Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Candy Connoisseur

I never considered my friend Jeff a foodie. When we met in college, his diet was almost exclusively burgers and pizza, with pancakes in the morning. (Yet he magically retained his ripped physique.) On occasion I'd find him eating lasagna and spaghetti, and oh, the Twizzlers. Good Goddess did he eat a lot of Twizzlers. At the movies I'd order popcorn with enough "butter" to make me queasy- what is popcorn but a vehicle for butter and salt?- and Jeff would sit down next to me twenty minutes before the previews started with a lap full of Twizzlers, Sour Patch Kids, maybe some Spree or Bottle Caps, Nerds if he could find them, and polish off the lot halfway through the film. I don't recall any SnoCaps, with Jeff it was pretty much straight sugar.

Back then I was obsessed with trying every dish at the one tiny Vietnamese restaurant off campus, figuring out what that mysterious herb was in the salsa at the Dutch Cabin (answer: cilantro. I come from white folk), and perfecting my one-dish couscous suppers. Jeff was always in the mood for a burger... he had other fine qualities.

After school he moved to L.A., and when I had the good fortune to join him in Lalaland we picked up where we'd left off. Here his diet had expanded to include the occasional salad. No one can resist the Los Angeles "I'll Just Have a Salad" ethos; it's an unavoidable part of the culture even Jeff got sucked into. So far it hasn't killed him, and fortunately hasn't affected his well-defined abs. (How does he do that?)

About a year ago we were wandering through a candy store after a roller coaster at Six Flags. I was expounding on my working theory of Fast Food French Fry Superiority when a funny thing happened: Jeff started talking about Swedish Fish. Or rather, complaining. Apparently, most Swedish Fish are stale. They sit too long and get stiff and tough. I'd never thought about "candy freshness" before. I watched Jeff feel up every bag in the store; when he finally abandonded his search in disgust, it occured to me I may have underestimated my friend. I suggested perhaps Red Vines would suffice? and the look on his face reminded me of my own when people tell me they know a great "Philly Cheese-Steak" place. His eyes held the contempt I usually reserve for militant vegans and "compassionate conservatives."

A lengthy treatise followed: I was schooled on the horrors of Red Vines in all their West Coast-Twizzler-Imitator-Evils, how they're hard, not pliable and the flavor is weak and tastes of chemicals. It was like watching an inverse image of me in the mirror, his blue eyes ablaze, squawking about the finer points of candy texture. He was beautiful. He finally settled on some Skittles (regular, not the Tropical kind).

We had brunch yesterday. As Jeff ate his pancakes, he explained to me that the Nerds Cherry and Sour Apple flavor combination was terrible, the importance of buying the smaller packages of Laffy Taffy (the easier to switch between flavors), and we had a lovely seasonal chat about the best brand of candy corn. Apparently, one company makes it too grainy and soft, though Jeff is wary of tough candy corn as well. I made a mental note for next year to buy him a package of the uber-fancy, homemade candy corn sold at Boule, an elegant patisserie on La Cienega. I just hope it's good enough.


L.J. said...

Tell your friend he can call on me anytime to take those stale Swedish fish off his hands. I LOVE stale. Also, I enjoy burnt and slighly dry. Is there a word for me?

Tory Davis said...