"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Please Pass the Peanut-brittle

I haven't written much about Christmas, mostly because the holiday was just fine and very nice. I was able to spend some serious time with my boys, too. The weather was ordinary, if a bit spring-like. We kept mostly to ourselves, except for a very nice afternoon on New Year's Day spent with most of my side of the family. That was fun. We didn't get a chance to skiing or take a cruise, or anything cool like that. My wife and step-daughter did attend a very good theatre production, though: Sheer Madness, at the GEVA Theatre downtown. It's an extremely long-running play that originated here but has played all over the country, very funny and interactive as well.

I wanted to talk about peanut-brittle, however. With the boys here for the holidays we did some serious shopping, and one store featured boxes of peanut-brittle for, um, peanuts! Sorry, bad pun. I grabbed a box because I hadn't had that kind of candy in years. I cracked the box and poured a bowl to munch on during one of the fifty or so college "bowl" games that played during our week of vacation. (Maybe it was the Piggly-Wiggly/Toro Snowblower Bowl; I really can't recall.) I slipped the first super-sweet bite into my mouth and felt a whole flood of childhood memories rush in. Peanut-brittle was a rare treat when we were growing up. I think it was the type of goodie that my dad would bring home from a business trip, but maybe that's just my faulty recollection. I'll say this--the stuff stills sticks to your teeth just the way it used to!

We were four kids plus Mom and Dad squeezed into a small ranch house in a one-light village. My mom didn't work until we were all in high school. We drank powdered milk with dinner (hated it) and had a regular rotation of traditional Irish meals (we never went hungry!). Candy, however, was not a cupboard staple. Candy came home with Dad in a paper bag, rarely as part of the regular grocery run. Sometimes he'd bring us one of those (seemingly) enormous bags of plain M&M's. I have vivid memories of the four of us dividing that treasure on the dining room table. We counted by fives or tens until the very last few. We fought over the "good" colors, as if they tasted any different. There were always more brown ones than red, orange, green, or yellow. We also had lighter-brown ones (tan?) that were few and far between. No blue or purple, at that time; at least I don't remember any blue ones. We boys ate ours the first night. The girls, however, managed to savor their stash. Days later my sister Kay would still have at least half of her original share. I don't know how she resisted the temptation, but it sure was torture for me.

The only other big-deal treat that I remember is Ho-Ho's. They were bigger then, and more chocolatey. I'm pretty sure there were at least ten to the box, too, not the eight they give you today. Ho-Ho's were truly special. They came in a wonderful shiny metal-foil wrapper, which we would smooth out and use for origami. But that was only the beginning! In the same way that every kid had a certain way of eating Oreo's, we cherished our Ho-Ho's. If you were careful, you could peel all the hard-chocolate outside off, and eat that first. That left the devil's-food cake middle with two delicious chocolate ends. Those ends were usually bitten off one at a time. Then you had to make a choice: do you go ahead and eat the yummy outside first, or could you take the time to unroll the rest of the cake center to reveal the creamy filling? Eating one Ho-Ho could take as long as fifteen minutes, back then. Now, if I get some for myself I get the cheap imitation ones and just wolf them down. Those were simpler times, and we didn't have much for entertainment, did we?

My kids won't have any of those silly food-memories. Their bellies are full, and we spoil them with too many treats of too many kinds. (Their dentist sends us Christmas cards.) They are bombarded with entertainment and fast-food choices. I'm not sure they even liked the peanut-brittle. Who knows what funny bits of memory will occur to them during a Christmas break twenty or thirty years from now? Ah well, as long as they have someone special to share those thoughts with, it'll all be good.

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