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Nostalgia tastes sweet

Remember the candy you ate as a kid?

Like so many other things from my childhood, whenever I see a photo of the old sweet (or sour) treats from way back yonder I think something like, “Oh yeah, I remember those.”

And if I run across the actual, physical treats, I either grab one and hold it close until I get to the cash register, put it back down because it costs way too much now or wonder how in the world something like that could survive.

My grandfather loved Peanut Butter Bars, Creme Drops and Circus Peanut candies.

I love that Peanut Butter Bars are still around — I love those things. Though I’m still disappointed that the lines were on the clear wrapper and not the candy itself. If you remember these, you understand what I mean. Don’t judge me. I liked the lines.

Those creme drops were diabetes in a chocolate covered miniature mountain of sugar. I mention this because my grandfather was diabetic. Grandmother always fussed at him when he bought these or snuck a few. I can’t eat even a whole drop now without getting a buzz behind my eyes and reminding myself that I, too, am diabetic.

My grandmother, by the way, would make two cakes whenever she made dessert for the family, and put them in those clear glass cake display boxes. She’d label one “Diabetic” and tell Granddaddy that he was to eat that one only and not touch the “regular” one. Of course, he always would “sneak” a piece of the regular one, claiming the sugarless cake didn’t taste right.

But of course my grandmother had put a little reverse psychology on her husband and labeled the cakes opposite of what they really were. We poor grandchildren had to eat the “diabetic” cake since he wouldn’t eat it.

Granddaddy also loved those awful, petroleum-flavored orange polystyrene foam nuggets that were vaguely shaped like large roasted peanuts in the shell. Why? My wife’s grandfather loved them, too, so every once in a while she’ll buy a bag and eat a few thinking about the man she loved so much. She always offers me some and I decline. I’d rather remember my family’s patriarch in a less flammable-food way.

Back when my brother and I were around age 10-12, we’d walk from our house the few blocks to a little convenience store and buy candy and gum. I usually opted for Chick-O-Sticks, Mary Jane taffy, a baseball card pack with a hard plank of gum — placed there, I think, to make sure the baseball card didn’t bend — cinnamon-soaked toothpicks and candy cigarettes.

The first thing I would consume would be the candy cigs, mainly because I wanted no evidence of having bought them by the time we got back to the house. Mom would not have been pleased.

There were two different options in the pretend tobacco candies — one wrapped in paper and one not. Both had red-dyed tips to make them look like they were lit. The paper-wrapped ones had loose sugar powder in them so you could blow lightly and produce little puffs of candy smoke. I must have thought that was really cool, because the candy sticks certainly didn’t taste very good.

I think back to all these candies and I don’t get a craving for sugar. I get a craving for a very distinct flavor that just isn’t found in new things. What exactly is that flavor? Well, that’s simple.

It’s the taste of nostalgia.

Lifestyles editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.