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The LA Guide to Candy for Grandmothers and Mothers Everywhere

The LA Guide to Candy for Grandmothers and Mothers Everywhere

I just returned from a fabulous trip to Los Angeles where I fully realized my expectations. First, I visited my stepson and his family – most notably 9-year-old Ethan (see picture below) and my son, Adam, who’s in graduate school at UCLA (much too far away from me, in my opinion).  Second, I explored the LA candy scene, and third, tied the two together as I went. Here’s a look at two peak moments in my family-candy based visit.

ETHAN and the 36 Candy Gift Set

I arrived in LA with the usual bathing suit, sunscreen, and other obvious ensembles. I also had gifts for Ethan – a step Grandmother’s favorite bonding experience – which was, no surprise, a real hit with him.

Ethan loved the gift and used it the way candy should be used, which is why his Mom didn’t shriek in horror when she realized the gift (our 3-stack collection of Retro favorites) contained 36 kinds of candies to sample. He didn’t eat the candy all at once but at parentally-determined times, after dinner for example, or as an edible pat-on-the-back for a job well done.  In other words, no sudden bloating, sugar overload, or embarrassing displays of gluttony, which many less-informed parents fear.

Even better, Ethan found games to play with my husband, AKA Grandpa Dan, who was also on the trip. For example, Ethan instructed my husband to close his eyes and then dropped a piece of candy into my husband’s mouth. Then my husband had to both identify the kind of candy, such as jellybeans, which was easy, and the flavor, which was harder. If Dan got it right, Ethan ate a jellybean. If he got it wrong, Ethan ate a jellybean. Candy logic.

The Take-Away: Candy is not the nemesis to health and well-being that everyone thinks it is. We know it has sugar, is made for fun, and we know how to eat it. The true culprit is everything else, all those foods from sauces to energy bars that explode with sugar we don’t even know we’re eating. So don’t get mad when Grandma shows up with sugary treats. Teach your kid new and even better ways to decode manufacturers’ product labels.

Adam and the Candy Bar Extravaganza

I say this without bias – my son, Adam, is close to the most remarkable human being alive. But he does have one peculiarity – he doesn’t like candy. Rather than zigzag to candy stores or rush along the corridor of fun-food kiosks at Venice Beach, we spent lots of time at museums. Which, actually, is my favorite thing to do with Adam and has been since before he could walk. (Of course, we do sell historic candy to museums, so I checked out the gift stores, just in case…)

Another favorite is eating out, the more interesting the food, the better. And so it was when Dan, Adam, and I found ourselves at the outdoor tables of Tar & Roses in Santa Monica where I encountered their interpretive candy bar. So, here are the candy bars we sell at True Treats:







Now – here’s their interpretation:

Get it? I didn’t – it looked more like a sundae without the ice cream. So I asked what kind of candy bar did the chefs have in mind in their creation.  One waitperson

said “Probably Snickers.” Another said: “Probably all of them.” No matter – I tried the candy bar dessert, anyway. NOT exactly a candy bar, but who cares? Candy bars have gone through more iterations than an aging Hollywood movie star. They started as fun food, became part of the first rations in World War I, were sold as an inexpensive meal in a bar during the Depression, and were considered “delicious food” by the National Confectioners Association who gave us this advice about candy bars in particular and all candy in general: “Eat Some Every Day”.

Today, candy bars are on the downswing when it comes to purchases, which is why it’s odd that candy bars have morphed into extremely popular iterations such as cereal bars (Fruity Pebbles, for example) and health and energy bars (buried within the ingredient labels) and desserts like the one Adam, Dan, and I shared at Tar & Roses. My interests were professional, of course. And the verdict: doesn’t taste like a candy bar to me. But it was delicious food, as the NCA once said.

The Take-Away: Candy bars hardly comprise an inexpensive meal and neither does any candy. BUT – candy does mark the good times of our lives and is what we remember most. When I think of LA and seeing Adam, I will remember the Tar & Rose candy bar that wasn’t. They also give us the opportunity to relive those events every time we eat the candy – the smell, flavor, and texture all bringing back the time and place, and love we had for those who shared it.

Candy: Taking the Guilt Out of Good

Candy… It’s More Important Than You Think!

To truly appreciate the importance – yes, importance – of candy, we have to look at the importance of fun. The idea of fun seems simple… we enjoy ourselves! And fun should be simple, but like everything else, it isn’t. Americans have a difficult time accepting and, even, enjoying fun without an overlay of guilt or the need to justify that having fun, in that particular instance, is okay. We compartmentalize fun in increments of time such as that paltry break, or vacation time, or the odd festive occasions such as a wedding.

Puritans – Our Anti-Fun Ancestors

This ethos is brought to you by the Puritan aka Protestant ethic from which our nation was founded: work, discipline, and adherence to strict laws of behavior were more than a good idea. They were the difference between the likelihood of being one of God’s Elect, meaning you would be gifted with eternal life, or not. Many consider capitalism, the bedrock of our economic system, a product of the Puritan work ethic: make money and reinvest the money you have made into making more money and – by the way – borrow money to make money which you pay back by making money to make more money…

All Work & No Play…

Of course, some fun events offer hard work-related perks. For kids, playing games such as soccer or baseball is fun and that’s the primary reason they do it. Other perks include a stronger, healthier body thanks to all that running around, and skills such as being a team-player or developing a competitive nature, both of which, I must add, make them better workers and make their parents ever happier that they’re doing it.

Conversely, many people have fun at work. But even these activities, aren’t fun per se. There’s a difference. We have fun doing them, yes, but we don’t do them just because they’re fun. These activities are justifiable and manageable, with an end-result which is not to have a great time.  Not that there’s anything wrong with these activities. I for one, can testify to their importance – I love work. Even writing this blog makes me happy!

So, What is Fun?

Fun, the opposite of work – it’s something we do simply because we enjoy it. Going to parties – fun. Going to plays, movies – fun. Carnivals and fairs – fun. The beach, a cabin in the woods, a vacation, any vacation, fun, fun, fun. Candy? Oh yeah, fun. The quintessential embodiment of fun. That being the case – when it comes to candy, we’re suspicious.

And Now… A Slice of Reality…

Here’s the reality: we need fun. Just about any health care worker from a massage therapist to a surgeon knows that a positive attitude, a sense of joy or well-being keeps the surgical knife away. And should the worst happen, it makes the bumpy road to recovery that much faster. The world of thinking, i.e., books, articles, and blogs, are avalanched with messages about the power of positive thinking, the importance of de-stressing, and thousands of ways to help yourself feel good.

Retro Hard CandiesAs for candy-fun, here are a few reality checks:

  • Depending on the source, candy accounts for roughly 10% of the calories and sugar we ingest. The rest comes from those other things we eat where we don’t feel guilty.
  • We know that candy is a fun-food and, like fun, we modulate. We enjoy it in predetermined quantities. No one actually eats a full meal of candy. No one. Even kids.
  • Candy contains sugar. We know this. That’s the problem with candy… we think. The problem isn’t sugar – it’s too much sugar. See above. THEN, see below.
  • Our bodies need sugar. Without sugar we die. The first taste we have as humans is mother’s milk and all its nourishing sugar. When babies are in pain, the get an IV or dropper of sugar to ease the pain. As people get older and head for natural death, the flavor they can taste as other flavors fade is sweetness. Hence their love of – yes – candy.
  • Candy benchmarks some of our happiest moments. Think Christmas. Think – Easter. Think birthday parties and birthday giftsgummies for kids, sumptuous truffles for the grown-ups. Think gifts of chocolate on how many other happy occasions?
  • Candy is a visceral holder of memories. I don’t have to tell you – those retro candies you love. The Bit O’ Honey, hard candies, chocolate bars, even jelly beans. Mostly everyone has a memory of the parent, teacher, grandparent, friend, who enjoyed them.
  • Candy gives us a break from the effort of hard work. THINK: candy bowls at work. You stop. Relax. Enjoy. Portions so small you don’t even feel guilty. LIFE IS GOOD!

Still Feel Bad About Feeling Good When It Comes to Candy?

Psychology today offers up these additional advantages. This is but a summary – you can get the full story here: The Superpowers of Candy | Psychology Today

  1. People who regularly eat candy live longer than those who don’t according to a multi-decade study from the Harvard School of Public Health.
  2. A shot of sugar can restore your willpower. Studies show that consuming sugar makes people persevere longer on difficult task, better able to focus, and more likely to delay gratification.
  3. Chewing gum can improve your mood, reduce stress, increase your mental focus, and block pain. The act of repetitive chewing shifts the state of your brain… Areas related to attention and self-control become more active, while areas related to stress and pain processing become less active. Chewing gum also seems to increase serotonin levels… chewing Teaberry Gum, Black Jack Gum, or Beemans Gum can improve your mood!
  4. Chocolate may decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Family Heart Study analyzed the chocolate habits of 4970 participants aged 25-93 years. Those who regularly consumed chocolate had a lower risk of heart disease, and higher “doses” resulted in greater protection. Those who ate chocolate five or more times a week were 60% less likely to have heart disease.
  5. Cotton candy can help you grow new blood vessels…. A finding of researchers at Cornell University and Cornell Medical Center. Amazing!

Need Help Finding the Candy That’s Right For You?

You know where to go! Tested and proven for thousands of years! Love retro? We’ve got you covered.