By Christopher Cudworth
As a young kid with a Sweet Tooth the size of my head, it was impossible to resist any opportunity to buy and eat candy. Perhaps you can relate?
One summer day I chanced upon an errant dollar or two in change on my parent’s dresser. Two bucks was a Gold Mine in my youth. You could buy a lot of candy with that much money.
The Little Store
In fact there was a Candy Store less than a quarter mile from my house. All I had to do was cross the Death Trap of Route 222 south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania and walk through the driveway of a friend whose parents ran a Venetian blind business and arrive at the small business we called The Little Store.
They had two full counters of candy 4 tiers deep. I’m sure they had bread and other things that human beings should actually eat, but for us kids, the only thing that mattered was The Candy.
On a typical day with a quarter or two in my pocket there would be Smarties or Sweet Tarts, string licorice and Necco Wafers to bring home. The Little Store was a Godsend in terms of Candy Nirvana. Oh yeah, and baseball cards.
The Big Orange Appetite
But for some reason on a weekday in the middle of summer my little Candy Mind decided to go the Extra Mile down to the Fruit Stand where I knew they sold larger bags of candy. The walk to the fruit stand was not exactly safe for a little kid, but for some reason I always knew how to stay out of harm’s way when it came to being on the road alongside cars. That would come in handy as I aged and took up running and riding. But at 7 or 8 years old all I knew was to keep my skinny little butt well outside the white line.
So I walked along the narrow shoulder of Route 222 with my eye on the fruit stand a mile away. It shimmered in the heat. But I knew what awaited me there.
It was hot outside and as I passed the Venetian Blind factory on my right a longing for an Orange Crush came over me because my friend Lynn Wagner always pulled them out of the big yellow case where they kept the soda pop and handed it to me like it was Gold In a Bottle. Which it was, of course.
But like Ulysses, I made it past that temptation and kept walking in my Red Ball Jets onward, past the road that led to the Little Store and on to the Fruit Market.
The Old Mill
The road dipped low as it passed over Mill Creek, a tepid, brown little waterway that tumbled over a tall damn where an old mill once operated. The old mill building still stood with its intricate stonework and aged wood walls. At that age I did not know what mills actually did. All I knew about that mill and its dam was that sunfish congregated by the dozens in the water below. We once caught 50 fish in one morning.
100 yards past the old mill was the Fruit Market. Piled high in the racks were recently harvested cantaloupes brought to market from the fields of farmers in Lancaster County. Fruit flies buzzed about as I walked to the end of the bins where a candy mart lay.
Orange Marshmallow Peanuts
I knew what I was there for. The giant bag of Orange Marshmallow Peanuts was calling my name. I picked up the bag, paid at the counter and immediately pulled apart the top of the plastic to grab the sweet orange marshmallow peanuts inside.
One after the other I ate. Some I compressed between my thumbs and ate them like little slabs of salami. Others I bit in half and watched the compressed end ease back into shape. This candy was like sex, only I was too young to know it at the time. It went on like that as I made my way back home. Peanut after marshmallow peanut eased down my gullet in bites and gulps.
And then it started. The queasy feeling at the base of my stomach that told me there was too much sugar and starch and stretchy squeezy marshmallow now resting in the pit of my gut. It suddenly felt very hot outside. Humidity pressed in on my head for the sun had truly risen in the sky and was beating down on the black asphalt of Route 222. On I walked, still gulping peanuts because the appetite was now too intense to abate all on its own.
It was comic, of course. A dumb kid consumed with a sick feeling from the inside. Half the bag of peanuts was now gone and there was half a mile to walk home. Finally I rolled the end of the bag up in my fist and leaned forward in a faster clip toward home. The summer heat spun around my sweaty head and it took real endurance to make it home. Somehow I kept going despite feeling like I was about to throw up any minute.
It all worked out fine. I went home and curled up on my bed for a couple hours until the horridly sweet taste went out of the back of my throat and the sick feeling in the base of my gut went away. I swore off marshmallow peanuts forever, but polished off the rest of the bag later in the week anyway.
Orange you glad you’re grown up?
The Great Peanut Marshmallow Incident still has significance for me every time I open one of those candy-like sweet athletic booster packages like Gatorade Endurance Carb Energy Chews. The package says “Consume Shortly Before and During Training and Racing” but I will admit to eating a few of them while driving home from work the other night.
That’s the tarsnake of energy sweets.
Who can resist them. They’re squishy and chewy and their texture has a slightly sugar-jellyish tasty treat surface that makes you want to eat one after the other.
Perhaps they’re better for you than Marshmallow Peanuts but who knows? The ingredients as listed are Corn Syrup, Sugar, isomaltulose, carrageenan, citric acid, dextrose, sodium citrate, potassium citrate, natural flavor and a bunch of chemical-sounding names that mean nothing to the average person
All they’re lacking is some marks on the top and the shape of a peanut. Then they’d be perfect, in my opinion. Cause they taste good. In moderation.