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.
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.