Burton on the Bay:
I Asked - and Received:
Thanks for All the Ribbon Candy
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus - and contrary to reports in this column three weeks ago, Christmas ribbon candy is still with us. Hooray for New Bay Times readers who added a bit of sentimentality to this writers holiday experience.
Several NBT followers found ribbon candy following my mid-December lamentations on trying unsuccessfully to locate some prior to stocking stuffing time. The old-fashioned super-sweet, hard and sticky candy so popular because of price in the Great Depression, remains available - if you know where to look.
But you'll probably have to wait until next December - unless you have a recipe and the necessary equipment. Ribbon candy, like chocolate bunnies, is available in stores only once a year.
However, it has avoided extinction, which should please old timers who might recall it as the only candy Santa could afford back when presents were scarce and stockings weren't well stuffed during hard times in the '30s.
Failing to locate it on store shelves prompted this columnist to write about Christmases past, when it was stuffed in about every stocking. I lamented how its absence deprived older generations of re-living holidays of yore. What's Christmas without ribbon candy?
Only Christmas without Santa could be worse.
Memories of Times Past
The ink was hardly dry on that column when the first sample of ribbon candy arrived at the Burton home. This four-inch piece was not the traditional red or green with white stripes. It was orange, but still awfully sweet and sticky. When I closed my eyes and munched on a small piece, I recalled boyhood days on a New England farm in the Depression.
More about that delicious surprise in a moment, but also a special thanks to other readers, one of whom via phone reported ribbon candy was available in Safeway and Giant markets. Then a sack of it arrived at New Bay Times headquarters with a note of thanks for prompting more reminiscences. Talk about Santa!
Then, at the annual New Bay Times Christmas party, a whole holiday box of it turned up, courtesy of Aaron Beiler of New Holland, Pa., who three days a week tends the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers' Market, Solomons Island Road, Annapolis.
He, too, had read of the fruitless search for the holiday candy of my youth, and from the shelves of Mary's Candies, named for his wife, he dispatched a nine ounce box of it spun by Sevignys, which has been making ribbon candy at Brockton, Mass., since the year of my birth, 1926. Inside were eight ribbons in various colors, some of which had the old familiar white stripe.
"Yes, it's still around," said Aaron when I called to thank him.
It certainly isn't among the big Christmas sellers, admitted Aaron, who added he might sell 50 to 60 boxes at Christmas. Older people remember it; for others it's more of a "novelty thing," he said.
Hard candies, including those with chewy centers, are holding their own, as are peppermint sticks and candy canes, but chocolate, dark and light, is the big winner now at Christmas time. Chocolate peanut clusters lead the way year 'round, Aaron said.
At Christmas, chocolate takes the shape of sleighs and Santa Clauses and anything else to do with the holiday, which incidentally is the busiest time of the year at candy shops. Surprisingly, Valentine's Day, despite all its hype, ranks down the list with Halloween as candy time.
Easter with its chocolate bunnies and eggs is second, and also a big time for jelly beans, which Aaron told me remain popular all year. Not surprisingly, sugar-free chocolate is an increasingly popular choice, he said.
Many of his candies are made in his Pennsylvania country, where travel is by horse and buggy in true Amish tradition. If I wanted to call him there to discuss deer hunting, he'd pick up the phone outside the house. No such fancy gadgets in the living quarters.
He doesn't travel to and from Annapolis by buggy; someone drives him, with his family and co-workers who staff the market stalls Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Much of the rest of the week involves making the wares at home.
Aaron is a deer hunter. He got one in Pennsylvania and helped Maryland reduce its overabundance by three this year. He also writes a column, often on deer, for his local Amish newspaper. "I just write stories about anything and everything that comes along," he said.
Candy from Near and Far
Another contribution came from Shady Side resident Ida Shiflet, a staffer at Anne Arundel Community College, whose thoughtfulness reminded me of what a small word it is. The piece of candy from Ida, it turned out, was not only homemade but also created by Nancy Buckman, also of the college, who lives in my Riviera Beach neighborhood.
Nancy - mother of Kristen, who was one of my daughter Heather's best school friends - made the candy from a recipe and gadget brought to this country from Russia by her grandmother many years ago. She won't reveal the recipe - it's a family secret - but said the device was something like a funnel that feeds a sweet mix into a ribbon pattern.
It sets almost immediately, and colored dyes can be added for stripes, explained Nancy who promised more from the next batch.
Being diabetic, I only sampled little pieces of several of the offerings, but the rest is on its way to Washington, N.J., where Uncle Jack lives and thinks back to the days kids were happy to get any candy at Christmas. Now it will be his turn to re-live Christmases long past.