Near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, close to the corner of Essex and Rivington Street, you will find Economy Candy. A place filled to the brim with candy bars, candy canes, jellybeans, chocolate bars and sour sweets. I’m almost certain this is the place where Hansel and Gretel’s wicked witch shopped for candy to decorate her cottage with. Who can blame her?
Last Fall we visited New York, having heard about this place, I insisted a pitstop at candy heaven before we’d walk on to Katz’s. I left the store with a bag full of candy bars. Something I new I would get long before we even left for NYC. Why? Because I love edible souvenirs and I find it fascinating that each country has its own collection of candy bars.
Let me explain: I can’t possibly think of anything more fun to do in a foreign country than to visit a food store of some kind. To see what other people eat and find ordinary, tells you a lot about a culture, a people and a history. All things I enjoy learning about.
When in Germany I bring back baking supplies. When in Finland I smuggle pearl sugar home in my suitcase. When in South Africa, it’s piri piri spices I pack. From Paris I brought back packets of baking powder with colourful designs on them. In London I collected bars of chocolate to bring home, some old favourites, others new to me. And as mentioned, from New York I brought back candy bars; with colourful wrappers and intriguing names like ‘oh henry’ and ‘100 grand’.
Have you ever wondered how a candy bar came to be? Who invented it, what its history is? What role it played in the childhood of a generation? Why does packaging design play such a big role in one country and hardly any in another? Why is food so bland in some places and spicy hot in others?
These are just a few of the questions that I think of when I wander the aisle of a foreign grocery store. And I know I’m not alone in this: there a more people who think this way, shop this way and smuggle the occasional edible souvenir in their luggage.
I wonder what other people think of when they shop abroad and why they bring back edible goods. Is there someone else out there who knew, like I did, when they travelled to New York that they would bring back a bag full of candy bars? In search for like-minded edible souvenir souls I’m starting a new interview series on the subject. Do you bring home edible souvenirs too? I’d love to hear from you!
To be continued…