I'm no "foodie," but I'm fond of certain treats and, even when I don't buy something regularly, they remain a favorite.
Memory, it turns out, lasts longer than marketing or manufacturing.
Sometime between baseball season winding down and Christmastime gearing up, I tend to indulge my sweet tooth. Maybe it's Imminent Halloween. Maybe my dentist hypnotized me. Whatever.
Anyway, I had a recent craving for a Mars: a candy bar, filled with nougat (whatever that is) and a touch of caramel with a few token almonds, all covered in milk chocolate.
The local gas station didn't have them. The local grocery store didn't have them. A regional supermarket didn't have them – so I asked a cashier.
"Mars? Never heard of them," she said. "Let me ask."
A supervisor came over, I asked for a Mars bar and he looked at me like I had road-kill raccoons on my shoulders.
"Mars? No, Mars makes Snickers," he said. "And M&Ms, I think."
"No, no. I know that. They make a lot of candy," I said. "But I want a Mars bar. I've eaten them."
His face fell and his expression changed to one showing what I suspect was sympathy.
"Oh. I see," he said, nodding slightly as if dealing with some coot with false memories or worse. "Well, I've worked here for three years and I've never seen one, and I've never even heard of Mars bars. Sorry."
Before he patted me on my bald head, I left, annoyed.
In frustration, I came home and went online and discovered that Mars Inc. discontinued its namesake candy bar in 2002. What?! The company relaunched it a few years ago, apparently, but exclusively at Walmart.
"Ah!" I thought, immediately overwhelmed with anticipated guilt at going to a Walmart, which I haven't patronized for years because of the way they treat their workers and drive local folks out of business.
But I felt a "Mars mission" and begrudgingly went to a Walmart ("Always Low Wages. Always," says the bumper sticker). There, a blue-vested employee with blue-rinse hair said, "Mars bars! They're great. But I don't see them anymore."
Fine. Escaping without a purchase or crossing a picket line, I returned home and cranked up the laptop.
Returning to a web search, I find that Mars does, indeed, still make Mars bars, but only in Europe (with a different kind of chocolate) and Australia (where 10 varieties – 10! – have been available).
Reluctantly, I order a dozen from Amazon.com.
While I wait for the shipment, I'm struck by another food desire, another favorite: a macaroon sandwich cookie with pink creme in the middle. I remember the cellophane package with three rows of golden wafers – coconut – made by some major brand, maybe Nabisco.
You guessed it. The local convenience store, grocery, a nearby chain store, and three different supermarkets didn't have them. At one of the supermarkets – which seems to have been designed by a deranged engineer as a repurposed airplane hangar – I risked flirting with dementia stereotyping and asked a worker stocking shelves with crackers and cookies where macaroons are.
He pointed to a non-sandwich variety from Archway, then a co-worker with more studs in her face than I have in my leather jacket said they were in some sort of specialty aisle with "exotic concoctions."
Suspicious but salivating, I strolled over, dodging motorized carts wielded by harried moms or shoppers exhausted from traversing the sheer size of the place. Amid obscure teas, diet food, gluten-free baked goods and ethnic foods, there were, indeed, “macaroons.” And they had creme filling. But they were about 3 inches high, seemed to be colored by a comic-book villain (Pastel Maniac), and sold individually for the price of a pie.
"No!" I said. "They're like Oreos, only with coconut cookies and pink crème in the center."
"Sorry," she said, taking pity on a guy old enough to be her grandpa. "I guess they don't make them anymore."
"Great," I said, disappointment mixing with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.
I stopped, turned and asked, "Hey: Do you have sugar plums?"
"Plums? They're in produce."
"Aw, never mind."
Bill Knight’s newspaper columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.