Thursday, December 14, 2017

Melt Away

One of the best things about living in a small city is no matter what store you find yourself visiting in December, you won't be in much of a crowd as we just don't have enough people. So it was, mid-December that I found myself in a nearly deserted Target at one in the afternoon on a Wednesday looking for a frozen turkey loaf (very long story, but obviously I won't be eating it). A frozen turkey loaf should be the simplest of things to find, but I guess a lot has changed since the late 1970's which was the last time I went looking for one. The all white meat loaves are simple enough to find, but the half-dark half-light pressed together loaf that so delighted us as children in the early years of industrial convenience foods was a challenge to locate. After a bit of internet searching we discovered the Target in West Omaha did indeed stock the turkey loaf we sought. I wouldn't say we tore up West Center road in our hurry to ensure we secured one, but we did make a point of getting over there in a reasonable amount of time.

Having found our pressed, frozen turkey brick, we were on the way out when I saw the Hickory Farms display with cheeses, sausages, and mint melt away candies.

"Hey Danny, look!" I shouted. Bored, he shrugged and replied, "At what?"

I shouldn't expect a child in 2017 to get excited about mint melt away candies that if I'm honest always taste a bit waxy and stale. The turkey loaf might have started me thinking about the 70's, but the Hickory Farms display brought on a full-blown Proustian style slide into childhood except I am not writing this from my bed, and I should be able to keep it reasonably brief.

My dad was a wholesale food distributor. In plain English, that means he sold foods to restaurants, hot dog stands, hotels, and places like Hickory Farms that sold specialty foods from chain stores in malls. At one time, Hickory Farms was in practically every Midwestern mall, and my dad sold pickles to most of them in Illinois and Wisconsin. They were easy deliveries-he'd drive up to the back of the mall, unload his merchandise and then wheel it to the shop by the back hallways. Sometimes life conspired against him and he'd have to take it around front, and I seem to remember him once hauling a barrel of pickles on an escalator at Randhurst. Knowing my dad, he probably left a trail of dripping brine in his path. People liked him (people that didn't live with him, anyway) and at Christmas they would send him home with treats for his kids.

One particular Hickory Farms store-and I don't remember which one, had a manager named Donna (or Ladonna). At least, I think that was her name-it was over 40 years ago. She somehow found out I liked tea, and would send home small tins of teas that would have been considered exotic in the late 60's/ early 70's along with flavoured honey and those waxy/dusty/pastel melt away mints. I didn't get much candy as a child and those melt aways were like a year's worth of sugar in a bag. I don't remember what she sent for my sister, but I'm sure it wasn't fancy tea in tins.

I wasn't able to locate any Christmas photos from that time so here's one from the 80's when my mum talked her (adult) daughters into a photo with the mall Santa. Sigh, the things you'll do for your mum.
(I'm the blonde in the mini-skirt and white knit tights, the pretty one in the jeans is my sister. She's older๐Ÿ˜‰) What's up with Santa's eyes?!

I also found some great photos of my parents and sister in a typically awful Chicagoland winter. No idea where I was-they probably tried losing me in a snowbank).
( For anyone interested (Amy, Jan,  ๐Ÿ˜Š) this is the corner of Niles Center road and Dempster street in Skokie. I only know that because I can see the pharmacy in the photo). Still nothing compared to the blizzard we saw after moving to Highland Park ('78 or '79 can't remember) where the wind blew the snow across the open field and it drifted as high as the roof on one side of the house. That was nightmarish. I'll look for photos of that one.

Anyway, back to the mints.

I picked up the bag of melt aways and showed it to Danny muttering something about my youth and "We used to..." before he cut me short with a look that said, "Oh god, she's going to talk about the 70's." I put the bag in the basket to keep the turkey loaf company and decided to save my charming stories of childhood for sharing on the internet with people who come to my blog looking for charming stories about my childhood and kindly Hickory Farms store managers in the 70's. Or maybe you just come here for the run-on sentences?  Donna or Ladonna (if that was your name) thank you, wherever you are for sending all those treats, they were appreciated more than you ever knew.

I tore into the packet of melt aways expecting something much more than any candy could possibly deliver, but that's nostalgia for you!  As I was about to whine that they "Just aren't the same" I knew that they were in fact, exactly the same-they never were anything more than mint flavoured hydrogenated oil and corn syrup. The bag says it contains eight servings, and I'm sure they will be gone by morning, consumed entirely by myself as no one else will come near them having better quality candy in the house.

Now if it would just snow...


Radostin said...

Well, I enjoyed your memories! Come to think of it, I enjoyed memories of other people's childhoods when I was 13, too. What did you want the turkey brick for, if one may ask?

Veronica Cooke said...

I really enjoyed your memories. I found it all fascinating.

I have to say, though, I found the Mall Santa deeply disturbing...

ThriftyParka said...

Hey Goody, thank you for sharing your lovely story. Isn't it funny how nostalgia can stop us in our tracks? You tell that Fuzzy Headed Twitcher :) that someday he will regale his little nest of birds with similar anecdotes.

I think you're the prettier of the 2 sitting on Santa (Satan Eyes?) lap.

Thanks for another mood lifting post, it's like a ray of foot-warming heat (with great outfits!!!) here in cold Thunder Bay.

Looking forward to your next broach instalment!

Happy thrifting ;)

Bibi Maizoon said...

Hickory Farms is still around in California - although only at Xmas time in malls now. I recall as a child enjoying getting a slice of their sausage with a popsicle stick jammed into it as a sausage lollipop as a treat at the mall. Now HF's sausage is like solid fat but it used to be like a good Thuringer. Actually my dad used to get 2-3 of those big gift baskets filled with HF stuff from business associates in the 70's. They were actually pretty bad - like stale crackers, tiny jars of cornstarch-y jam, & cheez whiz mixed with a little red wine shoved in a plastic margarine tub. So glad when we started getting more upscale stuff like Harry & David's.
Oh my a 2 tone turkey loaf, ugh! Served with Stove Top dressing, Idaho instant potatoes, & French's packet gravy mix with frozen green beans on the side. Had to be a jello salad of some sort in there too.
You look so cute with Santa & sis in your 80's garb!

beate grigutsch said...

here it snows in that moment!
(but its to warm to stay)
love to read your childhood memories! interestingly some remember me on my own..... people are not much different all over the world i guess.
and you had a love for novelty sweaters and bright clothes in the 80s already! but this santa is very spooky.....

Propagatrix said...

Randhurst! Damn, that takes me back.

Vix said...

That was a fabulous read! I loved those snowy photos of Chicago but good god, that Santa is very freaky! xxx

Polyester Princess said...

What a wonderful post! You are a most entertaining writer, Goody! This is exactly the kind of post I would like to write, but unfortunately I am lacking your talent. Plus, you obviously had more style than your sister, and I can actually see you in a similar outfit today. That's one scary Santa though! Although I don't know those melt away mints, I totally understand how rediscovering a childhood favourite can bring on an avalanche of memories. xxx

Miss Magpie said...

I am now deeply disturbed by your Santa picture just before my bed time!?!

Sweets don't taste the same now mostly because half of the ingredients have been banned!

Goody said...

Danny's birthday party-for the meat eaters. He is fascinated by the beauty/horror of 70's food.

I've had that photo all these years but didn't notice the eyes until I posted it.

Thank you so much-that's the sweetest comment. You brighten my days too and I've been thinking of you every time I pass the lumberyard. Hope the remodel is going well.

I own the world's craziest 70's jell-o mould (a gigantic zodiac) so you *know* I'm not letting this retro party go by without something terrible gelled inside it.

I won't be wearing white knit tights again anytime soon. That was 35 years and 50 pounds ago ;)

They tore it down a few years ago. I'm sure my sister was in deep mourning.

There's something creepy about an old guy sitting children on his lap anyway.

You write beautifully. I always love reading your posts. My sister really was the prettier, more fashionable one but she had just had a baby around that time and was probably exhausted.

@Miss Magpie
True. I know most of the food colourings turned out to be carcinogens.

Emily from Etsy said...

Miss Magpie was right about the ingredients not being the same. According to Hickory Farm's own website, "To make our mints taste even better, we’ve eliminated artificial colors and GMOs. They’ll appear slightly less bright, but still have the same delicious mint flavor you love."

As for the pressed turkey loaf, I've never heard of such a thing! It does sound perversely fascinating.

Goody said...

Ah, well I wouldn't want anything artificial in my corn syrup mints ;)

The Turkey loaf is a marvel of 20th century food engineering. Essentially, it is lunchmeat pressed into loaf shape in a metal tin. You plunk the whole frozen thing, tin and all in the oven and in about an hour and a half you have a turkey-sort of. Once it is covered in gravy no one will know the difference. I grew up eating these and they were one of the better things we ate because it was so foolproof my mum couldn't ruin it. I promise to post photographs.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the horrid memories of Chicagoland in Winter! I'm pretty sure we will eventually move back when we need Assisted Living or some such.
We used to drive to the very north edge of the city to view the marvelous Christmas lights. I remember that one house had a regular Christmas tree on its roof and then they very cleverly had strings of lights in the windows of the two floors below, wider and wider- the whole thing looked like a giant tree which grew right out through the roof.
Randhurst- well, lived 28 years within walking distance and just about all my clothes came from there. Mont Wards and Penneys mainly. Still have and wear most of them!
We have a Hickory Farms seasonally at our Mall. Just received a sample of their coffee this morning as we did our walk about.

Goody said...

Chicago is no place to grow old-tell your daughter to move to Seattle ;)
I can't believe I lasted 24 years there. Summer's no fun either.

Bobbi said...

I loved Hickory Farms! In high school, we hung out at the mall and ate the cheese and sausage samples to keep us going. I don't remember ever buying anything, though, and I'm sure the employees hated having kids in the store.
That blizzard - we lived in a small area between Dunlap and Princeville in Illinois, west of Peoria. Our house was covered in snow. We had to drive, very slowly, to my grandma's for a few days because we had run out of propane and couldn't get more. I'm so glad we don't get snow like that any more.
I'm really enjoying your brooches. You have quite a collection!
Happy birthday, Danny!

Goody said...

That must have been awful out in a rural area. Running out of propane is no joke either. People in Chicago think the '67 storm was worse, and in the city it was as it hit at rush hour and people were stranded at work, school, etc. but that late 70's storm was awful in open areas. My grandmother who fled to Siberia during WWI said it was the most snow she'd seen in her life. I mean, worse than Siberia is pretty bad).

My dad actually wanted his two not-athletic daughters to dig out the driveway so he could go to work the first morning. Of course after opening the door and seeing only snow it was obvious he wasn't going anywhere for a few days.

Mim said...

I've never heard of melt-away mints. Do they have a very light texture to make them melt faster?

Goody said...

No, they're hard and waxy-the description is a complete lie! Maybe I just have a cold mouth ;)