Every time I opened my top desk drawer I saw it, the brown paper bag holding the candy bar. It beckoned to me, but I held my resolve — no candy until after Lent.
It was a special candy bar, one that was supposed to be similar to one I had loved as a child. Beth Colvin, The Advocate’s assistant food editor, had found it in a Cracker Barrel in Caddo Valley, Ark.
Let me backtrack. One day Beth and I were talking about favorite candies from childhood. I mentioned that my absolute favorite was the Seven Up Candy Bar. She’d never heard of it, a reaction I’ve grown used to. I hadn’t seen one in years.
The Seven Up Candy Bar, made by Pearson Candy Co., consisted of seven segments, each filled with a different flavor, and covered with either milk or dark chocolate. The flavors apparently changed over the years, depending on the popularity of ingredients. Flavors I remember were brazil nut, coconut, caramel, maple, orange jelly, fudge and nougat. Others were buttercream, butterscotch, cherry, mint and pudding.
The only time I’d get a Seven Up Candy Bar — it had to be dark chocolate — was at the movies. The Seven Up was expensive. While I don’t remember the price, I do recall that I could have gotten a soft drink and popcorn for what I spent on the Seven Up. It was worth every penny.
Alas, high manufacturing costs and apparent trademark issues with a soda manufacturer caused the bar to be retired in 1979.
Back to the candy bar in my desk drawer. Beth had done an Internet search and discovered Necco is making the Sky Bar described as similar to the Seven Up. The Sky Bar, covered in milk chocolate, is composed of four “pillows,” each filled with a different flavor: caramel, vanilla, peanut and fudge.
Easter arrived and I could finally eat that Sky Bar. What a disappointment! It was nothing like the Seven Up Candy Bar. There was so little filling in each pillow I couldn’t discern one flavor from the other. Plus, the fillings were liquidy, not firm and generously sized like the Seven Up’s were, and the chocolate coating, too waxy and too sweet.
I recalled how my father sometimes insisted certain food products didn’t taste as good as they had when he was young. We’d tease that his taste buds weren’t what they’d been or his memory was playing tricks on him. Now, here I am remembering how delightfully rich a candy bar from my childhood tasted. I wish I could apologize to Dad.
Some treats do remain as delicious today as one remembers them from years ago. Pralines, for example.
For a recent dinner party, Kay Harrison asked me to make pralines using a recipe she’d found in Mary Faulk Koock’s “The Texas Cookbook: From Barbecue to Banquet — an Informal View of Dining and Entertaining the Texas Way” (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1965).
Kay told me that when she lived in Austin, Texas, “every Mexican restaurant gave you your choice: ‘Candy or sherbet?’ Sherbet was lime or orange, one scoop in a bowl, or a generous pile of small, thin pralines in a saucer on the table.
“And then there was no charge. Same custom today, but they charge!”
I’d seen the exact recipe in “Dallas Dish” by the Junior League of Dallas (2005), and I suspect it has been passed among Texas home cooks for many years. The recipe is very easy; just don’t try to make the pralines on an overcast day.
Makes about 31/2 dozen small, thin pralines. Recipe is provided by Kay Harrison.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tbl. butter or margarine
1 cup pecan pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk, butter and pecans in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 11/2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Beat until creamy.
2. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a foil- or wax paper-lined baking sheet and let stand until cool. Store in an airtight container. Recipe can be doubled.
Note: If the praline mixture starts to thicken before the last bit has been spooned out, put the saucepan back on the stove for a minute or two until the mixture is liquidy and begin spooning out. Also, if the pralines don’t set, scrape the praline mixture back into the pot and return to a boil for 11/2 minutes. Beat until creamy and spoon out again.