Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Now London is complete*

Now I can buy Lucky Charms cereal, Jif peanut butter, Dr. Pepper, and Orville Redenbachers popcorn - all right here in Covent Garden, less than 10 minutes walking distance from my flat!

I was walking from Covent Garden to Southbank for dinner the other night with a couple of friends and we walked by this bright colourful store called CyberCandy that caught my attention. But we were in a bit of a hurry and I couldn't stop to go in, so I made a mental note of it. I saw their website address lit up in red neon lights at the back of the store, and when I got home I checked it out.

I can't explain the joy it brought me. You have to see for yourself.

Now some of you will get it, others will think I'm insane, or obese - of which I am neither! Let me explain. I spent good chunks of my childhood in the States - where we would spend three months of the year in California. Those were the days when Kuwait didn't have much, snack-wise, other than what you'd find in the baqalas. Don't get me wrong - I loved that stuff growing up, and I still do. But anyone who has been to one of those huge American supermarkets - especially in California - can imagine the joyous wonder that would hit whenever we'd arrive for the start of our three months of pure bliss. Everything was bright and colourful - everything looked, smelled, and tasted magical - and all was delightfully packaged and presented on the shelves in endless rows. Consumerism to the max - and as a kid, you just wanted to wallow in it! Anyway, it was our one chance in the year to really indulge - we'd been good for nine months and this was our reward. My Mom would let my sisters and I pile up our shopping cart with Lucky Charms, New York Seltzers, Doritos and dip, muenster cheese (with sourdough bread, one of our summer breakfast favourites), Wonder bread, Entenmanns mini powdered donuts, beef jerky, oatmeal raisin cookies, Louis Rich turkey, Oscar Mayer hotdogs, the whole range of Hostess cakes, Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers, Stove Top stuffing, Popsicles (the original brand), etc. Not that we'd pig out on a regular basis. My parents let us indulge a bit, but we still ate healthy meals and would have these goodies as our snacks. My Mom would unload all the different munchies into large air-tight containers and keep them in the cupboard so they would stay fresh for quite some time. I guess you have to know my family, know my Mom, and know our home to understand the warm, happy feeling I get whenever I think of those big white containers in the cupboard above the counter. It wasn't simply about the food - it was what it all represented. The start of our magical escape from reality that those summers were for our family. The carefree days of childhood summer ecstasy: picnics with friends in the park, boogie-boarding through the enormous waves at Laguna Beach, the Sawdust Art Festival, bike riding, late-night beach bonfires with s'mores, Magic Mountain, endless movies, South Coast Plaza, etc. Life really was "magically delicious!"

Anyway, I went to college on the east coast and although all those edible delights of my childhood were now at my fingertips on a daily basis, it didn't really mean as much to me anymore. And of course, now even Kuwait has some of the munchies we once had to wait all year to get (some, but not as much as you'd think). So I guess the things you delight in as a child, you take for granted - or no longer see the value in - as an adult. Of couse not. Now we know what beef jerky actually is. Now we know how artificial Hostess cupcakes are - and that Twinkies are downright frightening. Now we watch our weight and no longer have the metabolism of childhood to burn off all the calories from a Ding Dong.

But I'll be perfectly honest. I still love munchies once in a while. And nobody knows how to make munchies quite like they do it in the States. I'm talking munchies here, not actual "food". When it comes to real food - I'm actually a bit of a snob. I buy French cheese and Italian meats and fresh-baked bread and organic vegetables, and the only thing that comes out of a jar in my fridge is Dijon mustard. But when I want to get down and dirty with some so-bad-for-you-but-oh-so-yummy comfort food, American munchies all the way (except, of course, when it comes to chocolate bars). And yes, yes I know, I know - that's why their kids are getting ever more unhealthy and obese. But if having these products on the shelves means careless parents are gonna stuff their children with junk 24/7, that's their problem, not mine. I like to indulge in moderation - as a once-in-a-while treat. So to me: Froot Loops = good, Duncan Hines = great, peanut butter and jelly = amazing!

And now knowing that I can get all this if I want it, right here in London...well it makes me feel like a kid in California all over again! I guess that's the point really. It all reminds me of my childhood. I know that if I tasted some of this stuff for the first time as an adult, I'd probably gag (again, I'm thinking about those crazy Twinkies). In fact, I went to the CyberCandy store the next day and while I literally felt like a kid in a candy store (although their stock wasn't as extensive as the website), I left empty-handed and haven't ordered anything off their website. But just knowing it's there whenever I may want it is good enough for me.

Incidentally, and perhaps conveniently, I happened to join a new gym this week, so all is safe (fat-wise).

Side note: One thing I found strange is that on the CyberCandy site they have Big Red gum listed under German products?! Remember Big Red? I had forgotten it existed until just now, and yet I remember the song from the commercial so well. "So kiss a little longer, stay close a little longer, pull tight a little longer, longer with Big Red, that Big Red freshness lasts right through it, your fresh breath goes on and on, while you chew it, say goodbye a little longer, make it last a little longer, give your breath long-lasting freshness...with Big Red!" (I know my sisters are singing along right now. Next - Juicy Fruit!)

P.S. Raine: check it out - my nightmare! The smell! I'm feeling dizzy and sick just thinking about it.

* Except, of course, for the fact that my P and family are not here! But, you know, superficially speaking!


  • nice blog

    By Blogger sonya, at 11/18/2006 6:50 am  

  • Thanks! Are you the same Sonya I know in Kuwait?

    By Blogger Kleio, at 11/19/2006 12:52 am  

  • I absolutely loved your post. You brought back old childhood memories of candy and hidden sweetshops along the way home.

    By Blogger Tooomz, at 11/19/2006 12:49 pm  

  • Wow sounds cool, for me its the opposite really i have more memories of the long UK summers from my childhood so i like british goods more than the US. Went to school on the east coast and didnt like any of the american chocolate except for Hershey's Symphony milk chocolate and 100% grand was the most edible chocolate on sale in the USA. whenever i had a three day break i would take an STA (student travel assoc.) discounted 150-200 dollars return to london so i can load up on british stuff and bring back to the states. I miss those days pre 2001, travelling was so much easier :)

    By Blogger Spicy Pepper, at 11/19/2006 2:16 pm  

  • Tooomz: Glad I could bring a smile to your face today! :) You know, my memories of childhood baqala trips in Kuwait are wonderful too. There was one in our neighbourhood that we used to call Pinocchio (not what it was really called), and next door was a little bookshop selling original old keshakeel and stuff. To this day whenever I see one of those old notebooks with red binds and corners, I open it to see if it smells the same. Raine found one this year in Italy that had that smell and bought it for me.

    Spicy Pepper: Oh you're absolutely right about chocolate - that's why in my post I said "except, of course, when it comes to chocolate bars." Like you said, the only chocolate I liked in the States was Hershey's. The rest was inedible. We used to bring boxes of stuff from Kuwait. Kit Kat (of course!), Bounty, Lion Bar, etc. My American friends thought I was crazy when I would say there was a huge difference between American Kit Kat and our Kit Kat (which was European). Then they tasted it, and the next time I went home I had to bring back like 3 more boxes!

    STA is how I buy all my tickets home! :) But like you said, traveling today is such a pain. You have to get to Heathrow like 4 hours in advance, even if you've checked in online. I'm so glad I graduated from the States pre-9/11!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 11/19/2006 3:13 pm  

  • I think I'm going to miss my Swedish Fish when I leave. I always make them dance before I pop them in my mouth (in private of course).

    I cannot eat Big Red. Weird thing is that I like spicy food but Big Red just gets to my taste buds. I start to chew and soon enough, my tongue gets numb and I can't taste anything. If you see me opening my mouth and breathing out,"Hauughhh Haughhh," you'd soon figure out that I tried to eat that darn thing.

    PS Thank God my good friend brought a semester's supply of 3ilch ba9ri from Souq il Mbarkeya. I love to pop it :P And the taste lasts forever because there is no taste! The best :D

    By Blogger Erzulie, at 11/20/2006 4:37 am  

  • Erzulie: What are Swedish Fish? Well OK I just googled them so I know what they are. I've never really been into gummy candy. Actually, that's not true. I guess I did like them when I was a kid. And my favourites were the guummy coke bottles (which I still love). That just got me thinking of a whole range of other candy we used to get in Cali. Like Pixie Stix! And those little wax bottles where you bite the top off and drink the coloured syrup inside - Nik-N-Nips. And of course, sour everything and anything.

    Yeah, Big Red is spicy. I'm not a big gum person, either. And I never was much as a kid. I'd always buy gum, but never enjoyed it. Bubble gum, like Bubblicious or Hubba-Bubba, always made me feel a bit sick. As for stick gum, if I had to choose one I'd say Double-Mint was the best. The best gum is the on you get from the baqala in Kuwait where you get a fake tattoo on the inside of the paper wrapper. Remember those? But they were so soft and sweet that I used to end up spitting it out after 10 mins.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 11/20/2006 2:59 pm  

  • Awww man...I just gained 5 kg reading your post :P


    By Anonymous harmonie22, at 11/21/2006 6:45 pm  

  • Harmonie22: It's OK, it's winter. You can hide it all underneath bulky sweaters and jackets.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 11/21/2006 7:09 pm  

  • Oh my god. Where to begin??

    Of course your description of our California summers and the magic Mom would create brought me to tears. It really was magic, wasn't it?! We are so lucky that we had parents who wanted us to experience pure joy like that...

    Mac and cheese. Sloppy Joe's. YUM! As for candy... they have those rootbeer bottle candies on the site! Remember those??? Which restaurant had them?? Anderson's? Marie Calendars? And Gobstoppers - remember Mom would not let us have them no matter how much we begged? :) I now see why! Get one of those monsters stuck and you are a gonner!

    Ignorance is bliss as a child. I love junkfood but now I get so riddled with guilt when I eat any! However, if you do find good old American beef jerkey bring some back with you!!!

    I am going to fill your stocking with Sanrio candy!!!!!!!!

    The keshkool was from Amsterdam :)

    Hey - just remembered... remember how we also used to stock up on candy in the mall at CVS? Along with some school supplies?

    Big Red - I was SO singing!!! It's amazing how we don't forget stuff like that!

    Kit Kat - don't like it as much anymore. I swear it tasted better when it was wrapped with foil and wax paper. Not to mention the satisfaction of slicing the foil apart with your nail!

    Thank you for another wonderful post... I can't wait to visit this place :)

    By Blogger Raine, at 11/24/2006 6:52 pm  

  • If you fill my stocking with Sanrio candy this Christmas I'll stuff yours with those orange circus peanut candies. :)

    Ignorance is bliss as a child in every sort of way. I just so wish we could live like children permanently. I miss that elation of childhood. Being an adult sucks. You see how crappy the world really is.

    The chocolate bar we'd always get from CVS was Milky Way, because the American version was different from the Milky Way we'd get in Kuwait.

    As for Kit Kat - you're right. It's really not the same anymore. I hate the new packaging. And I hate the fact that Kit Kat now comes in different flavours!

    I wish you guys were here with me in London now for all the Christmas glory. Your stockings are gonna be bursting this year! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 11/24/2006 8:19 pm  

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