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Life in Retirement: Candy brings back countless memories

Sandy Bexon explores food nostalgia
Sandy Bexon. (File photo)

​​​​​​Candy is the food that most readily takes me back to a childhood memory. That might be a sad statement for people whose first thought goes to spiced cookies or Irish stew or glass jars of preserves lining the cellar shelves. I have those wonderful memories, too, but the rainy afternoons when my oldest sister made a batch of fudge or our Friday Candy Night tradition take me to countless memories.


My sister always had Gordon Lightfoot’s album strumming on the turntable while she stirred her pot of sweetness on the stove, so that’s the depth of nostalgia I’m talking about here. The mid-1960s. She stopped by for a visit while she was in town the other day, so I was able to test her Candy Night knowledge while all these memories were soft and gentle on my mind. I had samples of what they market as Canada’s Candy Nostalgia, because my grocery store has created a traditional candy section. I was immediately hooked. Of course, you sort of have to pass right through it as soon as you enter through the door, so everyone with a sweet tooth can readily walk down memory lane!


I held out the hard white peppermints. Nana, she rightly answered. The butter rum LifeSavers. Gramma – right again. The small rectangle of chocolate set inside a red paper with red writing: Cuban Lunch. Dad! Yup, she got all three right and, as we shared the treats (carefully measured right down the middle, just like old times), we talked particularly about the Cuban Lunch.


Neither of us can remember Dad ever eating a different treat, even though some of us took risks given that Candy Night would come around religiously the following week if you chose something you didn’t like. In fact, I went through a phase when I purposefully chose things I didn’t like because they lasted longer. Or I chose a bag of chips and hammered my fist on the bag before I opened it, so the tiny pieces made the snack last longer.


But not Dad. He held firm to his Cuban Lunch and would nibble it slowly with satisfaction. Week after week. Until they were no longer on the shelf, that is. I don’t recall if he ever found a substitute, but I know he missed his favourite treat. I remember finding something called a Cuban Lunch when I was on holidays and I brought it back for him, even though it was a white nugget confection with pistachio and other nuts. “But I like Cuban Lunch,” he said, “like the kind they made during the Cuban Missile Crisis!”


Oh my, that’s not going to help anyone’s marketing plan, especially because a company out of Camrose has re-released THE Cuban Lunch. It’s too late for Dad to enjoy it again, but we sure did – just about as much as talking about all the memories.


What’s your food nostalgia? Is it a heritage story from your homeland, where different spices and cooking methods created something spectacular that you shared with extended family? Is it a memory of your mom’s fresh bread baking, or of your role in the preparation of dinner. The Jungle Farm, a popular u-pick farm just south of Red Deer, has launched a Heritage Project where they are looking for snippets of stories from people throughout the area. These will be compiled and shared in a web feature and may become part of an upcoming Jungle Farm history cookbook. Check it out on The Jungle Farm website!

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