Saturday, January 7, 2012

NOW Richer Chocolate Taste!

When I was a kid, my favorite candy bar was 3 Musketeers. It started as a decision of utility more than anything else. When you're ten and you have only enough for one candy bar--and you don't know where the next one is coming from--you want to get the most for your money, right? So I would pore over the respective weights of all the candy bars and choose the one with the most in it. Butterfinger (2.1 ounces) and 3 Musketeers (2.13 ounces) were the consistent winners, with Baby Ruth at 2 ounces a close third. Butterfingers were good, but I got tired of getting the candy stuck between my teeth so I settled into a years-long relationship with 3 Musketeers. I loved biting off the thin chocolate shell with my front teeth, leaving a small section of pure nougat that would melt slowly in my mouth. I savored every bit of that candy bar, whether I was nibbling away at it or taking a big bite and chewing furiously, reveling in the sugar rush that ensued. We belonged together, me and 3 Musketeers.

But then I got older, and I got a job, and with it more money and more options. I began to experiment with other candy bars--I could afford to splurge now, after all. What was a half an ounce to me? Or an ounce, even? Reese's Pieces, Twix, Zero, Snickers, Nutrageous--I tried them all. 3 Musketeers was boring. Just chocolate and nougat? No nuts? No caramel? Please. I found myself buying it less and less, until eventually I stopped altogether. Not even nostalgia was enough to keep me coming back. American candy bars in general were starting to get old, and I found myself having to cross international borders to get the same thrills: from Big Turk and Coffee Crisp in the Great White North to Lion and Yorkie in England, I needed more and more variety and originality to satisfy my impulses. It wasn't until I woke up in an alley in Amsterdam, having nearly overdosed on licorice drops the night before, that I realized I'd probably gotten all I was going to get out of mass-marketed sweets.

I came home and nearly gave up candy bars altogether. When I did have one, it was almost out of habit, and there was no joy in it. I turned my attention elsewhere, to soft cookies, brownies, and pie. Occasionally, something good would come along, like a Fast Break, and keep my attention for awhile. But I was never able to commit for very long. Not like I did with my 3 Musketeers.

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a Fun Size 3 Musketeers bar in a candy dish somewhere, anywhere (who pays attention to these things?) and noticed something curious written on the wrapper: "NOW Richer Chocolate Taste." I thought little of it as I devoured the tiny piece, but a second or two later took pause as the flavor set in. It was subtle, but disctinct. And decidedly "richer." Could it be? Had my old love been given a new lease on pop-culture relevancy? I ate one or two more Fun Size pieces and relished them slowly, biting off the thin chocolate shell and letting the creamy nougat melt in my mouth. And all the memories came flooding back. How could I have been gone so long?

The other day I stood before the vending machine at work, deliberating, when I saw it. A 3 Musketeers bar, all full-bodied 2.13 ounces, boldly proclaiming its new makeover, seducing me through the fingerprinted and greasy plate glass.

I dropped my coins in the slot.

Baby, I'm back. Will you still have me?

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