In a raffle at the office today I got the green Chuckle. Not literally, but I did spontaneously exclaim to a coworker that I felt as if I had been dealt the green Chuckle. It's not a phrase I'd used before, but it seemed to fit.
The raffle was for charity, and there were lots of prizes, many of them food and travel related, a number of which I coveted. I didn't win any of those, but I did win a pair of tickets to an advance screening of a film I'm not particularly interested in. My green Chuckle.
I loved Chuckles when I was a kid. Actually, I loved two of the flavors, liked two others, and hated the last one. Cherry and orange Chuckles I couldn't get enough of. Lemon were pretty good. Licorice depended whether I was in a pro- or anti-licorice phase. But lime? Yuck. You couldn't give 'em away. In my neighborhood, everybody hated green Chuckles. Cherry was the unanimous favorite, lime the most detested, and licorice the most controversial.
Is this true, or was my memory playing tricks on me? Was I perhaps creating a fantasy Chuckles childhood? Would I need to undergo regression therapy to solve the mystery? I started polling my coworkers and quickly learned that it's pointless to ask anybody under forty. Not only do they not have Chuckles preferences, they don't know what they are. So I called Howard. "Howard," I said, "what do you think of when I say 'green Chuckles'?"
"The candy?" he said.
"Yeah, what about them?"
"Um, nobody liked them?"
Bingo. Confirmation. And Howard grew up in Queens, not Brooklyn. I was satisfied. Green Chuckles is the perfect metaphor, the equivalent of what they used to call a "zonk" on "Let's Make a Deal," even if it draws blank stares from most people.
Chuckles were invented in 1921. According to one source
, "In March of 1921, Fred W. Amend went into business for himself manufacturing marshmallow. Later that year he began producing jelly candy from a formula he himself had developed. The formula solved a problem of the time which was the outbreak of "sweat" on the surface of jelly candies. Fred's wife suggested the name of the product which hit the market in 1921." When I was a kid, Chuckles was a major player in the candy pantheon. They're still manufactured, but they're apparently hard to find (not that I've looked very hard), and probably sell mainly on the strength of nostalgia. Since the seventies they've been made by Nabisco and Hershey's, and now Farley and Sather's
, which specializes in legacy candies, including Brach's chocolates, JujyFruits and JuJubes (the latter being another childhood favorite of mine).
Lime - well, there’s always the underdog in every flavor mix and lime is it here. It’s everything you’d expect from a circa 1920 lime candy - the essence of a clean floor. It’s kind of sad that the fabulous flavor of lime was co-opted by the cleaning moguls, but there you have it, for at least two generations the scent of lime just can’t be separated from the smell of a clean bathroom. Even with all its baggage, I still ate the whole piece (not true with the cherry one) and wondered what was so bad with associating a piece of candy with sparkling tiles?
Lime: This is very chemically tasting and very zesty. It reminds me of Lysol, and I even taste the “fumes” in there. My mouth did feel clean and disinfected afterwards.
When I was a kid I'd often offer the green Chuckle to friends, but they rarely took me up on it. I usually threw the green ones away, but occasionally I did eat them. Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and swallow the green Chuckle.