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Greene: The Candy Museum

12/02/11 5:55PM By Stephanie Greene
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(Host) At this time of year we are awash with visions of sugarplums. Commentator Stephanie Greene has an idea for enjoying the season without the remorse.

(Greene) Candy must be the most nostalgic of foods, loaded with emotional symbolism.

How else can you explain the sugar blitzkrieg of the Holiday season? Normally sane people suddenly think it's a great idea to order a fifty dollar gingerbread house, complete with frosting filled gutters and gumdrop festooned roof. Peppermint bark, cookies, caramel marshmallows - the parade of pricey edibles from the world over is stupefying. Yet somehow, you want it all.

In simpler times, the available indulgence was limited.

My grandmother loved a Christmas confection called Ribbon candy that lay in its box in beautiful, fragile, striped ruffles. My mother adored Satin Pillows, which were pink, filled with peanut butter and stuck to your teeth like superglue. My husband's grandmother spent the last five of her 96 healthy years living - as far as we could tell - on peanut butter cups she insisted were for the paperboy.

There's an undeniable chemical component to all this. Nutritionists have been telling us for years that sugar is more drug than food. Its effect on blood chemistry is well documented, it produces a swoon of beta endorphins, a spike in insulin and all kinds of tumult.

I hate to be a party pooper, but we are out of control, and the results are indigestion, calories, cavities and worse.

So here's my next big idea: open a candy museum.

That way we can get our nostalgia hit without having to wear its results.

It would be like visiting the Christmas windows at Bergdorfs or Macy's - a visual rather than a gustatory thing. We could have serious fun with this: Each generation would get its own display.

Human history being what it is, we could go back to the Native American genius who discovered maple syrup. On to the first of date palms in Mesopotamia , to the discovery of cane sugar and molasses and on to Queen Elizabeth the First's infamous tooth decay.

We could have a wing devoted to national candy - Mexican dulce de leche, Swiss and Belgian chocolates, American jelly beans, Turkish Delight.

We could call in guest curators. Imagine the debates over the relative merits of red or black licorice, or the Jersey shore origins of Saltwater Taffy!

America 's regional candies would be represented, as well. For example, Necco Wafers and Sky Bars are native to New England , while the Idaho Spud is a actually a misshapen marshmallow rolled in cocoa and coconut. California has its Gold Nuggets, Kansas City its Valomilks and Kentucky its Blue Mondays.

Imagine the controversy of a Ten Worst Halloween Candies exhibit-the kind that stay in the bag for a month before they are summarily tossed.

But wait - maybe all this stimulation wouldn't satisfy the museum-goer, and would in fact, backfire, big time.

We might even have to break down and have a small but well - appointed gift shop.

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