Sunday, August 28, 2005


Candyfreak (reviewed below) offered readers the chance to ruminate about their candy memories. I was going to do so, and then realized that there were far too many to reduce to one simple post. I thought I'd post them here instead.

Back in the late '80s, my Girl Scout troop decided to take a tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, California. This was back when the Nut Tree factory outlet stores were still new and had not yet killed their parent, and when a human maze-craze had just been imported from Japan and the Wooz was brand new. Fairfield/Vacaville was a happening place.

Personally, I had not yet realized that Jelly Belly was a name brand, not just something silly people called one another (instead of "Jelly Bean.") Of course, that misconception was quickly shattered.

At that time, the tour started in a little corner of the factory that had been turned into an impromptu gift shop; the hours were horrible and the room dimly lit. We got a short video introduction, little paper hats, and a tour guide who actually took us on the factory floor and gave us samples of the Jelly Belly beans in various stages of the process. We didn't see anything resembling any other types of candy, which is interesting if you realize that the Herman Goelitz Candy Company (the official name, though they may have changed that) is the inventor of an iconic Halloween candy, candy corn. Really. They also make gummies, jawbreakers, and various chocolatey products, but it was candy corn that gave this company a living.

Of course, as with any good factory tour, the highlight was the gift shop. Back then, Belly Flops - the mistakes - were sold from a big barrel, no doubt laden with germs, from which you could scoop your own. There was a layer of licorice on the top from people who were either clever with their scoops or picked them out by hand. These days, Belly Flops are sold by the two-pound bag. You could also buy specific flavors by the pound, a much more expensive proposition.

This one visit didn't make a huge impact on my family. That came later, after a Christmas shopping trip with my brother's girlfriend. We passed by a Sweet Factory in the mall in downtown Sacramento, and I said how much I wanted Jelly Bellys, but they were so expensive there. She said, "The factory's not so far," and we drove out to Fairfield - a forty-minute proposition - just to satisfy our sweet tooths.

(She wanted me to buy one bag of Belly Flops that had a huge smear of blueberry beans in it, perhaps twenty or forty beans together in a huge blob. I declined because I was afraid it would come to life and eat us.)

So later that spring, when we were returning from a trip to the Bay Area, I made a comment as we passed by the exit for the factory, something about how it was a shame that they were probably closed. My father was shocked; he told me to make sure to tell him BEFORE we hit the exit next time, as he didn't know I knew where the factory was! Ever since then, my parents will stock up on Belly Flops every few months and gift them out (and eat them, too.) They were the ones who notified me about the new tourist building and huge gift shop, and as they travel to the Bay Area frequently (I have two sisters with kids there), they have lots of reason to stop.

Oh, how I love Jelly Bellys...

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