There are days when all I want is sugar, and my dog judges me for it.
Chocolate was one of the first intoxicating things my life had ever offered me. It was sweet, it was complex, it was a harmony of flavors all new to my palate – and all of this was ineffable to my four-year-old self. I grew up in a third world country, for goodness’ sake. Chocolate was something that you only got on special occasions, or if grandma decided breakfast would be special. Otherwise you drank water, ate rice, and had a piece of fruit for dessert. Something cold if you were lucky. Something gross if you weren’t.
The family used to take trips to the airport to take advantage of the Duty Free shopping area that was open to those who had travelled recently. It was so bizarre seeing adults flashing passports just to buy things. It was CostCo before I knew what CostCo was: a celebration of the capitalism raining down on Manila, poised to be Asia’s economic tiger, before Hong Kong took all the glory and before the economy tanked through the ‘90’s. There were clothes and shoes to buy, liquor to drink, and sweet Lord Jesus, all the chocolate.
My first trip to the magical wonderland I was mesmerized by the wall of sweets. These were sweet foodstuffs I had never seen before, but they looked good to eat. Like a stained glass window in my candy church I was drooling and praying to Holy Saint Toothache that I would have a taste of that ambrosia.
I picked up a bag of M&M’s. On the bag it said “one pound” (a metric that was alien to me as I had grown up, like the rest of the world, with kilograms and meters). It was heavy. My little four-year-old paws could barely hold on to the giant bag of chocolate pearls, and as soon as I saw it go through the checkout line I knew that it was all mine.
In the car on the drive back I made the loudest fuss I could to get my relatives to give me the candy so I would shut up. That plan still works to this day.
I was in seventh grade when I really began my connoisseurship of all things gummy. It wasn’t until I visited America when I was seven that gummy bears were a thing (when I got back to the Philippines I was thought delusional by my classmates since in our bubble of a Jesuit school no such thing existed) and I had craved them since.
But then the market became flooded by gummy candy in different shapes: first the worms, then the spiders, then the sharks. Then it got crazier and crazier with gummy burgers, gummy pizza, and gummy sushi.
Let’s get the facts down straight: Heide makes the best gummi bears; Trolli make the best gummy + soft candy combos; and Haribo trumps all in sugar coated gummy stuff.
And don’t even get me started on sour patch kids.
Salt became a crucial part of my grown-up palate thanks in no small part to high school. Candy was still a big snack time option but then other things, like girlfriends and acne, would become really big distractions, overtaking sweet time with my other lover, sugar.
So we would find places to eat that were exciting and cheap. Usually that meant trying out different combinations of after-school treats. Doritos and Mountain Dew? Classic pairing. Snickers and orange juice? Don’t even bother. But a revelation? Chocolate milk and potato chips, especially the salt and vinegar flavor.
My girlfriend hated them because she had braces. 'More for me,' I would say.
And so we arrive at salted caramel, the it-girl of dessertland in restaurants around New York City and apparently in mainstream food production. I saw this bag of bugles in the bodega and I had to have it.
I have no apologies that I ate the whole thing in one sitting. The only thing missing was a nice mug of milk – warmed, because I’m classy like that – to complete this, a breakfast of champions.