Can The Three-Course Dinner Be Far Behind?

Once again, life imitates art.

Refresh your memory, if necessary, to recall how inflation suddenly struck the unsuspecting Violet Beauregard when she snatched the small stick of gum created by Mr. Willie Wonka’s revolutionary non-pollutionary mechanical wonder.

The gum tasted like tomato soup, then roast beef with baked potato, and finally blueberry pie and cream.

It took awhile, but the William Wrigley Company is now selling hard candies in these three flavors:

Strawberry Cheesecake
Cinnamon Bun
Apple Pie Ala Mode

… and they’re good! Can the tomato soup and roast beef be far behind?

That was meant to be a rhetorical question, but then I thought… better check. We’re closer than you think. The only one of the Wonka gum elements I could not find was the roast beef with potato. The others are available.

Let me stress, because I’m not above making stuff up, that every gum or candy in this post is 100% real. I’ll hyperlink them in case you want to buy some.

First up: Uncle Oinkers Gummy Bacon. Manufactured by a company called Meat-O-Matic. Sure, the strawberry flavoring tends to overpower the artificial bacon flavoring, assuming that the FDA requires a product with the word “bacon” in it to have some relation to bacon flavoring. But – unlike those other celebrity spokes-animals – Uncle Oinker can hold his head high: no pigs were harmed in the making of Uncle Oinker’s Gummy Bacon.

The same cannot be said for Mo’s Bacon Bar. I don’t know if the pigs involved in the candy bar were harmed, but they were definitely killed, fried, and covered in chocolate. All in all, not a bad way to go. But this isn’t gum that tastes like bacon, it’s real bacon that’s wrapped in chocolate. So I’m afraid I’m going to have to flip all the cards over and disqualify Mo’s, although it sure sounds good: “Rub your thumb over the chocolate bar to release the aromas of smoked applewood bacon flirting with deep milk chocolate. Snap off just a tiny piece and place it in your mouth, let the lust of salt and sweet coat your tongue.” Just don’t linger over it unduly. The candy comes with a freshness date that’s just three months out, and there’s an excellent chance the package you find will have logged serious hours on your grocer’s shelf.

I have always wondered whether Ronald Reagan’s health problems were caused by jellybeans. Jelly Belly became quite famous during the Gipper years, but have lately fallen off in popularity. I wonder if that’s because Jelly Belly makes the jellybeans seen at right, selling them under the name of a dummy corporation. To see these phenomenal flavors in their full glory, click on the picture to enlarge (I once again remind you that everything you see here can be bought and eaten). I have never tried “earthworm” or “sausage” jellybeans, but I take solace in knowing that once again, industry is hard at work to bring lip-smackin’ meat flavor to candy.

Back to Violet Beauregard. While there seems to be no roast beef and potato candy, you sure as hell can get the first course… the tomato soup, although you might have to travel to Asia… or perhaps a local Lucky’s… in order to find it. Booniverse, the blog which covers culinary curiosities, reports:

It does have an unusually powerful tomato aroma (you can smell one of these things being opened across the room) but it follows up with a nicely strong tomato taste so it is keeping its olfactory promises. Also, the tomato flavor is natural (if not fresh from the vine) tomato and not some manufactured processed tomato flavoring which is admirable. If it were any other fruit I’d give it a glowing report with all that it has going for it so far but…it’s tomato.

To demand the U.S. close the gap with China (what kind of sense does it make to be able to get candy tomatoes and not tomato candy) write a polite letter expressing your interest to your senator or congressperson.

The one fully-original portion of Violet’s chewing gum repast you can get, oddly, is the blueberry gum. No mention of cream, but otherwise it’s the real deal – it’s gum, and it’s blueberry.

So here’s what I did: I approximated Violet’s flavor fest as best I could, by taking a blueberry gumball, carefully wrapping it tightly in one strip of Uncle Oinkers, and then melting down a piece of the Asian tomato candy and carefully coating the gummy bacon-wrapped blueberry gumball over and over until I had built up a hard candy shell. My neighbor volunteered to actually try the thing, and though she has seen neither the Gene Wilder original nor the Johnny Depp remake, after eating this one piece of candy, she became a huge Willie Wonka fan. Here’s a picture of her before we rolled her down to the Juicing Room for squeezing.

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There’s A Word For That – "Saudade"

Certain words and phrases in many of the world’s languages have no direct English equivalents.

What’s a nakhur? It’s a Persian word that identifies camels which will not give milk until their noses are tickled. We’re doing OK without that one.

The Japanese expression katahara itai means laughing so hard for so long that one side of your abdomen hurts. English is the native language of Larry David and Sarah Silverman, so we could use a phrase like that.

Uitwaaien is Dutch for “walking in windy weather just for the hell of it.”

Tingo is a word in the Pascuense language that means “to steal objects from your neighbor’s house one by one until there is nothing left.”

The English word Nostalgia was created from two Greek root words: one that means “returning home” and one that means “pain,” a suffix you know about if you’ve ever suffered from neuralgia (nerve pain), myalgia (muscle pain), otalgia (ear pain), or bussosalgia, a word I just made up using the Greek root for “bottom,” i.e., a pain in the ass.

While there may well be pain or longing associated with some forms of nostalgia, in everyday usage, nostalgia is not considered unpleasant.

The Portuguese to our rescue!

Saudade describes “a mixture of happy and sad feelings focused on days gone by.” Saudade also includes a dash of hope that whatever is “missing” or “longed for” …might one day return. And actually, in one form or another, a lot of stuff has returned.

Say, for example, that you loved the music of The Beatles, but the 301 officially released songs are starting to wear a bit thin. I find that The Spongetones CD I purchased from Not Lame effectively transforms painful nostalgia into Portuguese saudade. Beach Boys fans who miss their baseball cards should apply to Jeffery Foskett, another musical artist that Not Lame can tell you about. You can buy reproductions of those baseball cards. And you can listen to those old kiddie records you miss.

Others who help relieve achy nostalgia and replace it with the far more agreeable saudade are Gemstone Comics, Candy You Ate as a Kid,, Retrocola (since we all know soda pop tastes better coming out of longneck glass bottles), Fizzies, and a rivet-perfect 50’s robot that blows powder from his mouth. Seriously.

Of course, if what you’re actually suffering from is Sehnsucht, the German word for “the inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what,” I recommend finding a yogi or a pharmacist. Trust me, Moxie and modern reproductions of old baseball cards are far less expensive and much more fun.

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Almond’s Joy

Warning: eating a Valomilk can be dangerous to your sweater. Ask Steve Almond, or better yet, listen to an excerpt from the audio version of Candyfreak, narrated by Oliver Wyman - in which Steve pays a visit to the Valomilk factory (9m).

Second Warning: your mouth will start watering for a Valomilk. You’ll need the web address for Sifers Valomilks – and a little patience, because the candy can’t be shipped in hot weather. Third Warning: like any small taste of something delicious, you’re going to want to get the rest of Candyfreak.

There are two basic levels at which you can like something. Level One, you like it. You recommend it.

Level Two, you want to go out, grab strangers, and shout, “You absolutely cannot miss this, it’s unbelievably terrific and fun and wonderful and I feel sorry for you if you don’t know about it!” That’s essentially what’s happening here. Steve Almond’s Candyfreak is the first of a small, select group of items that will receive unqualified recommendation. These are the things you’d save if your house was on fire, take with you to the desert island, or, finances permitting, buy for all of your friends.

Candyfreak is Steve Almond’s excruciatingly funny, unexpectedly touching, endlessly fascinating, highly personal odyssey into the world of those rugged confectioners who persevere against industry giants (and all the odds) to create quality candies of local origin and renown. The audio version of Candyfreak (available from Audible) is performed perfectly by Wyman and can be listened to as frequently as a favorite song. The print version? Happily, the author currently offers the bargain of the century: a signed first edition of ‘Candyfreak’ for $15. I’m ordering another copy.

Fourth and final warning: In a few days, you’re going to want to grab total strangers and say, “Have you read Candyfreak? You absolutely must!” More about the author and his other books at Steve Almond’s Website.

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