When I saw my oversized glass owl jar sitting empty on a shelf, I wondered how I could use it to decorate the bakery in October. I wanted to fill it with something orange. Suddenly, a landslide of memories flowed into my mind starting with those orange marshmallow candies shaped like very big peanuts, called circus peanuts. I don’t really know anyone who has ever said” I ate a bag of circus peanuts last night and they were so delicious.” or, “Hey, get me a bag of circus peanuts while you’re at the grocery store. I’m having a craving.” But my grandmother always had them on hand along with sugar sparkling orange jelly slices.
They are both penny candies created in the early 20th century. I utterly adored all penny candy as a kid. After collecting pop bottles with my friends, we would ride our bikes to Parkview Market, where you would get money for bringing in glass bottles. We would usually turn around and purchase penny candies of all sorts like candy cigarettes, wax bottles of colored sugar water or paper strips covered with colorful sugar dots from the same store. The second-best part of buying penny candy was having the person at the counter carefully put your selections into a miniature brown paper bag. Reaching in was part of the joy.
Hanging out with my dad’s mother, who we affectionately called Granny Davis, was like hanging out with another kid. She had all of our favorite things at her house. We drank our chocolate milk out of mugs painted with bluebirds. Each of their handles was also a whistle. We each had our own TV tables if we needed to eat our grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup with catchup in front of our favorite shows. On Saturday afternoons Granny would pull our child-sized leatherette rocking chair in front of the TV and get herself ready to watch BIG TIME WRESTLING. Even as kids, we would tell her that those guys were faking it. We could tell the difference between real punches and a fake fall, but she insisted that those characters like BoBo Brazil, Haystack Calhoun and Dick the Bruiser were all legit and she would root them on. On our urging, she would tell us stories about a fictitious boy named Albert and his watermelon as we dozed off on the maroon-colored taffeta comforter in her bedroom, whose walls were covered with luxurious peony wallpaper.
We would beg her to vacuum the living room because when she did, she would chase us with her fancy electric vacuum that had a headlight fit for a motorcycle. She made daily chores so much fun. I think she had a lot to do with my thinking that work could be fun. I cannot remember a better chore to partake in than what happened on laundry day. If I was lucky, I would be allowed to hand feed the wet laundry through the wringer and watch it transform into a long skinny pile that resembled multicolored taffy. Granny would carry the wet clothes in a huge wicker basket up the basement steps into her backyard and hang each piece on a clothesline while we ran and hid between sheets, underwear, and Grandpa’s shirts.
I’ve digressed. Let’s get back to orange circus peanuts and my Halloween owl jar. I decided to fill that jar with orange circus peanuts and counted each peanut as I put them in. I had to go back three times to the Dollar Store to purchase more bags to fill it. I’m assuming very few of you would want to eat those circus peanuts as the prize for guessing the correct number of circus peanuts in the jar, so the person guessing closest to the that number will instead win a delicious pumpkin cheesecake. Take a guess by sending that number with your name to marketing@ or place your guess at the bakery. Let’s have some fun.