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Christmas and Stick Candy
Each year at about Christmas time, I see those little peppermint candy canes in all the Walgreen's, CVS, Target, Walmart, Dollar General and grocery stores in our area. Today, I was in my son's barber shop and noticed he had a dish of candy canes he was giving out to the young customers and I saw more than one adult customer reach into the dish to partake of a bit of sweet. Normally, the reward for being a good boy in the barber chair is a Tootsie roll pop, but it is the Christmas season and a welcome change I suppose for some. As an observer of people, I enjoyed seeing the delight shown in their countenance as they removed the clear cellophane wrapper and the candy immediately enjoyed.You gotta know eating a peppermint cane is more than meets the eye and not as simple as licking the red off the candy. The hard candy made of sugar is easily dissolved by the saliva in our mouth and quickly becomes small enough to bite into and chew and swallow with the added benefit of fresh breath.
I couldn't help but remember as a young boy going to my Grandparents for Christmas. We never received many gifts but there was always one Aunt who would manage to go to the five and dime store in town and purchase enough of those huge peppermint candy sticks for all the nephews and nieces in our family which she gave to us for a Christmas present. I think in those days those candies sold for about fifty cents a piece but the cost of the gift didn't matter so much as her generosity and her thoughtful gift meant so much to us. The candy canes could be broken up into small pieces and lasted for days!
Stick candy was also a favorite and came in a variety of flavors. A box usually had about 20 sticks and was a welcome Christmas present. The sticks of candy came in a variety of flavors. Peppermint was my favorite but there was clove, root beer,birch and horehound. The candy industry soon capitalized on the popularity of the stick candy and virtually any flavor can now be found.
Recently my wife and I paid a visit to two small shops in upstate South Carolina in search for fruit cake ingredients. She always likes to have a stock pile of candied cherries both red and green, pineapple rings and all the other ingredients that make for a great fruit cake. Pecans and nuts are in short supply this year and very expensive. As I perused the shelves of chocolate covered nuts and pretzels and other delectable treats, I found an assortment of stick candy and other old time favorites including one of my all time favorites, chocolate drops. There were also the wonderful orange slice candies which now have evolved into a variety of fruit flavors.
For many of us, stick candy will always have a special place in our memories and maybe this year as we enjoy a cup of mulled cider or egg nog, we may find ourselves adding a peppermint stick just for old time sake. It is interesting to know a stick candy, horehound which was not a favorite and usually the last of our Christmas stick candies to survive the weeks following Christmas has an interesting background and thought to have medicinal value.
Even the scientific name Marrubium vulgare lends itself to something that doesn't on the surface appear to be anything good (vulgare). According to my research horehound was used as early as the first century BCE (Wikipedia) for respiratory ailments. It also was thought a benefit was derived for sore throat and for the expulsion of worms in farm animals.Studies done in 2011 and 2012 have shown the essential properties of horehound have anticancer and antimicrobial properties and also possess anti diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties. For most of us who are baby boomers, we always suspected that horehound had to be something better than candy and maybe even a medicine due to its taste.
I don't know if you're like me but after learning about the possible benefits of horehound I intend to buy me some horehound stick candy this year along with some peppermintand candy canes.