It's been mumble mumble years since milk has come in pints over here and five cents worth of mixed lollies will cost you about a dollar these days, but the theory remains the same. The serious corner store proprietor still has the individual jars of different lollies on display and knows the importance of choosing the mix with infinite care. Just as the nice grownups did when I was a kid and had been given that rare but heavenly instruction to 'buy yourself some lollies with the change.' Implicit in the direction was the unsaid advice to eat them all before you got home unless you wanted all hell to break loose amongst your siblings. Twenty cents worth of mixed lollies on the other hand meant you had to bring them home to share with everyone and therefore is a totally different subject.
Since becoming old and boring, I have to admit that apart from the odd Yuletide rumball, the annual inhalation of chocolate eggs each Easter and infrequent frolics with fun-size bounty bars, I can get by quite happily without a lot of candy. (I use this foreign word, candy, out of my deep respect for you all). Perhaps it's because I chose 'grown-up' ways of being decadent from an early age. I know that my temperate siblings who went to university managed to keep lollies in their lives for a lot longer than I did. Perhaps they figured alcohol and mild drug abuse would have compromised their studies, whereas a pound or two of lolly bananas, chicos and milk bottles only enhanced their concentration skills. Don't ask me, I was probably blowing nitrous bulbs at the time.
But due to the trying not to smoke thing, I am back in the confectionery aisle and I've found myself revisiting the dental dangers of my childhood. Most the old favourites are still there along with some rather alarming new ones. Alarming because it seems the Crayola people have joined forces with the artificial food-colouring people at Starburst and judging by the psychedelic combinations out there it is clear what they got up to during the sixties.
To some of my favourites:
The Clinker. Resembling in size, shape and colour the turd of a healthy young cat, the clinker is more than just a lolly. It provides for gaming as well as sweet indulgence. There are three flavours of Clinker: pink, green and yellow. Or, to be more accurate: strawberry, lime and ..er.. yellow. (Whether it's supposed to be pineapple, banana or lemon, I cannot say. You'd think that by now I would have written to them to find out but curiously it hasn't mattered to me.) As the Clinker is coated in chocolate, one has no idea which variety of clinker is chosen until that first bite. And you simply must guess first. One in three chance of being right. Which cup has the pea? Where's the lady? We are a nation of gamblers and this perhaps explains the popularity of the Clinker. The generic lolly people have brought out a cheap alternative called choc rainbow surprises. Don't go near them. The only surprise is why in hell anyone would bother with these tawdry imitations.
Musk Sticks. These have deteriorated in quality so much since I was a kid, I nearly left them out, but I'm such a sentimental old thing I couldn't deny them their place in lolly history. At about five inches in length (unless you're a bloke in which case you'd probably say closer to eight..) each stick provides a lot of lolly potential. The first thing about the musk stick though is the smell. The aroma of a good musk stick can do things to you that the nice research people at Pfizer can only dream about. After sniffing them for a while one then starts the nibbling. Slow little nibbles. Endless delectable nibbles. If the musk stick is gone in under five minutes you're going too fast and are most likely an Australian male. So start again and this time.. slower! (You'll have to excuse me, this is getting into a weird area now...)
Smarties. Nestles own them these days and my research tells me they aren't what people in the USA call a Smartie. These Smarties are the ones the British company Rowntrees made that went on to become an illegitimate parent of the M & M. These are the ones that do melt in your hand, leaving wonderful indelible rainbow stains all over your fingers and the walls.
When you eat your Smarties,
Do you eat the red ones last?
Do you suck them very slowly,
Or crunch them very fast?
A fairly personal question if you ask me but a memorable jingle.
Mint Leaves: A thick leaf-shaped lolly covered in granulated sugar. The mint flavour is really quite robust, and in the words of my eleven year old son they may be 'too flavoury' for an immature palate. The very best use of the mint leaf is to get a handful of them, chop them finely and mix them into some softened vanilla ice-cream. I know you can buy ice-cream these days that already has minty bits in it, but this was heaps more fun as well as being an economical way to get more from your lolly dollar.
Strawberries and Cream. Aww, these are simply gorgeous. Still. Just be aware of the no-name brands about the place. They tend to manufacture a strawberry and cream lolly without the use of strawberries or, indeed, cream. One can only marvel at the fact that they are permitted to be so mendacious in their business practices. Maybe it's time for just a bit more regulation in this area. I'll sign any petition favouring such action.
With the S and C one can experience the joy in one of two significant ways. Firstly there is the methode de crème, whereby one initially tongues away at the creamy bits that surround the rubied heart, soaking in all that milky goodness, delighting in the undeniable dairy dreaminess of it all, before launching a full lipped attack on the central strawberried nipple (if you will). The other style, for the more importunate lolly lover, is to spontaneously sink your senses straight to the strawberry substance and allow the cream to follow along as it often will in these circumstances.
Coconut Quivers. Couldn't find any. Damn shame. I even tried the specialty sweets shoppe in the town. While the chappie knew what I was talking about and agreed their absence was a matter of great sorrow to him he wasn't particularly moved to do anything about it for me. These, when they existed, were small cylinders of semi-soft caramel mixed with condensed milk and rolled in dessicated coconut. Stop Press: There appears to be a lifeline here. The Aussie Sweets Company claim to have a pretender to the Quiver throne. They are perfectly round instead of cylendrical and are called Caramel Kisses but they sound interestingly like what I recall the Quiver to be. I shall investigate further and report back.
Caramel Buds. The single sensual swirl on these flat hard discs of delight was so aesthetically pleasing the flavour almost became secondary to the visual delight. But that's not to say the flavour was immaterial. A good milky caramel sensation is not to be sniffed at. Actually, that's not true. Sniffing at them was rather lovely as I recall. The proper old fashioned ones of my childhood almost crumbled into a piquant powder as you bit into them. There are smaller, thicker, multi-swirled caramel buddies out there or at least there were a few years back when I last saw them. But they were a poor imitation of the real Bud, lacking the mature full-bodied nose that we grew to expect and offering nothing in the area of after-taste.
I feel I've eaten enough for one evening so will allow you to get to your next article. The only thing I should say in closing is that after a several days of indulging in far too many of these sweet snacks (purely out of a regard for scientific enquiry you understand) I can feel the gathering thunder in my own rubied core and may have to excuse myself in a hurried fashion.