not only offering an array of fruity, chewy family fun, they have also taken their place in the surgical world. Silicon gel breast implants are dubbed Gummy Bear implants. Really? The danger with these is their size. The bears, not the breasts. They are so small that you can trick yourself into thinking you have not had very many and that they are so small that even a few more could not possibly make a difference. By this time your pupils have dilated and you’ve cleaned the garage. SWEET, 9

Ice Cubes, Unknown

These chocolately morsels of icy goodness were what happened when ice had a three way with chocolate and velvet and they had a baby. They were wrapped in foil and if any trace of this foil accidentally entered the oral cavity and touched a filling, a pain shot up through the jaw, through the brain and to the moon. The added danger only made these bad boys more enticing. They were so temperature sensitive that if not consumed at exactly the right temperature, it became the consistency of mayonnaise, and while still delicious, made it impossible to retain any dignity whatsoever. These had to be allowed to melt in your mouth. Chewing these was just wrong. SWEET, 8.7

Stay tuned for Volume II after I come down from my sugar rush.


Street Talk

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