If you know me in real life, you’ll know that I have a *bit* of a sweet tooth. Real talk: if I could get by on a Cookie-Monster-approved diet, I would. I would a million times over every day of the year. I make myself eat healthily because I know I should. But dammit, in my heart I’m so much more Claudia Kishi than Dawn Schafer. (Yes, that’s another Babysitters Club reference. You’re most welcome.)
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to do a blog entry about candy. How much I love it, any associated hilarious stories. You know. That kind of thing. I was figuring I’d come up with maybe five, ten, possibly fifteen stories related to candy.
And then it dawned on me: most of the childhood-related stories I tell my girls are about candy. Like, 90% easily. Maybe 95%. Part of this is to avoid the more PG-13 related aspects of my upbringing in the ‘vern, but the other part is because my childhood was legit filled with candy. To an absurd degree.
So five became ten, ten became twenty, twenty became fifty and then I ended up with one hundred odes to candy. 100 little vignettes. 100 sweet, sweet memories (with a few terrifying near-death experiences thrown in thanks to peanuts and hazelnuts and their equally evil and reviled cohorts). And so, without further ado, here goes Jess’ Top 100 Candies: An Homage to Deliciousness (candies not listed in order of deliciousness)
Pep Bar: A Haiku
Round minty chocolate,
Always one of mom’s favorites,
You lived in our fridge.
Liquid 4 Flavors: A 4-sentence story
No one knows about this chocolate bar, but it was so dang tasty. The bar had eight squares; four flavours of crème, two squares each. The flavours, in case you were wondering, were vanilla, caramel, chocolate and bordeaux. To this day, I don’t know what bordeaux is.
I ate so many of these when I was preggers with Vivi. Of course, I also craved Nerds, popcorn (caramel only), steak and olives. Vivi is mostly made of those things. If you’re going to go for See’s, though, I have to highly recommend the vanilla. And the butterscotch. And the coffee. The chocolate is the last on my list. Because, really? Chocolate is for snarfing, not for licking.
Chocolate Broom: Walking down Queen St. East after seeing an art show of my dear pretend aunt (Barbara), Mom and I stopped in at the Nutty Chocolatier. It was October and they had chocolate brooms (homemade marshmallow covered in a deliciously thick layer of dark chocolate on a stick, for the uninitiated). The air was crisp, the candy was scrumptious and the day could not have been better.
Christmas Balls: A Sad Limerick
Mom bought Christmas balls,
I was so happy, I nearly cried!
But they were ill-fated,
With peanuts – I nearly died!
Laura Secord Butterscotch Lollies: If you’re going to have lollies from Laura Secord, butterscotch are by far the best. They’re so insanely sweet and sticky – it’s like condensed milk on a stick, really.
Gold Mine Nugget Gum: Honestly, I was more a fan of the presentation than the actual eating of these nuggets. They came in a prospector’s bag and they were supposed to be gum. When you chewed them up, however, they usually just kind of went into a weird cement-like paste. A+ for marketing, F- for delivery.
Chews: When I was in high school, I remember a friend telling me he didn’t know that Chews were gum for the longest time. He just ate them as candy. I couldn’t believe it until I realized that, despite their name, they’re not obviously gum. Your kind of had to suck on them for a bit and then work at it before they were chewable. They were also strangely acidic and tart. Nonetheless, if they were available at the local candy constabulary, I was likely going to buy and eat them.
Thrills: Picture this: Ganz, 2009-ish. I tried to convince my friend (and one time co-worker), Sally, that Thrills were delicious. She didn’t believe me and probably still doesn’t forgive me for making her try them (sorry, Sally!). They’re technically supposed to taste like rosewater, but they’re really quite soapy. Of course, Sally is a big fan of double-salted black licorice, so one can’t be too judgmental.
Jelly Lollies: These were the best of all worlds: kinda stiff jelly on a stick, coated in really grainy sugar crystals (for maximum crunch). They came in a little white plastic container with five spaces for the different lollipops. I think they were lime, cherry, grape, orange and lemon. Try as I might, I can’t actually find them on the interwebz. Maybe this was a Malvern-specific treat?
Gobstoppers: Not only did these really exist in Willy Wonka’s candy factory, they were an actual thing that I could really buy and polish off in, like, an afternoon. These jawbreakers were especially good for long car rides. I used to see how long I could make one last. 20 minutes? Great! Then I only needed (does some basic math, makes it look like she’s doing some really complicated math): 12 to last me to Ottawa.
Tearjerkers: When I was in grade seven, one of the girls in my class went up to the Hasty Market over the lunch hour. She returned with the BIGGEST bag of Tearjerkers I’d ever seen. She must have had a hundred or more. Anyway, she passed them out to everyone she liked. I got a red one, and holy hell was it ever sour. The rumour was that her family won the lottery. They left the ‘vern about a year later. And with that kind of money to blow on Tearjerkers? It must have been a big win.
Mini Chicklets: I would make like a Proclaimer and walk 500 miles for a pack of these. Heck, I’d full-on Vanessa Carleton it and walk 1000 miles if I could just see these mini-gum rectangles. So delicious. So addictive. So inexpensive at the Hasty Market when I was ten and allowed to go up to the top of Morningside Ave. on my own.
Bottle Caps: These were another ‘excellent presentation, lukewarm execution’ kinda candies. They were SUPPOSED to taste like pop. So the orange one would taste of orange soda! The brown one tasted like cola! The purple one tasted like…grape soda? Anyway, that was the idea. They all sort of tasted like a really chalky Flintstone’s chewable vitamin. But I enjoyed the concept of eating bottle caps. Side note: growing up, the one pop we were NOT allowed to have EVER in the house was cream soda. I didn’t really understand why until I was about six and had cream soda at my best friend’s house. Lindsay’s mom stocked ALLLLL the pops. Unfortunately, she often stocked ONLY cream soda. The pink was OK…but the other colors were literally the most disgusting things I’ve ever drank.
Nerds: Ah, Nerds. Beloved by me (and Kenneth) hated by my mother with a fiery passion that rivaled her hatred for Lik-m-Aid. (In case you were wondering, she hated those specific candies because of their propensity to be ground into the wall-to-wall carpets. Sure, we dropped a Nerd or two, but what’s eating candy in the eighties if you’re not ingesting carpet fuzz along with it?) Nerds were amazing. Heck, Nerds ARE amazing. The best flavours, bar-none, were in their 1980’s raspberry and blueberry box. OMG. I also appreciated the grape and strawberry box. At Halloween, I would constantly be on the lookout for the hard-to-find but oh-so-tasty hot and cold box. They say you are what you eat. Accurate!
Whistle Pop: So for a long time everyone I asked about this candy insisted it did not exist. But thanks to the miracle of the interwebz, I can now confirm that I’m not insane (not in this regard, anyway). The Whistle Pop was a THING! I clearly remember getting them on Halloween and taking one (a pink one) to school the next day. I was in third grade and I tweeted and warbled and whistled the entire recess long. I remember a yard duty teacher making some not-so-kind comments about my musical abilities, but whatever, jealous teacher. Whistle Pops FTW!
Watermelons: Candy that looks like fruit sort of counts as fruit, right? Like, kinda? Because if not, I don’t think I fulfilled my daily fruit requirement until…uh…I moved out of my parents’ sugar-filled house. Fruit candy probably has fruit juice of SOME kind in it, yes? And just because these little jelly watermelons were covered in sugar, that didn’t take away from their potential fruit content, right? Right? Somebody with a medical degree back me up here.
Baseball Gumballs: OK, so I might be the only person in the world who legit likes these bulk-food gumballs, but I seriously do. Maybe it’s remembering all the times I had them at various birthday parties, or maybe it was the fact that I’m so terrible at sports that chewing sport-shaped gum made me somehow feel victorious over my clumsiness. Whatever it is/was, I loved the weird spearmint-y/super-sweet taste of these gumballs. And the gumballs said stuff on them! Like Home Run! Bunt Save!
Triple! Other baseball terminology that I totally didn’t understand!
Bonkers: For a short time in the ’80’s (probably from about 1985-1987), these were the candy of choice for the Boyd siblings. I always went with strawberry – both for the pinkness and the tastiness. Kenneth, on the other hand, was a bit of a grape or orange kind of guy. Once, I really went crazy and tried the chocolate ones. That was a mistake I never repeated.
Garbage Candy: I tried explaining this concept to my kids. “You get a cute little plastic garbage can, right? The size that you imagine would look really perfect in your dollhouse, once it was devoid of candy. Then you open it up and – hilarity ensues – you find all kinds of ‘garbage’ shaped candy! Like, fish bones! And an old running shoe! And a dog bone! And – where are you kids going? Get back here, mama’s reminiscing!”
Bubblegum Cigarettes: If you know my mother, you’ve surely been privy to her “smoking’s bad, mmm-kay?” lecture. God knows, I was. Every day. Forever. Even now, sometimes. So I’ve never smoked. Buuuuut, I was a pretty hardcore bubblegum cigarette smoker. The gum was, admittedly, gum-cuttingly bad, and the paper always got stuck to it and you ended up eating some of it. But it was all worth it when you could blow that cornstarch-and-icing-sugar cloud and hold your ciggy like a pro. It felt pretty bad-ass, Imma tell you. Side note: when I was in grade two, Candice Moss brought in some Popeye’s cigarettes. I thought they’d be similar to bubblegum cigarettes. Imagine my surprise when I almost broke a tooth on the damn thing. Lesson learned: smoking is dangerous.
Caramilk: For some reason, my dad decided to take me to Ottawa one random week in May, 1987. I should’ve been finishing grade one, but instead I went with him to help my poppa build a deck. Kenneth and mom stayed home and, I don’t know, ate peanuts or something. On our way to the ‘twa, we stopped for gas. While in the gas station, it occurred to Dad that I should probably eat something. He told me to pick out a chocolate bar. I tried to look for one that I knew wouldn’t result in instant death. ‘Caramilk’ seemed safe enough, so I went with it. It was the first big chocolate bar I’d ever had to myself. I sat with it on my lap in the car so long that my dad said, “Aren’t you going to eat it?” and I seriously considered NOT eating it, just because it was so perfect the way it was, all gold-wrapped and whatnot. But eventually my sugar-addiction kicked in and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Side note: for no less than seven years after, this was literally the only chocolate bar my father would bring home for me. Eventually, I told him that although I LOVED Caramilks, I was also OK with other non-deadly treats.
Mars: There’s nothing like a Mars bar when it comes to complete candy gluttony. These were such coveted treats that I’d eat the teensiest bite to make the bar last as long as possible. Interesting side note: I used to thing the Mars slogan (“A Mars bar a day at work, rest and play”) meant that Mars bars were to be eaten during EACH of these activities, every day. So that’s 3 Mars bars per day. I also, for some reason, thought this was doctor recommended.
Rolos: In case you missed one of my previous entries, I enjoyed my first Rolo at age seven. Coincidentally, on the same day that my great-great aunt Jean informed me that I was never going to be as pretty as her, have as nice hair as she had, or as clear skin. So it was also the time I realized that my great-great aunt wasn’t really all that great after all. You might remember that an actual ant was promoted ahead of her on the ‘favourite aunts/ants’ list.
Lemonade Bubblicious: Sitting in the backseat of my parents’ old station wagon, on our way to pick my mom up from a cake decorating course, I remember my dad had purchased me a pack of Lemonade Bubblicious . Five-year-old me was savouring every sticky chew of it. It tasted like happiness and sunshine. I also remember that earlier that day, my brother and I had decided to play with our neighbours. In their sandbox. Which we then turned into a quicksand box by adding a LOT of hose water. Fast-forward to Jen and Mel’s mom (Mary) finding out, us getting sent home and my dad hastily throwing us into a bathtub saying “What on earth were you thinking? Do NOT tell your mother.” I think she figured it out when she found the sand-covered shorts and t-shirts in the wash.
Bubblicious 4-Pack (raspberry, bubblegum, grape, strawberry): When I was eleven, I got braces. Full on, up and down, metal-mouth, brace face. The hardest thing was to give up gum for three years. Truthfully, I didn’t. I secretly bought myself the Bubblicious four-pack and carefully chewed half-gum pieces. I always flossed and brushed after and prayed my orthodontist wouldn’t notice (he didn’t). Dr. Schweitzer was hard core and gave lectures that would scare anyone straight. But even he couldn’t make me give up my beloved raspberry gum. The best flavour ever.
Dentyne Orange: A Limerick
When your dad’s a workaholic,
And you need a break from mom,
He’ll take you to work,
Where your only small perk,
Will be eating some sweet orange gum.
I swear, this flavour (before they discontinued it) always reminded me of the smell of copier toner and stale coffee.
Runts: Kids, gather ’round. Mama has more reminiscin’ to do. Back in my day, you could get these boxes of fruit-shaped candies. They were hard as a rock, so one didn’t crunch them immediately (unless one was incredibly brave and enjoyed being yelled at by one’s dentist). They came in a plethora of shapes (strawberry, cherry, lime, orange, grape and banana) but the only ones that really mattered were strawberry and banana. And, if one was forced to choose a single flavour to eat forever and ever, banana was the only answer. If you got sick of eating them, you could also paint them with clear nail polish, glue them onto an earring backing (clip-on, natch) and wear them as ‘stylish’ candy earrings to match your fruit salad outfit. As one does.
Big League Chew: A Poem
Big League Chew, Big League Chew,
How I love everything about you.
Your gum is a spaghetti of sorts,
I eat it always, though never playing sports.
One tinfoil pack will last all day long,
Or perhaps a bit less, I could be wrong.
And maybe if I really cared,
You would be something that I shared.
But I am a candy hog, it’s true,
And I shall never share my Big League Chew.
Lik-M-Aid: You know how some drugs are more dangerous than others? LIke, if Smarties are the cigarettes of candy, this would probably be the heroin. THIS was our dangerous drug. Why? Because eating it was downright terrifying. And addictive. And did I mention terrifying? My mother literally banned it from the house (“ANTS! STICKINESS! STICKY ANTS!”) and Kenneth and I would huddle in the shade in the side yard and snarf the sweet powdery goodness as fast as we could. One time, I convinced Kenneth that Lik-M-Aid would make really great Kool Aid (something else we weren’t allowed to have). We dumped a whole pack into some water and mixed it up. You cannot imagine our disappointment in the result. Spoiler alert: it tasted like very weak cherry medicine. Epic fail.
Chocolate Letters: These were straight from Denmark! Dad would travel overseas (a lot) from the time I was six through to…uh…when he retired four years ago. Anyway, when we were young, he would bring us the first and SOMETIMES middle letters of our names in milk chocolate. They were quite delicious and even better straight from the fridge
Chupa Chups: In high school there was nothing better than having a big bouquet of Chupa Chups. You can have your fruity flavours – the best, best, best ones they ever created were the coffee shop flavours. Which, incidentally, I also can’t find on the internet. Why, internet? Why don’t you remember the same candy I do?
Yankie Bars: My dad used to go to Denmark quite often when I was in first grade and, for some reason, he brought home a bunch of Yankie Bars for my grade one teacher. Mr. Denny LOVED them. Like, LOVED. To the point of asking (politely) for you know, a few more. When Dad produced an entire CASE of them, Mr. Denny was flabbergasted. Also, I was his favourite student ever. He never actually SAID that, but I could tell.
Dubble Bubble: So everyone had a gum can when they were a kid, right? Like, a can where you stored your gum and other candies for easy access? No? Just Kenneth and me? Welp. Anyway, Mom had a gum can of her own and it was full of actual gum. Dubble Bubble in the bright pink wrapper! And it was split down the middle so one might get half when one’s mother was having some. Sure, it was super-sugary and only kept its flavour for five minutes at most, but it blew some pretty great bubbles.
Piña Colada & Vanilla candy canes: Man, the nineties were great for so many reasons. Neon colours, wacky fashion, smiley face everything, dressing in theme…wait…that last one was just me, right? Well, fine. But another AMAZING thing about the nineties was my discovery of more than one type of candy cane. I mean, don’t get me wrong, peppermint is, has and always will be my most loved flavour. But the day I discovered vanilla and piña colada candy canes at my local Wal-Mart (Morningside Mall represent!), my life changed. For the better. Those things were addictive and delicious and super-sweet and I love, love, LOVED them.
Giant Candy Canes: One of my dreams has always been to have a candy cane I could use as a walking stick. I figure that if I ever need a cane, Imma paint it all stripy and pretty and be one of THOSE old people (read: weird). When I was a kid, there was a No Frills at Malvern Mall that stocked candy for stores to purchase. I don’t know if you were supposed to show some kind of retailer’s ID or something, but literally no one batted an eye if you wanted to buy, say, a large bucket of deliciously fat candy canes. Which was always on my Christmas list. And was usually my favourite present ever. One year, I actually managed to save one (there were 30 in a container) for summer. That was always the dream: sitting in the sun, eating a candy cane like a badass. Let me tell you: sometimes, dreams come true.
Pan Eggs: I had the best grade two teacher ever (shout out to Mrs. Lee!). Not only was she kind and patient, but she also had a huge sweet tooth. At Easter, she hid these fabulous neon-coloured eggs around our classroom and set us loose to find them. In hindsight, it was kind of gross to have completely unwrapped candy eggs on various germ-riddled classroom surfaces, but when I was seven it was amazing. I remember finding a blue one, a purple one and the most coveted of colours: pink. Can I just say that the world was a better place when everything was neon?
Cinnamon Hearts: A Poem
Cinnamon hearts, oh cinnamon hearts,
You’ve broken my teeth into cinnamon parts.
Even though you’re sweet and yummy,
Sometimes, I find, you hurt my tummy.
But even though you hurt me nearly,
It’s very true, I love you dearly.
3-Flavor Toffee: A Limerick
Some people love three-flavour toffee,
Some people say “Oh, ew!”,
But I think we can agree,
It’s easy to see,
The flavours all taste like glue.
Toffifee: POISON CANDY! Every Thanksgiving when I was between the ages of 1-11-ish, we’d go to Ottawa to see the fam. They always, always had a box of these chocolate-and-hazelnut poison bombs. I was fascinated by the chocolate pieces, nestled in their little plastic cups. I couldn’t eat them, of course, but everyone else seemed to enjoy them. When the candies were eaten, my mother would sometimes wash out the little tray and I’d flip it upside down and make it into a typewriter. Yes. I was THAT kid.
Blow Pops: OK, confession time: I hadn’t actually eaten a Blow Pop until I was a teenager. I SAW them on TV. I LOVED their Saturday-morning-between-cartoons timeslot. I ADORED the commercial with the kids all popping their Blow Pops and then saying “from Charms” at the end. I really wanted to try this lolly-gum mash up. Alas, neither the Hasty Market nor the local drug store had Blow Pops – or cheap knock-offs. I wasn’t /am not picky. Interesting factoid: when my BFF (Jay) ran for school president, we purchased a crap-ton of blue raspberry Blow Pops from the local No Frills (Malvern, represent! Also, why did you have so much wholesale candy for sale? Where did you get such a – wait, never mind. I know the answer already). Say what you will, but I’m 99% sure that free lollipops = votes for Jay.
Tootsie Roll – When I was nine, right before March break, I had the chicken pox – badly. VERY badly. I had an extremely high fever and was seriously not in my right mind. This wouldn’t have been a problem, had we not had train tickets to Ottawa the very next day. My dad wasn’t joining us (he had to work), so he thought it would be nice to pick up some candy for the trip. I was laying on the couch, hallucinating and staring at the moving shapes in our popcorn ceiling. Dad handed me a Tootsie Roll and I remember thinking, “Why is this kind stranger giving me candy?” Yup, didn’t even recognize my own Dad. Twelve hours later, we were on our way to Ottawa to give the cousins chicken pox. (Back in the day, that’s what you did. If you got the ‘pox, you spread the love.) You’re welcome, cousins.
Push Pop: These were amazing. Mom was not a fan, of course, because they were sticky and kind of gross when you pushed them back down, after slorping them for an hour or so. And, truth be told, I never actually FINISHED a Push Pop. It was a one-time deal. After that, it was too gross for me, too.
Smarties: Alright, let me just have a moment of real talk here: the Smarties of today are NOTHING like the Smarties of my youth. Yes, they’re still pretty decent. Yes, they’re still OK to snack on. BUT they taste weird. All this ‘natural colouring’ business has made them taste different. Heck, I’ve been eating Smarties so long, I remember a time pre-blue-Smartie. The colours were red, orange, yellow, green, purple, pink and TWO shades of brown (light and dark). I could close my eyes and put a Smartie in my mouth and tell you what colour it was based on how chemically it tasted. And THEN, when I was eight, they created a blue Smartie. And not just ANY blue – the brightest, most neon blue you could imagine. And I LOVED it. To an absurd degree. And I’m still sad they don’t make them anymore. Chemicals-shemicals. I want me some late eighties Smarties goodness. Epilogue: My grandma used to buy movie-sized boxes/bars of candy (Smarties being popular among her stash) and I used to eat them by the handful, pretending they were peanuts and I wasn’t fatally allergic. Hey, a girl can dream.
Rockets/Rocket Cocaine: As you might remember from a previous entry, when I was a kid my dear friend Stephy used to crush up Rockets and make ‘cocaine’ to wear in a vial around her neck. And I didn’t honestly realize how absolutely not normal this was until I left the ‘vern and worked with a class of fifth graders who did not make their own cocaine.
Bubble Tape: My mother had a pretty serious addiction to Bubble Tape for many years. When I was a kid, it was a rare treat, but when I was in my twenties, it wasn’t uncommon for Mom to chew a roll every couple of days. Fortunately, she’s given up the tape addiction. Which is good, because we were getting ready to stage an intervention.
Seedling Gum: Remember Beaver Lumber? No? Well, I do. It was the place I went to with my dad pretty much any weekend he was home from 1985-1987. And after traipsing through aisle after aisle of lumber, timber, wood bits, tools and random flotsam, I was rewarded with a nickel. And do you know what I did with that nickel? I spent it as soon as we hit the gumball machines! And I always got seedling gum. My favourite was the strawberry, but truthfully they were all delicious. I mean, really? A hollow gumball full of little candy seeds? Does life get any better than that? For 5-7 year old Jess, the answer is clearly a solid no.
Candy Buttons: A Limerick
They’re really as cute as a button,
But they’re not entirely dandy,
Because it’s quite the caper,
To not eat the paper,
And just eat up the candy.
Bubblegum Ice Cream: Maybe I’m the only person in the (adult) world who likes bubblegum ice cream. Maybe NO ONE in their right mind would first eat the brilliantly pink, sickly sweet ice cream only then to devour a pile of partially frozen gum pieces. But bubblegum ice cream is my favourite Baskin Robbins flavour. And you can judge all you want (go ‘head), but I’ll be too busy chomping my giant gum wad to care.
Dina-Sour Eggs: I can still taste these egg-shaped jawbreakers. Their taste will be with me until the day I die. Kenneth really liked these candies as well, and we both had our favourite ‘starting flavour’ (the colour of the egg). I was a fan of red or yellow, he liked purple or orange. It didn’t matter because the flavour changed in, like, five seconds (and they all tasted similarly vaguely sweet), but whatever. The egg part in the centre was always a *bit*disappointing. I found it really sour and kind of like powder and why wasn’t it just a cute little gummy dinosaur like I thought it should be?
Egg Carton Gum: This Easter-time candy was a favourite of my childhood. Not that we had it at home, but a friend (maybe the neighbours?) gave us these tasty little egg-shaped gumballs. They were pastel! They came in a tiny egg carton! I used it later to pretend my Barbie dolls bought eggs! Easter was always the BEST time for candy.
Freezies: For two summers, I was good friends with a little girl who lived right down the street. Laurie was a bit of a weird kid, but heck, so was I. She was small and feisty and her older sister was obsessed with Anne of Green Gables, circa Megan Follows (ditto). Anyway, Laurie’s mom always stocked freezies and Laurie was kind about sharing. My mom literally NEVER stocked freezies (although we did have the standard orange-purple-pink popsicle trio). I loved white and blue freezies (they were the best by far). Eating either flavour now takes me right back to being seven. Or being pregnant, as I was also extremely dependent on freezies for my liquid intake. (Yay for almost having hyperemesis gravidarum! Twice!) Unrelated side note: many moons ago, Karl and I created an alcoholic drink with a blue freezie base. We call it a Frozen Smurf and it’s basically blue freezie + blue Curacao + vodka. Karl made me one once and, after drinking it, I slept for four hours. #lightweight
Kinder Surprise Eggs: A Poem
You’re such a big part of my life,
My sweet little Kinder egg,
My kids really love chocolate,
It’s you for whom they beg.
They enjoy eating your shell,
But the thing they love always,
Is the semi-crappy toy inside,
That’s broken after two days.
Double Lollies: These were just giant rockets, yes? We can all agree on that, right? Which is why they were so disappointing as lollipops. They had a weird drying effect on my lips and they were sort of tart and didn’t taste that good and…why are they on my list again? Right! Because they were really cute and pastel-coloured and I was OBSESSED with pastels. Like, REALLY obsessed. I had this pastel-bead bracelet when I was 10, and it was my most prized jewelry possession for awhile. It lives in my purse now, for luck.
Cotton Candy (a poem):
My favorite cotton candy was pink,
But I couldn’t get quite enough,
No, I never ate it,
Mom would just take it,
And snarf every sugary puff.
M&Ms: OK, so these guys kind of belong in the ‘deadly’ section, but I’m giving them a pass because they remind me of one of my dearest friends who is kind of obsessed with M&M-themed items. (Shout out to Marlie!) But seriously, guys? In the eighties, M&Ms were all kinds of dangerous for an anaphylactic chick like me. I had SO many minor reactions to these little demons. These days, it’s all “peanut free” this and “no nuts allowed” that. In the eighties it was all “good luck eating these candies, I hope you don’t die Jess.”
Beanos: Oh, man. Don’t make me tell you about Beanos again. Just go here, kiddos.
Jellybeans: When I was in high school, I was the editor for the paper (Smoke Signals). I was kinda not super qualified for this role, but neither was anyone else, so there you go. I was willing to work hard/work late/hang up newspapers at all hours of the day and night. (Fun fact: we just printed out the pages and hung them around the school on the walls because we didn’t have the budget/interest from the students to make the paper an actual, you know, newspaper.) ANYWAY! My staff sponsor was my English teacher/the director for all the plays. Mr. Lalor! He looked like Santa and he was a genuinely good person. I called him Uncle John, because a friend of mine had the same last name as he did and she called him Uncle John. So. Jellybeans! Right. Mr. Lalor LOVED jellybeans. But he especially loved the black and red ones, which are actually my least favourite colours. He’d eat the dreadful colours and I’d eat the rest and we’d use the sugar rush to push through the final columns and get the paper up on the walls, ready for defacing the next day.
Quizmo Candy: Mrs. McKercher was my fifth grade teacher. Everyone called her Mrs. McCreature (behind her back) because she was weird. Really weird. One perk of being in her class, however, was the fact that she played this game that was basically math-based-bingo and gave out candies to the winners. And not just a Smartie here and there, but real, choke-hazard hard candy. I think I earned, like, two throughout the year. This other girls, Olivia, however, earned so much candy that she had a special shoebox in her desk and it was filled to the absolute BRIM with candy. That taught me two things:
1. If only I had a math brain, I would also have tasty candy.
2. It’s a total status symbol to have a shoebox of candy in your desk when you’re 10.
Hugs: When these little striped Hershey kisses came out, my mind was blown. Like, blown. They have STRIPES. Of white chocolate! They were absolutely delicious, and every time we went to Ottawa, we’d stop in Smiths Falls at the Hershey factory (now closed!) and buy our molecular weight in chocolate.
Gumballs (pastel & regular): Three things you should know about gumballs and Jess:
1. I love gumballs to an absurd degree. When I was in fifth grade, a pretend secret admirer (revealed later to be my friends Steph and Linda) sent me gumballs as presents. Also, bouncy balls. I loved both, but gumballs were the true path to my heart.2. My childhood BFF (the elusive Lindsay) had a gumball machine in her house that was ALWAYS stocked with gum. Whenever I’d go to her house, I’d kind of hope that she had a spare nickel and I could get myself a gumball or two. Or three. Yes, you had to PAY money to get gum from her machine…but it was worth it. Anything for gumballs.3. When I was in sixth grade, I had a surprise birthday party. For some reason, I sorta knew about it and helped make the treat boxes. I have no idea how that happened, except that my mom is horrible at keeping secrets. Anyway, I chose pastel gumballs as my centrepiece. Pastel. Gumballs. The perfect marriage of 11-year-old Jess’ favourite things. OMG. They didn’t taste GREAT, but the cute factor outweighed any issues I had.
Candy watch: A poem
Candy watch, I wore you often,
In my youth and my prime,
Though you were good to taste,
It was kind of a waste,
Because you never told the right time.
Pez: When I was growing up in Malvern, we had really awesome neighbours. (Except for the drug dealer on the corner. He wasn’t great.) The couple across the street (Val and Arnie Cooper) had two boys (Martin and Steven) and both boys were of the teenaged variety at that point in time. Enter Kenneth and Jess: cute, small, spunky – mostly delightful. Val kind of LOVED us and at one point mentioned this fantastic candy she had when she was little and she wanted to get us some. She never really established a timeline for this candy-giving, nor did she really explain what kind of candy we would be getting, so we were left to wonder. And ask her about it every single time we saw her (sometimes multiple times a day). Poor Val. I would apologize, if I knew how to reach her. Anyway, one day she called us over to her driveway and she gave us…Pez! Kenneth got Kermit and I got Miss Piggy and four little packs of tablets (grape, cherry, lemon, orange) and I was honestly in heaven. As soon as I loaded my little pink Pez dispenser and figured out the mechanics, I proceeded to snarf down all four packs within two days. I was buzzed on sugar and Val became my all-time favourite neighbour.
Coffee Crisp: A Haiku
You were my poppa’s favourite,
Straight from the freezer.
Easter Egg with Your Name: Remember back when Allan’s candy made really good hollow Easter eggs? Y’know, the big milk chocolate ones with a royal icing rose or chicken on top? Then your mom would make royal icing and pipe your name on top too? And you’d feel so special because your egg SAID YOUR NAME. Ah, those were the good ol’ days.
Eggies: Let me just say three things about Eggies:
1. They are damn delicious and addictive.
2. They used to be even more damn delicious and addictive when the chocolate was better and the candy coating was thicker.
3. They were instrumental in potty training both of my daughters (I’m all for bribery, what can I say?)
Chlorophyll Gum: When I was in grade nine, my friend Stephy was OBSESSED with this gum flavour. I have no idea why, because the gum itself was dark green and, honestly, pretty darn awful. I think it was more the fact that you were chewing on, like, plant blood or something. I don’t know. Maybe it was just that annoying part of adolescence where you insist on liking weird stuff that other people don’t understand.
Pick your own chocolates: I think I’ve covered the awesomeness that is the Laura Secord pick-your-own box. If you missed it the first time, check it out here!
Junior Mints: Is it just me, or does the ‘coating’ on Junior Mints not really qualify as chocolate? I mean, it’s chocolate-coloured, but it’s…sort of waxy? Like, if you melted a dark brown crayon and dipped mint fondant into it, it would probably taste the same way. Nonetheless, these were great for movies, if for no other reason than there were a lot of them and you could make them last for two hours. (Shout out to Alydia and my peeps who snuck bulk barn candy into the STC movie theatre!)
Sugar Daddy: A Haiku
Rectangle of goo,
On a stick, like a sucker,
My fillings are gone.
Licorice: I believe there are two types of people in the world: people who love fresh licorice and people who let their licorice ripen and harden and enjoy the gum-cutting goodness of a stale licorice whip (me). I guess there are also people who like only black licorice and think red is just a weird candy that stole the licorice name. And then there are those who like salted licorice. OK, fine. There are a lot of different types of people in the world.
Maple Ice Cream Cone: Does anyone else remember these? They were tiny ice cream cones filled with what was sort of fudgy-maple-caramel…hard on the top, slightly chewy underneath. The cones were stale about 99% of the time. But damn. They were tasty. My neighbours (big ups to the Bissonnette family!) always had the most delicious and strange candies. Richard, the dad, worked as a manager at KMart, and he had access to candy that I never saw anywhere else. Another interesting one he had? Marshmallow banana things. I’m not even sure how to describe them, except “styrofoam-esque.”
Beer Nuts: A Short Poem
Almond beer nuts, I love you,
Your sweet crunchy shell,
But if you’re secretly peanut,
You can go right to hell.
Jordan Almonds: Another Short Poem
Jordan almonds, so pretty,
So pastel and sweet,
To eat you, delicious!
You are quite the treat.
However, I must say,
I don’t enjoy in the least,
When your crunchy coating,
Chips all my teeth.
Kraft Caramels: I know, intellectually, that these are terrible for your body and teeth. I know these caramels should be eaten, at most, once a year at Halloween when they’re used to coat apples and make them 100% less healthy. I get it. But daaaaang, these are some good caramels. And don’t try and offer me any Bulk Barn knock-offs because I am not here for that. Kraft or nothing, peeps.
Chocolate Chips: When I was six, I had a boyfriend named Jeff. We went ‘steady’ for three years (grades 1-3) until he moved. I was kind of heartbroken. Jeff was always so kind to me. Not that we didn’t fight. We did. One especially memorable argument involved me telling him he was bossy and couldn’t tell me what to do (I wanted to read a book at the Big Park, he wanted to, you know, play at the park). Anyway, to make it up to him, I grabbed a handful of chocolate chips from the glass bear-shaped jar and we sat on the curb and at them as they melted into my hand.
Tubblegum: I admit it: this was one of those things Mom was right about. Toothpaste gum? It sounds like a legit disgusting idea. And it was. But I REEEAAALLLY wanted to try it, so I convinced my mother to get me a tube. It literally disintegrated as soon as it hit my tongue. It tasted so nasty. But I had to pretend it was good. I had nagged far too much to admit I was wrong.
Rittersport: When I was in grade 11, I went on a band trip to Germany (with stops in Switzerland and Austria). It was amazing for three main reasons:
1. Traveling with your fellow band geeks is waaaay more fun than traveling with your parents.
2. Getting ditched on top of a mountain with one of my best friends and her sister, our amazing teacher and our student teacher and having to walk down asking random Germans walking UP the mountain about whether they’d seen a bunch of teenagers wearing unflattering red and black band coats in broken German was hilarious. As was singing the *entire* score of The Sound of Music as we walked.
3. Rittersport for breakfast.I was bus-buddies with one of my dear friends (shout out to Khary!) and he and I indulged in a *little* chocolate. And by *little* I mean *crap ton.* We ate Kinder Surprise sticks/eggs for breakfast. Peppermint Rittersport for lunch. Coffee Rittersport for snack. Rittersport for everything! If you haven’t tried a Rittersport, let me fill you in on what you’re missing: it’s a 4×4 square of smaller squares of dark chocolate (usually…sometimes milk chocolate, but don’t waste your time with that) filled with something delicious. If you want the best, go peppermint and never look back.
Mr. Peanut Bar: My grandmother didn’t tell many stories of her youth, but one that she told many a-time took place when Blackstone, the magician, happened to be swinging through Ottawa. Grandma was in the audience and she saw a kid (in some versions, she was the kid…or her sister…but in the one I remember, it was a random kid). Grandma said that Blackstone asked the kid to think of the thing they most wanted. The kid thought really hard and then…Blackstone produced a Mr. Peanut bar. The kid was thrilled and was all “OMG, you were right, Mr. Magician person! Now I have a bar full of peanuts to eat! Best. Day. EVER!” (I might be taking some liberties with that last part, but the point was: the kid was super-happy because who wouldn’t want a bar full of tasty peanuts. Oh, wait. Don’t answer that.) Side note: I always wondered why the kid didn’t think of, I don’t know, a new house or a million bucks or something. I guess that’s why an adult didn’t get to think of what they wanted.
Almond Joy: Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t. I never feel like a nut unless it’s an almond. Which, in the case of Almond Joy, it is! Mounds are also delicious, but Almond Joy are outstanding. Jay always sang the Almond Joy jingle to me and it never failed to amuse me. What can I say? I’m an easy audience.
Fruit Rollup Cutouts: Do you guys remember these? Fruit Rollups with a design in them! The goal was to pull out the shapes and eat them. The problem was the fact that Fruit Rollups are super-sticky and the shape never came out cleanly and…well, everything was mostly a blob. But still! Tasty. Peach and strawberry were the best, bar none. I remember being in junior kindergarten and having one of these dental nightmares for a snack. For some reason, known only to little Jess, I decided to paste the Rollup on my hand and lick it. So it would make some kind of Fruit Rollup glove then I could then devour? I don’t know the logic behind my actions, but it was along those lines. Anyway, when my beloved kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sawision, found me with a guilty/bewildered face and a peach-coloured, gooey hand she sent me to the bathroom to scrub with those awful scratchy school paper towels. The moral of the story? Just eat your Rollups normally, dummy.
All Sorts: OK, to be fair I hate black licorice. BUT also to be fair, my poppa LOVED it. In fact, he loved All Sorts and often had a pocketful of them. I liked the way they looked. I liked their bright colours. I liked pretending they tasted like flavours like vanilla or chocolate. But I did NOT like licorice. So I never actually ATE one. I just admired them from afar.
Bubblegum Juice: OK, OK so it’s not actually JUICE, but it was bubblegum in a juice container! And, unlike the other presentation A+, taste F-, bubblegum juice gum was delicious. And you could use the little container after to make your stuffed bears appear to have a healthier lifestyle than you do.
Ovation: Do you remember these kinda elongated, hard After Eight wannabes? They were around at Christmas and they were relatively good…and, fun side story, they totally ended up breaking off many brackets of my braces over the holidays one year. I had to swear to my orthodontist that I hadn’t been eating gum or chomping on rocks or anything untoward. After my nearly-tearful confession (he was a tough guy, that orthodontist), he was all, “Meh, I didn’t think the glue set properly on those brackets.”
Say what, now?
Pixie Stix: The first time I ever had Pixie Stix, I was six and it was GIGANTIC. Like, one of those mega-straws full of unnaturally coloured sugar (I think mine was vibrant yellow and vibrant pink). I was with my aunt and cousin and although she was three years my junior, she seemed to be far more aware of the awesomeness of Pixie Stix. I honestly had no idea it was all sugar…and after I tried it, I was equal parts grossed out and in love. I didn’t eat another Pixie stick for about ten years after that.
Popsicle Pete: OK, so Kenneth and I were kids when the whole “collect popsicle sticks with points on them and then send them to Popsicle Pete HQ and trade them for prizes” promotion was featured on YTV. And when PJ Fresh (Phresh?) Phil told you to do something, you did it. So we spent a summer eating popsicles and collecting the sticks with numbers on them. Sure, we could’ve traded them in for a yo-yo here and there…but why? We wanted to save up for the BIG prize – a bike! Or, you know, fifty yo-yos. The only thing was, the promotion ended as we continued to collect points. Our currency was worth nothing. We had a fortune in popsicle sticks. Life lesson learned: cash in your points when you get a chance.
Tootsie Pop: Can I be honest here, fam? I don’t love Tootsie Pops. I know, I know. Sacrilege. But I just can’t deal with the ‘TOOTSIE’ part of the pop. And, truthfully, the ‘pop’ part ain’t that great either. Overall, I would feign enthusiasm if I ever got one of these suckers, but on the inside I would totally be shaking my head and wondering about the candy-giver’s taste in sweets.
Lucky Elephant Pink Popcorn: I think I only ever had this once or twice, courtesy of our awesome neighbours, but it stuck with me for life. I can still taste the odd-crunchy-popcorn flavour. You know a candy is something special/incredibly strange tasting if it sticks with you for over 30 years.
Butter Rum Lifesavers: Remember those Lifesavers ‘books’ you’d get at Christmas? They’d have eight rolls in them. The best, best, best flavour was bubblegum Lifesavers (this doesn’t exist anymore). In the Lifesaver book, I was a HUGE fan of spearmint, peppermint and that other clear one…like, Ice Mint or something? Anyway, mint. I hated Butter Rum with a fiery passion. It tasted like mushrooms. And if you know me, you know my feelings on mushrooms.
Wax Bottles (NickLNip): This was another candy introduced to me by the Ottawa relatives. I was at my aunt’s house and she gave me a little wax bottle full of…red? I had no idea what to do with it. Did I squish it? Did I eat it? Did I…uh…put it in my pocket and forget about it? She explained that one was meant to nibble the top off the bottle, suck back the contents and then chew up the wax. I was onboard until the final step. A mouthful of tasteless wax is really, really gross.
Dunkaroos: When I was in high school, I had hella bad stomach problems which I later realized were just endometriosis problems, but that’s neither here nor there. (But if you wanna talk endo, I’m your chick. Just sayin’.)Anyway, for some reason my mother figured that by giving me all kinds of simple carbs and sugar-filled foods, my stomach would be healed. So Dunkaroos were a regular staple in my lunch. And for snacks during play rehearsals. My friend (shout out to Ty) used to obsess over them, so I’d share these icing-covered-cookie monsters with him and stave off cavities just a little bit longer.
Sour Keys Large: Jay and I used to get candy on the regular. One of his favourites was large Sour Keys. He would always pick up one or two from the little box on the counter at whatever 7-11 we were frequenting (usually for cigarettes for him). These days, you won’t catch Jay near a cigarette or a Sour Key, but they will always remind me of our late teens/early twenties when we were younger and more carefree.
Stroopwafels: You know what’s delicious? Cookies. Also, caramel. And waffles. OK, now imagine a cookie-like waffle (it’s waffle-ish in taste and shape, but cookie-ish in its chewiness) sandwiched together with caramel. And that’s a Stroopwafel. How does someone like me know about something like this? When I was in grade nine, the band went to Holland. I didn’t know anyone in the music room very well when the money was due, so I missed out on this *epic* trip. I regret that enormously. BUT I don’t regret learning about the delicious Dutch treat known as Stroopwafels. If you ever get a chance, pick up a pack. (They used to be available at Morningside Mall’s European-bakery-kinda store…but they tore the mall down and now it’s a Starbucks and what’s even happening to my old ‘hood?) Have them with some nice strong coffee. You can thank me later.
Glossettes: Know what’s like playing Russian roulette? Eating Glossette raisins and not knowing if one of them is a Glossette peanut in disguise! Ha ha! Get that Epi-pen handy because you might (or might not) need it, girlfriend! And all for what? Chocolate-coated raisins which are usually stale anyway? These candies weren’t just disappointing, but they were also terrifying. Boo!
Mr. Misty/DQ Kiss: This was a thing that you could get in the Ottawa mini-Dairy-Queen location. (Apparently it was called Mr. Misty. I always called it a kiss. I don’t know.) It was a sort of popsicle-push-pop dealie. The popsicle wasn’t exactly hard; more like if you took a slushie and made it slightly less slushy and slightly more frozen. Anyway you cut it, the lime ones were terrific. My poppa took us to the DQ often and he didn’t even freak out when I spilled most of a Mr. Misty on his car’s plush interior.
Maple Candy: My mother has a *slight* obsession with these delicious maple sugar leaves. OK, so I do too. They are the most quintessentially Canadian thing you can put in your mouth. Well, except maybe beaver tails. (Which I had to explain to my girls recently. You know, that they’re doughnuts with sugar and cinnamon, not actual tails from large rodents.) Or, like, poutine. Or buttertarts. Anyway, the point is Canada has some damn delicious foods, but these candies are perhaps the best.
Maple on Snow: Have you ever been to Quebec City? Jay and I went when we were young and unencumbered. We ate at this restaurant that served a dessert that was the most maple-y thing I’ve ever eaten. It was a crepe stuffed with maple cream, topped with maple syrup and whipped cream with maple sugar on top. It was *maybe* even too sweet for me. Maple syrup on snow, though? No. It’s the best thing in winter. Funny side-story: when I was in grade eleven, we had an exchange with the German band we visited in Lindau. They came back to Canada and I had the pleasure of hosting the adorable Martin and Philip. Their English was so-so and my German was and is terrible. We mostly communicated in broken French. Anyway, one day we were having pancakes and we offered them maple syrup. Apparently that’s not really a German thing, because they had no idea what we were talking about. We gave them some and they were SO grossed out. We explained it’s kind of like tree blood (we couldn’t figure out how to say ‘sap’ in French) and they were SUPER grossed out. To that, I say: aspic. That is what my dinner was buried under one night in Germany. So. You know. Grain of salt.
Soft Mints: My grandmother had a candy collection to rival that of any good confectionary. Yes, despite being rather salty herself, she had a killer sweet tooth. One thing she had in abundance was soft mints. You know the ones; they’re white, wrapped in white and green paper. They’re super-sweet and kind of hard on the outside, soft on the inside. I am not ashamed to say that when I attended drama camp as a ten-year-old, I unabashedly requested handfuls of these suckers with my lunch. Which, on reflection, was an unrefrigerated ham sandwich. I guess I should’ve requested Pepto Bismol as well.
Pillow Mints: Know one of the things I’m looking most forward to about getting old? Eating hard candies with abandon. And pillow mints, although not terribly hard, definitely fall into the ‘preferred by the elderly’ category. They’re so weirdly minty and spearmint-y and lemon minty (why is that even a thing). Anyway, if you’ve never tried them and you want to set your inner octogenarian free, I can only recommend you pick up a bag of these little sweeties.
Candy Shells/Rocks: When I was at Disney World for the first time (I was eight) we went to the big candy store on Main Street. We were told that we could get any candy we wanted. I was just like a kid in a…well, you get the idea. Kenneth chose Runts. I had a much harder time. I figured I should choose something local…something from Florida. When in Rome, right? So I found this clear, square container of candy seashells. They were SO CUTE. There were a few rocks in there too, for a truly beachy feel. I glued my favourite one in my scrapbook (where it still remains) and ate waaay too many myself. About halfway through the container, I started sharing them with whoever expressed any kind of interest. Truthfully? They weren’t very tasty. 100% for style, 60% for execution.
Whew. That was an insane tour of my very sugar-filled life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to chew my weight in gumballs.
Hey, some things never change.