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In Pennsylvania, A Junk Food Junket

Stauffer's does, however, have a marvelous outlet store, where you can buy bucket loads of candy and factory seconds -- defined as cookies that "do not have enough chocolate or are cracked in pieces." The worst casuality in my 79-cent bag of animal crackers was a broken butterfly wing. There are also samples sprinkled around the store, so you can eat while you shop.

To counter the sweetness of Stauffer's, I next headed south for the saltiness of Utz potato chips, landing at one of its three plants in the strip-mall section of Hanover.

The Utz tour begins with simple displays telling the tale of Grandpa and Grandma Utz, who in the 1920s cooked potato chips behind their house, which still stands today on McAllister Street (though, now a new owner uses the building to house antiques). Their humble chip endeavor has since bloomed into a complex factory assembly line, which I followed step by step along a wall of vitrines that overlook the factory floor. Moving from station to station, a voice-over guide described the sights below. Interesting enough, but even more enjoyable was waving at the hair-netted employees below and making "yum-yum" mime signs. On the way out, I grabbed a free bag of chips.

Snack Secrets: Legend says the Utz girl on the label was modeled after one of the Utz daughters. For more Utz snacks, visit the store on Carlisle Street.

Townie Tips: Venture into the heart of Hanover, the so-called "snack food capital," for glimpses of its Germanic past. Check out Snyder's pretzels, just outside of town. In York, tour other factories, including the Wolfgang Candy Co., Frito-Lay and Harley-Davidson.

Where can you order a Big Cow Brownie Sundae with your morning cup of coffee? Hershey, Pa., of course. I stopped by the town's eponymous chocolate company for a free Chocolate World tour and scored a chocolate bar (the factory is not open to visitors) before most of the waking world was even showered and dressed.

Searching for an antidote to flashy, corporate Hershey, I next ventured into nearby Palmyra, the humble headquarters of Seltzer's Smokehouse Meats.

Housed in an unremarkable working-class neighborhood, the bologna tour begins (and ends) in the deli shop, which is half the size of the typical Safeway meat counter. An employee named Sandy started the tour by turning off the lights (leaving shoppers in the dark) and switching on a seven-minute video, which I watched while leaning against the back wall.

The video covered the whole transformation of bologna, from its raw meat state to its smoked finish. (Beware: Explicit subject matter may not be suitable for vegetarians and Hindus.) Due to government regulations, tours of the fridges and smokehouses are not offered, except in special cases (see Details, below). But I scoped out the alleyway behind the house and spied stacks of hardwood and peaked, burnt-brown smokehouses.

Snack Secrets: York peppermint patties are not made in York but in Hershey. Bologna is pronounced ba-lone-a, not ba-lone-ee.

Townie Tips: Burn off those cold cut and chocolate calories at the school track near Addey's Inn on Route 322. Depending on wind direction, you smell chocolate or cow manure.

Onward, to Lititz. For a town founded by a Moravian church, Lititzians certainly eat -- and indulge -- like heathens. First, there's the Wilbur Chocolate Co., where women seated behind a glass window dip marshmallows and pretzels into melted chocolate. Then, on the fudge counter, which is just before the displays of cocoa-related ephemera, sits a pot of Wilbur chocolate buds -- one per customer.

Lititz is also home of the Sturgis Pretzel House, which offers pretzel-twisting lessons. Standing above an L-shaped wooden table, an employee threw dough at our crew and taught us the tying techniques of this ancient art. In short order: Roll, form into a "U" shape (this is to ensure that children's prayers go to heaven; one visitor was reprimanded for her arch, which sent their prayers to hell), twist into a knot (symbolizing the ties of marriage), then flip down into a triple loop (an allusion to the Holy Trinity). The final product: a heavenly pretzel.

The unheralded secret of Lititz, though, is Regennas Candy Shop, on a leafy side street. For several generations, the Regennas family has been making clear toy candy from inside a mouse house. The latest generation to take up the candy cause is Erik Snyder, fifth-generation by marriage, and his pregnant wife, Nancy. Kids flock here after school for "candy scrapple," the confetti-colored chips of candy of recent mistakes, while tourists come to watch Erik stir and mix and pour molds into such fanciful shapes as an English bobby spanking a boy and a cycling frog.

If you ask nicely, Erik will let you pour a mold or plunk in a lollipop stick. He will even pull out old black-and-white photos, sticky from sugar droppings, of his ancestors and the old shop, as well as his cherished recipe box, which holds secrets from the late 1800s.

Leaving Regennas with a fist full of amber-colored candy turkeys, I had one final stop before heading home: Kready's Country Store Museum, a reassembled general store dating to 1840. I came for the hot cinnamon-flavored toothpicks, a much-needed purchase after a two-day junk food binge.

Snack Secrets: Sturgis Pretzel House claims to be the only maker of Amish horse-and-buggy-shaped pretzels.

Townie Tips: Take a breather at the duck pond, in the center of Lititz, where you can feed something besides yourself.

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