Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Second Best Food That Never Existed.

It's a MiniBest!

Is it just me, or did many of the so-called "candies" in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory... suck?

I suppose that's to be expected, given the era in which Roald Dahl wrote. He wrote Charlie and The Chocolate Factory in the 1960s, after all, and the 1940s-1970s era was, as I've gathered, marked by two things: a staggering level of conformity that resulted in Baby Boomers deciding to "break free" by wearing horrible fringed clothing and listening to horrible music from Jimi Hendrix, and awful candy.

Not having been alive in the 1940s-1970s era myself -- well, okay, I was, briefly, alive, because I was born in January, 1969, so I lived through the last year of that greatly-overhyped time -- not having been alive and eating candy during that time, I have to use science to deduce that candy in that era was terrible, and I make that deduction by looking at what was supposed to be great fictional candy, and deciding that if the great fictional candy was supposed to be an improvement on everyday life, then every day life candy must have been godawful.

That's how it works in fiction, right? We take all the bad things about every day life -- jobs and in-laws and the fact that almost none of us have magical powers -- and we elaborate on it and make life into what it should be -- a life where our in-laws take us to Hawaii for the week, all-expenses paid, or where our "jobs" are piloting spaceships, or where at least some of us have magical powers.

I assume that fiction writers were doing that back in the 1940s and 50s and 60s, and I assume that when they wrote about candy, they were doing that, too -- looking at the terrible candy they had available, and making it more magical, more wondrous, more better.

That's how I know the candy back then had to be terrible: because fictional candy from that time sounds horrible.

Look at The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe: What did Edmund crave more than anything, crave so much that he sold out humanity for a taste of it? Turkish Delight.

I didn't know, for the longest time, what Turkish Delight is, but the name sounded good, and the way Edmund pigged it down, I assumed it must be great.

Well, you know what Turkish Delight is? It's a soft, jelly-like candy that comes in three flavors: lemon, rosewater, and something called mastic.

That sounds disgusting. And so did most of the fake candies invented for Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Rainbow drops to let you spit colors, "Wriggle-sweets," and "Lickable wallpaper" were bad enough -- but 3-Course-Dinner gum? Who wants gum that tastes like mashed potatoes?

And the Everlasting Gobstopper? That's just a jawbreaker. And those aren't even candy. Jawbreakers are an exercise in frustration, only with a sugar coating. (Kind of like life itself... now that I think about it. Hey, there's my idea for a series of motivational books and speeches:

"Cracking The Jawbreaker: How To Enjoy The Sweet Taste Of Life While Working Your Way Through The Hard Part."

I could come bounding on stage in my polo shirt and khakis, tossing jawbreakers out to the clapping, cheering crowd and then lead them through a multimedia presentation that would tell them nothing more than what they already know, but would do it in candy metaphors!

I'm a genius!

Anyway, I loved the Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator books, and all the other Roald Dahl books I read, although I hesitate to admit that because I'm not sure if we as a society are officially "liking Roald Dahl," "disliking Roald Dahl," "liking Roald Dahl while thinking he's racist," or "indifferent to the whole thing, now, what was that you said about Heidi Montag again?"

I loved his books, but I hated the candies that he invented to make the world a better place. They were awful. Almost everything Willy Wonka claimed to have invented, or to be inventing, was either terrible-sounding or already existed. Willy Wonka made great chocolate bars? Ho-hum. Even in the 1940s, they had chocolate candy bars. (Of course, they were short on chocolate because of the war effort, and so they had to substitute in burnt road tar, which everyone called War Chocolate, but they loved it because they were patriotic!)

What wasn't already in existence should never have been -- horrible homonculi of candy, simulacrums of treats like "square candies that look round."

That's candy? That's not candy. That's an MC Escher drawing.

All of the candies created by Dahl that were supposed to be magical were either not magical, or were horrifying, except for one thing: The Fizzy Lifting Drink -- those bubbles that Charlie and His Grandpa ate to make them fly.

Those were really awesome. Those were really something: Bubbles that can make you fly. That was new and incredible. That was an amazing thing that Roald Dahl came up with: a treat that really did something new. Not just combined ingredients in a different order the way Taco Bell does with their food, but actually did something new, and not just something new, but something that we'd really want it to do.

Nobody over the age of 3 wants to spit in different colors. (Okay, maybe sometimes I do...) Nobody wants a piece of candy that lasts forever, no matter how many different flavors they claim to have. (And I note that any candy that claims to come in a million different flavors really has just one flavor: sour apple.) Nobody needs yet another chocolate bar.

But if there were Fizzy Drinks that could make you fly -- that would be great. Imagine the possibilities: Fly to work. Fly home from work. Fly... other places. (Okay, I'm a little burdened by work right now. But as soon as I'm less busy I'll think of other places to fly, like... Memphis!)

Kids could have a little and be bouncing and flying around the playroom. Parents could tether their kids and take them to the zoo, letting them fly up in the air to actually see the animals, something that was never possible before because there's always that group of people that got to the polar bears first and they're just hogging up all the space on the railing and they've been there forever, come on, let someone else see! ... but you wouldn't have to worry about that with Fizzy Lifting Drink.

Putting groceries away when we got home would be a piece of cake: No more trudging up and down the stairs to the garage. I'd just park in the driveway, grab some bags and float up to the front window. Sweetie wouldn't like me bringing in the groceries through the window, but I'm married: I don't have to worry about what Sweetie likes. That's what marriage is all about.

So here's to Fizzy Lifting Drink, The Second Best Food That Never Existed. And here's to hoping that scientists will soon actually invent that, thereby proving that science has a reason for existing after all.

Scientists, if you need a little motivation to get going on that, why not sign up for my seminar? The first 100 people to sign up get a free copy of my next self-help book, "What Flavor Are White Jellybeans Supposed To Be? Defining Your Place In The Modern World."

The First Best Food That Never Existed: The Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster

Read All The MiniBests here


Petri Dish said...

"Anyway, I loved the Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator books, and all the other Roald Dahl books I read, although I hesitate to admit that because I'm not sure if we as a society are officially "liking Roald Dahl," "disliking Roald Dahl," "liking Roald Dahl while thinking he's racist," or "indifferent to the whole thing, now, what was that you said about Heidi Montag again?". "
Hmmm, I didn't realise you cared about what other people thought.
Anyway, I can't think many things to nominate except Bertie Bott's Every Flavour beans from the Harry Potter universe. Ooooh and because of the books they now exist! Win!

Abbie said...

I always thought that Turkish Delight looked awesome, too. The closest I've ever come to eating it is roasting Starbursts over a campfire. (Which is awesome. Just take them off when the outside starts to bubble and give them a second to cool off before you eat them.)

Briane P said...

Petri: I SAY I don't care what other people think, but deep down I've never stopped being that nerdy kid in high school who desperately wants the cool kids to be talking about him... in a good way. (They never were.)

Abbie: Who came up with the idea of roasting Starbursts? At first that sounded terrible, but now I'm trying to think how I can get Sweetie to let me build a campfire in the backyard.