CAMROSE, Alta. — Every time Crystal Regehr Westergard would go out shopping as a youth, she would ask her mother if she wanted anything.
There was only ever one request: Cuban Lunch.
The rectangular peanut-and-chocolate confection has always been a favourite of Elfie Regehr, now 85. It was an affordable treat for people who, like her, grew up on the Prairies during the Great Depression and Second World War.
When the Winnipeg factory that made Cuban Lunch closed down nearly three decades ago, Regehr Westergard’s mother was stoic.
“She wouldn’t be someone to go on and on about it. Life is what it is for that generation,” Regehr Westergard said from Camrose, Alta.
“But you knew it was her favourite bar.”
Regehr Westergard was inspired to revive the candy after her mother was moved to a nursing home a couple of years ago.
“There’s so few things I can give her as a gift that will light her up, that will make her day, that would make a meaningful difference,” she said.
She dug into online forums, books and even tracked down someone who worked at the Winnipeg factory back in its heyday to pick his brain.
“I saw that there was just a whole community online who, like me, were questing for this special treat — for their parents, largely.”
Regehr Westergard and her husband Bert Westergard started tinkering to recreate the recipe. They would bring some to the nursing home, to her mother’s delight.
Eventually the couple moved to rented kitchens, but the batches were too small to keep up with the demand from the throngs clamouring for the nostalgic treat, which came nestled in a red cup wrapped in cellophane.
So a chocolate factory in Delta, British Columbia, — Brockmann’s Chocolates — was enlisted in the effort. Virtually all other facilities Regehr Westergard explored were peanut-free.
The focus now is on getting the packaging and graphics just right. Regehr Westergard is hoping the candy will be on the market in the next four or five weeks, but she cautions there could be delays.
As part of the process, her husband had to purchase the trademark for Cuban Lunch from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, which had lapsed.
It was laughably cheap to do so.
“I’m not telling people how cheap it is or everyone will run out and get all the trademarks in the whole world and I’ll never get another one,” Regehr Westergard said with a hearty laugh.
“Lots of things did cost us a lot, I’ll tell ya. But not that.”
Regehr Westergard has no intention of quitting her day job.
The Cuban Lunch project is a nice contrast to her work as a physiotherapist, where patients sometimes need a little cajoling and reminding to come to appointments.
“You do not have to help people work up the nerve to come for some chocolate, so it’s nice.”