Neglected, but equally impressive, is Spanish gummi candy.
When I had been dating my boyfriend long enough that we were still the epitome of charm in one another’s eyes, but not quite long enough that quirks had become intolerable, we were walking over to his parent’s house for Sunday lunch. His parents and I were still new to each other and I was nervous. I paused to visit a street vendor who sold gummi candy.
“Hi Carmela, how’re things?”
“Good, good, what’ll it be today, child?” My boyfriend watched and waited until I finished buying a few peach gummi hearts.
“You still eat those candies? They’re for children.”
“I LOVE these gummis – there are none better in the world. I know. I eat a lot of candy. Want one?”
“No thanks, we’re about to have lunch at my parents’….”
“Yeah, I know….” My teeth were loving the abrasive sugar against their enamel, the contrast from the rough sugar-coating to the tender jelly of the center of the gummi.
A few blocks later we passed a candy shop. My boyfriend tugged my hand and entered the shop.
“Here, I will show you how to get rid of that habit.”
I swear the shop was made of sugar.
“Now, choose a kilo of gummi candy.”
I shrugged and took one of the plastic bags and started to fill: peach hearts (of course), licorice bricks filled with cream and covered with “pica pica” (a tart coating), gummi brains, gummi strawberries, pink marshmallows, gummi soda bottles. And I paused, I admit it, I had never bought more than a modest bag of candy, now I was cramming gummis into the bag.
“That should do….”
“That’s only about half a kilo. Get more.”
Twist my arm. Gummi fried eggs, gummi green apples, red licorice tubes filled with cream and coated in pica pica, gummi sharks, gummi feet, gummi hands. One kilo.
“Now if you eat those all during the week, you will never eat them again.”
As we left the store, I undid the plastic bag’s knot and popped gummi after gummi into my mouth, grateful for the pica pica that broke the sweetness. By the time we had walked past the Retiro, I had eaten half the bag. My boyfriend fretted that I would get ill.
“Clearly you don’t know me.”
By the time we were going up the elevator I had put the last peach heart in my mouth and was swallowing it when we got to his parents’ flat.
We had a lovely lunch. We had coffee after lunch and my future father-in-law asked,
“Would you like sugar?”
“No, thank you.” I replied primly, my hands trembling.
My boyfriend was now watching me with open admiration. He asked to walk me home, back through the Retiro park, across the Castellano, up towards the Plaza de las Salesas….
“Do you think you might feel like having a beer at the Irish pub…?”
“Sure,” I said gamely. My gut cringed but accepted the pint like a champ.
We hung out for about an hour and then continued toward my flat. We were almost there when I saw Carmela’s candy stand.
“Hold on a second….Hi Carmela! May I have two of those peach hearts?”
“¡Hija! Only two?! What, aren’t you feeling well?”
“I had a big lunch.” I patted my stomach, smiled lovingly at my boyfriend, and handed him one of the peach hearts. “Here, you have my heart. Eat this one and never try to break me of a bad habit.”