Sunday, August 26, 2007

Confessions of a Jelly Bean Gobbler

Someone brought a sack of jelly bean samplers from Jelly Belly into my office the other day. Each clear-plastic-wrapped sampler contained a dozen assorted jelly beans. Jelly Belly claims to make “gourmet” beans which means that they get adventurous with the flavors. They refer to the more exotic ones as “spice”. I tend to eat jelly beans and M&M’s in groups of about half a dozen. Okay, I’m a pig. I generally don’t examine the mixture in my hand to cull out the weird ones before I ingest them. Traditional jelly beans taste more or less the same regardless of color. In fact, for many years the only flavor that got imposed on a jelly bean was in the shell. The rest of it was just that sticky sugar mix on the inside. Once you got past the shell, the rest was identical.

About twenty years ago, someone got the idea that the flavor could and should be added to the sugary mass on the inside as well. I don’t know if this was inspired by Ronald Reagan who apparently had a thing for jelly beans, but companies like Jelly Belly also started branching out from the traditional, red, green, blue, orange, pink, yellow. Brown, coffee, black (okay they had black in the old days as well), mango yellow, spotted, and striped, all began to appear. Even worse, they had to make up flavors for these colors. We’re talking peanut butter, cinnamon, espresso, curry, etc. While individually, these flavors can be interesting enough, they shouldn’t be mixed. It doesn’t happen very often anymore, but if you’ve ever had the experience of taking a sip from a carton of milk gone sour you would know that upsetting the expectations of the palate can be very unsettling.

J K Rowling got this level of horror at modern era jelly beans just right in Harry Potter with Bertie Botts’s magic beans that included flavors like booger, ear wax, etc. Btw….Turkish Delight , an early name for jelly beans (they were invented late in the 19th century) plays a prominent role in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

No doubt, there are people out there who eat jelly beans one delicately shelled and intricately colored example at a time. I’m sure they hold the things up to the light, sniff the bouquet, and see if they can get the shell to melt in their mouths before they chew. One of my best friends from childhood, Paul, was fastidious in that way. He’d even figure out a sequence for consuming his chain of jelly beans. He wound up being a copy editor for a major newspaper. How weird is that? Maybe too, there’s some sort of feng shui for the proper ingestion of the jelly bean. I’m just not one of those folk.

I’m perfectly happy consuming a small sampler of jelly beans in two random gulps. I suspect I’m not the only person the in the world who’s like that. Think about it. Who’s going to buy more jelly beans, someone who examines them and eats them one at a time or someone like me? So why the heck would you put together handfuls of fundamentally incompatible flavors? It’s disturbing to bite into a bunch of artificially fruity goodness and then stray onto something like peanut butter or licorice.

Naturally, I had about ten of the packs before I figured all this out. I just hope this doesn’t happen to Dots or Gummi Bears. In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out why Gummi Bears generally taste better than Gummi Worms and what the difference was between a U-No Bar and a Kit-Kat or why Kit-Kats are made by Nestle in some countries and Hershey’s in the United States?
In my home town, there was a business called the “Antique Apple Nursery” which may have shifted to a successor company called “Trees of Antiquity”. My town’s main business used to be Gravenstein Apples which didn’t stay competitive commercially late in the twentieth century as varieties that stored better pushed local farmers to sell their orchards to developers. Trees of Antiquity makes a point of keeping alive fruit varieties that may actually taste better but aren’t sold in supermarkets any longer. Perhaps, they’ll have to do the same thing with non-gourmet jelly beans and other obsolete candy varieties.

Some I rarely see or haven’t seen in many years,

1) Beeman’s Pepsin Gum
2) Nestle’s Milk Chocolate Bar
3) The Big Hunk
4) Candy Cigarettes
5) Fruit Stripe Gum
6) Charleston Chews
7) Adams Black Jack Gum
8) Almond Joys
9) Lifesavers
10) Sugar Daddies



At 8/26/2007 11:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

73%+ chocolate only please, preferably organic.

By the way, how is that big chapter on your book coming? Stay in the chair. Finish the book. You aren't going to let some fat old eight-toothed crone beat you to the finish line, are you?

At 8/27/2007 05:15:00 AM, Blogger Dale said...

I stay away from the Jelly Belly because there's too much thought, I'd rather just chew a pound of random jelly beans.

The other day they were handing out samples of a flavour of gum called Tangerine Freeze which to me tasted like 'Thrills' gum and anti-freeze. Very soothing indeed.

They still sell candy cigarettes but call them sticks or something instead of cigarettes.

At 8/27/2007 09:33:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Mr. Pogblog,
The big chapter is coming along slowly, but it's moving forward. I'm intent on finishing the thing though.

I thought crones had like 1 or 2 teeth.

Tangerine Freeze sounds truly terrible. I haven't seen candy cigarettes in the US in quite a long time. I have seen bubble gum cigars a couple times.
I also remember they had wax guns filled with some sort of colored syrup. We'd try to chew the wax which would degenerate into this nasty stuff.

At 8/27/2007 05:50:00 PM, Blogger Cup said...

I love Jelly Bellies. I eat each one individually ... or group two or three of the same color for a riotous burst of flavor.

Yeah, I know. I need to get out more often.

At 8/27/2007 08:02:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Can I send you my non-conforming jelly bellies?
I like one at a time jelly bean eaters well enough, I'm just not one of them.

At 8/31/2007 09:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a one-at-a-time jelly belly eater, but I don't sniff the bouquet and wait for the shell to melt.

Have you ever tried the Bertie Bott's beans? Did you even realize they actually sell them, as a Harry Potter marketing thing? A coworker mixed a bunch of those in with a bowl of jelly bellies, but he was kind enough to warn me first. I wasn't brave enough to even try one.

At 8/31/2007 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I've seen the Bertie Botts beans. We have a nearby high-end candy store called Powell's

that has all the cool but not Godiva-like candies. As far as I can tell Bertie Botts is just regular though occasionally funny tasting jelly beans. I'd like to try chocolate frogs though.

I have this fear that one day I'll bite into a Chevre jelly bean or quail pate or something. Certain things need to be left alone. I do not approve of blue M&Ms and Lifesavers, except for root beer, that aren't any of the five original colors shouldn't exist.

At 8/31/2007 08:40:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I liked those liquid filled waxy things when I was a kid. They weren't shaped like guns though.

At 9/01/2007 01:25:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

It wasn't just guns, they had them shaped like vampires, flowers, baseball bats, and I think Roseanne Barr.


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