Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jelly: Peanut Butter Be Damned!

This one goes out to Spinner.

I remember the first time I got some jelly fish. It was completely by mistake, and I was actually quite pissed about the whole thing. You see, once again, I was in the candy aisle with my cousin – this time at Wal-Mart. As we often were, we were standing with eyes aglow, attempting to determine our maximum candy purchasing power. At this time, I was relatively new to candy, and I was especially enamored of gummi bears. How could I not be? For years, a whole world of confection had been closed to me, and then one day I got that silky, syrupy gummi in my mouth: the explosion of citric acid, the play of soft and taut, the tiny pieces breaking on the palate, bouncing against the inside of my teeth. But I digress…
The point of the story is this: I saw that a package of gummi bears weighing about 3 ounces went for one sum, while a 6-ounze package of what I thought were gummi fish went for the same price. “Two for one,” I said, to myself. “How could an error like this have slipped through the cracks? Do people find the fish form somehow less appetizing than the bear?” Perhaps in reaction to my lording of, well, a lot over him in the past or maybe because he, too, was fooled, my cousin said nothing as I grabbed the generic package of jelly fish, and he grabbed a sac of gummi bears.
My disappointment registered almost immediately when I opened the package in the car. There was no play of soft and taut on the teeth, only the even texture of a pallet knife cutting through sheetrock mud. I had gotten the wrong product, and as I feverishly turned the package over and again, looking for some explanation, I saw the word “Jelly” where “Gummi” should have been. One cannot fully understand the dismay of a young boy who has spent his last pennies on a bag of candy, only to realize that he has made a bad purchase. I attempted to make some unbalanced trades at the rate of 3, even 4 jellies per gummi, but my cousin was no fool. He knew after my free taste test offer that he had the superior good.
Do these even look like gummis? Man, I was a neophyte...

I look back on that experience with a wry smile, because I am just as apt now to intentionally buy a jelly product as I am a gummi one. Perhaps I over-consumed gummis in a decade-long binge and now appreciate the variety of jelly; or, more likely, I simply understand that jellies are not trying to disguise themselves as gummis in some clandestine attempt to disappoint young boys. No, they are their own medium, with their own set of qualities to be cherished. Jujy Fruit, Dots, Fruit Slices, Swedish Fish, Cinnamon Bears… where would the candy spectrum be without these options? Well, I’ll tell you: nowhere.

While Spinner and I disagree on the relative benefits of various flavors in Swedish Fish, their appeal cannot be argued.

These may be the best of them all; and, notice how cinnamon bears dress up to meet their maker. That's class.

Indeed, the jelly is not the ugly step-child of the gummi, but perhaps, fittingly, a cousin, who only wants to be recognized in his own way, in his own place. “The world is too much with us,” Wordsworth once wrote; on that day some 20 or more years ago, I should have settled down, tasted the jellies I had, accepted them for what they were and become a better man for it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's Been a While...

It's been a while since I have purchased any candy. I cannot identify a reason, really, except that I haven't been in the mood. I always want a little of the sweets around the house, but recently, I have been stuck on donuts, brownies, ice cream-- no candy. Sure, there is some residual candy laying around, and every day or so, I eat a bear or a few beans. I have not gone cold turkey or anything. But I also have not bought any new candy in at least a couple of weeks, I think.

Granted, I have been super busy, so I have not had a lot of time to waste; however, as anyone with a crutch knows, the stressful times are the best times to relax with a nice baggy of the good stuff-- whether it be nose candy or the regular kind. But come to think of it, recently I guess I have been hyper-aware of the lack of variety in the candy aisle. Whereas in the past, a seeming plethora of options dazzled the eye and teased the imagination, now, most candy displays are all the same: plain, boring iterations of how some marketing model says that a limited number of candies will sell best. There is no variety, no style, no panache, and as a result, nothing jumps out at me and into my basket. Oh, I could pound down a box of Jujys, or I could force feed a score or two of Junior Mints, but where is the romance? Where is the narrative?

There could be an image here; however, I think I will allow you to project your ideal candy aisle in the space. Doesn't it look incredible?

I declare right now that this malaise shall not stand. I will find the passion again, if I have to search hill and dale. Somewhere out there, outside of the Krogers and CVSes of the world, there is a display of the kind fabled in my memory. I will find such a place, and I will plunder it. And the world will make sense again.