Lots of good things were happening this past Saturday, May 18. Locally: the third week of Starkville Community Market. Out-of-state: the International Biscuit Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. And all over the world: the Official “I Love Reese’s” Day. Though I was pretty excited about all three events, I obviously could not be in Starkville and Knoxville simultaneously, until time travel is perfected or they bring the Concorde out of mothballs. But Reese’s are everywhere.
I do have a bone to pick with the Reese’s people, but before I go into that it’s only fair to start with the appropriate shout-out. If I were stranded on a desert island with only cold milk to drink, then Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would be the number one candy I would choose to be dropped from the sky. It could be argued that one could find milk chocolate that is silkier, or perhaps made from organic cocoa beans hand-picked by Juan Valdez’s chubby cousin Pedro, imported to Mississippi and slow-roasted at a small-batch chocolatier in Tunica. Or if the peanut butter is what’s important to you, there are probably peanut butters that melt in the mouth more smoothly. Even so, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are yet the exemplar by which all other chocolate and peanut butter combinations are measured.
I’ve been a fan of Reese’s for a long time. I am even old enough to remember the early commercials where an unsuspecting person carrying a chocolate bar out in front of him or her would accidentally bump into another innocent victim carrying an open jar of peanut butter (who does that, by the way?); then after a brief, semi-hostile exchange – “You got your peanut butter on my chocolate – no, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” – they discover that the combination is delicious and all is well in that particular suburb of Hershey, Pennsylvania.
In my retail days, it was always a dangerous proposition to buy a bag of Reese’s miniatures at work. Rarely did any make it home. “Just one more” is the usual mantra once the bag is opened, then I just-one-more my way through the entire bag. One of the more difficult things about living overseas was a serious lack of Reese’s in the local grocery store. Any package arriving with a bag of Reese’s products was a blessing, indeed. With rare exception, I enjoy just about anything wrapped in that bright orange Reese’s paper, especially the ones enrobed in white chocolate. And beware the budget when the holiday versions are out.
The holiday special editions, however, are also the reason for my rant. The Reese’s holiday season begins with the Halloween pumpkins, which (thankfully) are arriving earlier and earlier every year. Then as soon as the Halloween costumes hit the clearance buggy to make way for the Christmas wrap, we get the Reese’s Trees. Of course, there are also miniatures wrapped in orange and black, then red, green and gold, but that’s just the same candy with different clothes. The holiday shapes actually introduce a variation in the chocolate to peanut butter ratio that is not to be missed.
After the Christmas close-outs, then come the Valentine’s hearts, which give me an annual opportunity to augment my love handles. On the heels of the hearts is Easter, which actually provides a bounty of options: the standard egg, the snack-sized eggs, the foil-wrapped eggs (another ratio entirely), a giant egg, egg-shaped Reese’s Pieces, and the Reester Bunny. I even saw a sign at a major retailer this year for white-chocolate-covered Reese’s Eggs, but they were not to be found.
My concern is that once Easter has ended, and the holiday candy section at Wal-Mart fills with summer picnic supplies, beach towels and water toys, the Reese’s holiday editions are withheld from us until Halloween. Depending on when Easter falls, this gap of time might even be longer than the drought between the last play of the Super Bowl and the opening kickoff of the first high school football game. And isn’t it hard enough to suffer through that time, without having to also endure Holiday Edition Reese’s withdrawal?
I think some of our holidays are getting gypped. April showers bring May flowers – why not a Reese’s shaped like a daisy in spring? Surely some symbol to honor our veterans could be produced in peanut butter and chocolate on Memorial Day. A star or a rocket-shaped firework on July 4th. Why not a big “J” to celebrate my birthday in August? If that’s a stretch, I will settle for a PB and chocolate laptop, hammer, or mortar and pestle to represent the hard work celebrated on Labor Day. Some careful planning and space in the freezer should then hold us till the pumpkins come back.
I did call the Hershey Company before writing this to ask about one particular aspect of the production. They were really nice on the phone, but it still took a couple of local calls to find out what I wanted to know. Julie White, our county extension agent helped me track down Charlie Stokes, the Monroe County extension agronomist, who in turn led me to Brian Atkins of Birdsong Peanuts in Monroe County. Mr. Atkins confirmed what I had heard from a fellow pharmacist in Aberdeen, that some of the peanuts grown in that county are sent to Hershey. This means that a peanut grown just two counties over might one day make it back south, transformed into the glorious center of a Reese’s peanut butter egg sold at Kroger. Until a few months ago I didn’t even know we grew peanuts in Mississippi and now I know that they are more a part of my life than I realized. As a Mississippian and self-proclaimed Reese’s expert, I think that qualifies me to have some say in the introduction of new holiday shapes. Ready when you are, Mr. Reese.