The nearly perfect food

My paternal grandfather had a sweet tooth. After a meal, Opa reached to the top of Oma’s china closet where sat dishes of candy. One dish held Brach’s white peppermint lozenges, another held Brach’s pink wintergreen lozenges and still another dish held candy corn.

After a meal, Opa asked his grandchildren if they wanted a piece of candy. Our answer was always quick and affirmative.

When asked which kind of candy I wanted, I preferred candy corn but the pink lozenges were a close second. I didn’t develop a taste for peppermint until I was older.

A sweet tooth must be a genetic thing. As with my grandfather, my meals aren’t complete without something sweet at the end. Of course, my preference is a generous serving of dessert: cherry pie ala mode, ice cream without pie, a rich chocolate fudge brownie (with ice cream,) cheesecake. this could be a long list.

Absent a real dessert, some candy will satisfy my sweet tooth. There, too, I have preferences and chocolate tops the list. Of all the products of supermarket chocolate, my favorite is M&Ms. You know: the candy that melts in your mouth; not in your hands.

M&M chocolate candies were introduced to American GIs during World War II. The candy was conceived during the Spanish Civil War when Forrest Mars, Sr., son of the founder of the Mars Company, saw soldiers eating chocolate pellets with a hard shell of tempered chocolate. The shell prevented the chocolate from melting.

In 1941 Mars patented his process for making the candy milk chocolate encased in a hard candy shell and production began later that year in a factory in New Jersey. The candy was named M&Ms, referencing the last names of the inventor and Bruce Murrie, president of the Hershey Company. Murrie had a 20 percent share in the product, allowing the candies to be made with Hershey chocolate which had control of the rationed chocolate at the time. Mars bought out Murrie’s interest in 1948.

The taste and practicality of the candy increased demand but during World War II the candies were sold only to the military. After the war the candy quickly grew in popularity with the American public.

In 1950, a unique trademark was created when a black “M” was imprinted on the candies. It was changed to white in 1954, the same year peanut M&Ms were introduced and the company introduced the famous line: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”

While good old plain M&Ms remain my favorite, the manufacturer has added a number of flavors over the years. Almond-centered M&Ms were introduced in the 1960s but then withdrawn from the market. They were reintroduced in 1988 for Christmas and Easter marketing and in 1992 were added to the year-round product line.

Holiday M&Ms were introduced in 1986 and in 1991 Peanut Butter M&Ms were released.

In 1999 Crispy M&M’s were introduced but they were short-lived in the United States. They are still available in Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.

The Mars Company has done an excellent job of marketing my favorite supermarket candy. Since MM is the Roman numeral for 2000, M&M’s were styled as “The Official Candy of the New Millennium in 1998.

Before all the fancy flavors were introduced I knew my candy as “plain M&Ms.” In 2000, however, plain M&Ms were officially renamed “Milk Chocolate M&Ms.” I still call them “plain M&Ms.”

You may have noticed that I have used the term “supermarket chocolate.” At the risk of betraying my M&Ms, my all-time favorite chocolate is made by a Dutch chocolatier in Des Moines. Like Cheers, at this chocolate store most of the sales staff know my name. This chocolate is nearly the perfect food.

I agree with Dave Barry, another chocolate fan. The author and columnist wrote, “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.”