One in a collection of essays celebrating things we love.
The heart wants what it wants, and many days, mine wants to eat an entire bag of Haribo gummies.
I want gummies coated in sour dust, gummies that have been scientifically engineered to light up all of my brain’s pleasure centers. They should be in ridiculous shapes: sunny-side-up eggs, sharks, dinosaurs, french fries, bottles of Coke. I want them soft and chewy, and tart and tangy, and in a bag within arm’s reach.
I have an otherwise adult palate that is capable of appreciating sophisticated flavors. I don’t even have that much of a sweet tooth. But this is my neon-colored, artificially flavored vice. There’s something incredibly satisfying about chewing gummy bears, one by one — more so than gum, which you can’t swallow (unless you’re Sean Spicer).
My obsession might have started with Swedish Fish, which were sold for 50 cents a bag at our community swimming pool when I was growing up outside Pittsburgh. Or maybe it was the sugar plum gumdrops I’d pull out of my stocking every Christmas; I still love their slightly perfumey smell. But as I’ve gotten older, my obsession with gummies has morphed into an international treasure hunt. Sure, gummy peach rings will do in a pinch, and I’ll shamelessly indulge in those $1.50 bags of sour watermelon gummies from CVS. Better, though, are the candies I’ve picked up traveling, or at international grocery stores.
Of course, there’s Turkish delight, the O.G. of gummies. My husband brought some back from a business trip, and when I opened the tin from Hafız Mustafa, a more-than-150-year-old shop in Istanbul, the rainbow of candies inside was so beautifully presented, I gasped. When we browse the aisles of H Mart, I’ll inevitably sneak a bag of Japanese sour yuzu gummies into the cart. On a vacation in Guadeloupe, we went into a market to buy bottled water for a hike, and I left with a bag of French Gom’s, which vary in flavor from cinnamon to violet to eucalyptus. Soft, chewy Finnish licorice makes me swoon.
But best of all is Haribo, the German confectioner credited with inventing the gummy bear in 1920. I love their singsong, onomatopoeic names: Quaxi Fröschli, the gummy frogs; Jogi-Bussi, the “yogurt”-filled capsules; and Bärchen-Pärchen, hand-holding pairs of gummy bears, one sweet and one sour. I once ate a bag of Smurf-shaped gummies mostly because I loved their German name: Die Schlümpfe.
A connoisseur, I can wax rhapsodic about the virtues of my favorite gummy shapes as if they were a fine wine. There’s Brixx, a sour, Lego-shaped gummy with a cream-flavored filling, and Pico-Balla, the miniature fruit gummies with two textures (chewy and squishy), and Color-Rado, a blend of shapes and flavors that combines fruit gummies with licorice.
I know they’re unhealthful, but I’ve never spoiled my fun by reading the ingredient lists on the bags. And no, I never eat the sugar-free kind, which comes with some rather, erm, unfortunate symptoms. I try to be diligent about flossing. Miraculously, I haven’t had a cavity in nearly a decade, but my luck could change.
I will love them with all my heart, or all my teeth — whichever goes first.
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