Ok. So I know that I owe you a blog about circuses. The question is, is it now worth it?
I lost two different drafts due to computer errors. These were full-out brilliant posts that I am not sure will ever be topped and I just am not feeling like trying to recreate them right now.
BUT… There is a new circus coming to town.
So…. I guess I’ll have something to write about after this weekend, won’t I?
To get in the mood, I decided to bring you a review of something that I know we used to be able to purchase at circuses – flat taffy.
Now I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of taffy. I like everything from traditional salt-water taffy to laffy-taffy and any taffy in between. But there is something about flat taffy that just makes me salivate.
Flat taffy has been hit or miss on the market, but recently I found that both Cracker Barrel and Michael’s are fully stocked.
I flat out love this taffy. I remember taking road trips with my family to far away, exotic locals such as Pierre, South Dakota, and Enid, Oklahoma. We would load up the ol’ green station wagon and motor on down the road in full-on Griswold mode. Normally our gas station layovers were more like Indy 500 pit stops. Dad would pull next to the gas pump. Then we would synchronize our watches.
“You’ve got 30 seconds,” he would say, a manic, time-pressed gleam painting his eyes.
We would rush in, head for the urinal, do our business, shake it off, run our hands under gas station bathroom sink water that always was either just above arctic or molten sun mass. Then we would run back to the car, our thongs (that’s what we used to call flip-flops) slapping the tarry, summer stained asphalt.
Dad would have already filled up, paid, and peed by then and he would be waiting, impatiently tapping his fingers on the roof of the car. The moment he saw us, he would gesture to us like a third base coach telling us to steel home. We would pile into the car, and then the tires would squeal, leaving about three pounds of rubber behind and we were back on the road. Dad had these stops down to a artistic science, working them into our travel schedules with meticulous plotting, like Shakespeare working out a sonnet. Nothing would get us off schedule.
But occasionally, things would be different. Every once in a while we entered a magical realm, where schedules didn’t exist and time was on our side, and we’d stop somewhere exciting like:
Stuckey’s. The crème de la crème of highway monuments. A treat fit for a king of the road. These short siestas were probably owed more to Dad’s fatigue than any real sense of parental benevolence. Dad was old school masculinity and mom never drove. That meant that when the freeway hypnosis kicked in, he had little choice other than to pull over for a moment and try to regenerate. But Dad was a master at the game. He always let us know that he was stopping for us.
For those of you who never got to experience these concrete oasis, let me tell you what you missed. It was the ultimate tourist trap. Rows upon rows of trinkets and confections that would cause jaw to drop and chin to shine with silver slivers of saliva. Tacky t-shirts and plastic things made in exotic corners of the globe would call out to every kid in a thousand mile radius, brainwashing them into begging mom and dad to buy! Buy! BUY! I swear, we never got out of one of these without aggravating both parental units to the point of yelling, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.
But the pinnacle, the jewel in the Stuckey crown, was the candy aisle.
Row upon row of glistening, over-priced nostalgia called out their Pied Piper song. What kid could resist? Corn syrup and glucose in every shade of the rainbow and artificial flavors that would have made Willy Wonka kneel at the great Stuckey sandals, shone like stained glass windows in a sugar church.
To give my parents their due credit, we never left without something to pacify. There were fizzy Zots and Bottle Caps and gummy Cola and Gatorgum and Pumpkinhead Bubblegum and Slush Puppy Paws and candy buttons and a host of other cavity-causing friends as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Sometimes I would reach for the Nik-L-Nip,
which always looked so promising but never quite satisfied.
But more often than not, I reached for the flat taffy.
Ah. Flat taffy. There is not a fruity flavor of sugary sweetness that can teleport me back to nine quicker than some good, Old Fashioned Flat Taffy.
Recently, I was out on an expedition and I ran into a box of these babies. Of course I had to indulge. As you can see from the smile on my face, I was really thrilled.
Now I don’t know about you, but I only remember one flavor. It was kind of a sweet, mixed fruit flavor. Sometimes I could convince myself that the red was strawberry, the yellow banana, and the blue raspberry, but I could never be fully sure that I was really tasting what I thought I was. Imagine my surprise when I turned the package over and saw:
What the what? There are flavors? I had no idea. I know they didn’t have Cotton Candy or Grape when I was a kid because I was nuts for those two flavors. In fact, I still think that Grape Big League Chew is the greatest flavor of any candy on the planet Earth. All I knew of, back in the day, was Rainbow.
Being the responsible (cough cough) adult that I am today, I did something that I never had done before: I flipped the package over and looked at the ingredients.
Awesome. How can candy be any good without Palm Flakes? I don’t know, and quite frankly, I do not want to live in a world where it is any other way. This thing has no saturated far, no trans fat, no cholesterol, and no Sodium. Only 19g of Carbs? Are you kidding me? These things are practically nutritious! They are even gluten free. I love how they had to tell me that their taffy is not a significant source of either Vitamins A or C.
With the guilt of destroying my diet safely behind me, I eagerly tore into the wrapper.
The smell was an instant time machine. A waxy, fruity fragrance floated toward my nose, sending my olfaction into overdrive. This was the real deal. For a moment, I thought I was wearing my short 80’s shorts, riding in the ol’ green station wagon, my legs sticking to the real leather bench seat in the back. I finished unwrapping and reached for the rainbow.
Okay. I have to admit that my enthusiasm began to dissipate a bit at this point. The taffy looked . . . what’s the word? Elderly? I think that this particular stock had sat on the shelves of this particular craft store since at least last July. Taffy should be soft and pliable without the slightest hint of crunch. This taffy more than hinted.
Luckily, the stale stagnation appeared to have only effected the ends of the treat. Once I began to mess with it a bit, I found the middle parts to be sufficiently bendy.
The first taste was like the first warm day of spring after a nasty winter full of snow and frost. You roll down the windows and let the breeze caress your hair… if you have any… and you blast Here Comes The Sun, by The Beatles, because, little Darling, it really has been a long cold lonely winter.
To be honest, I really bought three bars of taffy. The first two were gone almost before I knew what was happening. My dog looked at me in absolute wonder as I Scooby Doo’ed the whole bars, as if to say, “Hey man, don’t Bogart those.”
Finally, on the third bar, I could relax a little and enjoy myself. Everyone knows that taffy is not only good for eating, and I had no guilt in making this colorfully delicious elephant.
I named him Alfred, and he became my good, close friend….
for about ten seconds….
Then I ate him.
He was delicious.
Time to go get some more taffy. Talk soon.