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Sweet Memories (Original) [UPDATED]

Every food item has an ingredients label on it, and this bar is no exception. I had some fun with the ingredients list and played up the family theme. I thought about my memories of my Grandmother and the values and elements she poured into each holiday. So my ingredients list reads:

Sweet Memories (Original)

I say "sweets" rather than "candies" because I am British. And it seems to me that a touchstone of national character may well be what kind of candies stick in the sweet tooth of the mind as the pure nostalgia of childhood. But "nostalgia" - meaning a longing to return to past experiences - might not be quite the right word.

I remember how I longed to visit the sweet shop of the wonderfully round and beaming Mr. Percy. I overcame constitutional shyness to ask him for a "quarter of jellies" or "six ounces of licorice allsorts, please" (that terminal "please" being a well-drummed-in politeness). But when I recall some of the sweets I loved as a child, I view my child-self as almost belonging to another, rather revolting, species.

I was especially fond of two sweets that today I would rather (almost) go bungee-jumping than eat. They were Refreshers (still available) and what I think were called Trebor Chews. The first, in pastel colors of unsurpassed artificiality, fizzle sharply on the tongue. The second were a hybrid between chewing gum (which I've never liked) and toffee, and were flavored as their colors indicated: yellow for "lemon," pink for "strawberry," black for "licorice," ochre (I fancy) for "banana," and purple for "black currant." But none of these flavors was at all authentic. The very thought of them now makes me shudder.

WHILE I was at prep school, the rigorous wartime sweet rationing was relaxed at last (February 1953, to be precise). As senior boys, we were allowed once a week to walk down the long drive to buy at the tiny shop whatever sweets our pocket money could encompass. It was an occasion of unsurpassable privilege, a day of longed-for, shining importance.

Oh, sweets are nostalgia, all right. There is even a company in Lawrence, Kan., called "Brits" that offers (presumably to desperate ex-pats) bars of Cadbury's Fruit and Nut chocolate, Smarties, jelly babies, walnut whips, and much more. What is interesting about their offerings is that they are still, as it were, in print. New products come and go, but such things as Mars Bars, KitKats, Rollos, Fry's Turkish Delight, and Maltesers ("with the less fattening centres") are stalwarts, showing (though sometimes they're not as good as they used to be) no sign of redundancy.

I like to think such sweets are original to my childhood. But the fact is that most belong to several generations before mine. Even their frequently inseparable slogans are also surprisingly longstanding. "Have a break ... Have a KitKat" is 40 years old. "Make the Day with Cadbury's Milk Tray" was certainly in use in 1961. I'm not sure about "Can I have Fruit Gum, Mum?" or "Are you a Fruit and Nut Case?" but I guess they are of no mean vintage.

On a side street in Warwick is a 9-by-12-foot shop run by Henry Odia that specializes in "nostalgic sweets." Henry's list boasts things that one had presumed were long ago discontinued as small old companies were taken over by large ones with new managers more interested in money than toffee bonbons or pear drops. They make decisions based on packaging convenience and new marketing techniques and show scant regard for those who still yearn for coconut mushrooms or sour plums or Bristol Mint Humbugs.

Mr. Odia tells a nice story about an old sweet (which I have never heard of) called Squirrel Cherry Lips. "They taste of soap, truth be told," he observes wryly. But it seems that, like Lyons Midget Gems or Pontefract Cakes (a Yorkshire licorice confection belonging to my childhood), they have a cult following. The company, Squirrel, was taken over. Cherry Lips were among several lines that were dropped. But then," says Henry, "there was such an outcry, that they had to bring them back."

MR. ODIA'S Web pages bring him a range of "can you find?" inquiries, which he does his level best to satisfy. He says it is often "like an agony column, really." I can imagine. A world without genuine Gob Stoppers (the kind you keep taking out of your mouth to check which layer of color you have reached) or sugar pigs or genuine Sherbet Lemons (hard-boiled sweets that, when you finally suck the shell thin enough, spurt out a dash of fizzy citric powder - m-m-m-m) is, or should be, inconceivable.

But in honor of Wolfe's passing, we'd like to take note of some memories of the novelist's own. Specifically, his accounts of his childhood home, which are very different than his other writings that made him, arguably, one of the greatest writers of the 21st and 20th centuries.

As the thirties wore on, more and more houses were built on Gloucester, Loxley, and Brookland Parkway, and there were more and more children to play with. I remember the neighborhood as absolute paradise for children. This may be the Old Oak Bucket delusion, but that's the way I remember it. There was so little traffic on Gloucester and Loxley we could ride our bicycles day and night, which we did, including the night. One of my fondest memories is of my friends and I riding our bicycles, balloon-tire, of course, along Loxley Road at night while the fireflies twinkled among the mimosa blossoms. I hope the mimosa trees are still there. We had to stay off Brookland Parkway and Westwood Avenue because of the traffic, but that was no problem, since we could always cut through the block by using the alleys. The alleys were beautifully conceived, I thought, and quite pretty as well as useful. The only problem, from a child's point of view, was the brick wall where the two alleys meet toward the north end of the block. This meant that someone arriving on the alley that ran from east to west might not see a child heading north along the long alley. So until I was six or seven, I guess, I was not allowed to go from the long alley across the east-west alley. My mother referred to it as Danger Alley. In fact, far more dangerous than Danger Alley was the practice we children had of playing on the rafters of the new houses going up in the neighborhood. Naturally our parents forbade that practice, but we were drawn irresistibly to these building sites, and death-defying rafter walks were among our favorite pastimes. Why no one was ever hurt doing this I will never know. Up until 1945 and the end of the second World War there were always plenty of vacant lots in and around the neighborhood, where we played football and basketball. One of the fathers built a basketball backboard with a four-by-four to support it, and he erected it on a lot on Brookland Parkway. We had many games of six-man football, complete with uniforms and helmets. Sometimes we played on the huge meadow on the east side of Loxley that was owned by the Seminary. In the spring and early summer in the early 1940s we played baseball every Saturday on the diamond that is now, if it still exists, under the shadow of I-95 on the Boulevard. There was no problem at all rounding up eighteen to thirty boys from Sherwood Park and Ginter Park for these games. Little Leagues didn't exist, although there were organized American Legion Leagues for youngsters. But what I will always remember are the freedom, confidence, and unfettered pleasure that we children had.

This spring, as part of the On Our Plate series in Food, the Journal Sentinel's dining critic Carol Deptolla wrote about the history of bakeries in the Milwaukee area. She invited readers to send in their memories of bakeries and bakery foods past.

There were so many great bakeries around town in the '60s. Three that come to mind are the Spudnut Shop on Green Bay Ave. next to Solly's (never have been able to find a suitable potato-based doughnut since they closed); Rick's Bakery on Port Washington Road just south of Capitol Drive; and Wedekinds Bakery on 12th and Atkinson Ave., both of whom featured the best sweet rolls and breads around.

My family has fond memories of enjoying a delicious Christmas tree bread on Christmas morning from the Shorewood Village bakery. It was a pull-apart, yeast bread with an orange-flavored powdered sugar frosting and decorated with nonpareils. I would appreciate having the recipe from the former baker or (his) family.

I have many happy memories of bakeries from my childhood in the '50s and '60s. Until 1964, my family lived on W. Fond du Lac Ave., and the bakeries we patronized most were Heinemann's (at Capitol Court), and Kapp's, which was located on W. Fond du Lac Avenue, just south of Capitol Drive. Heinemann's streusel coffeecakes were wonderful, as were the long johns from Kapp's.

On 39th and North was a bakery called Lou's. My favorites were the coconut bars, the twice-baked rye bread and a delight called the bird's nest, which was a very large sweet, delicate, deep-fried pastry.

We are Gordon and Barb King from the old Wilbert's Bakery on 37th and Villard. The storefront no longer exists, but we carry the memories in our hearts and hands, and all the recipes for our products in a special box. 041b061a72


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