Oh my, nothing better than a sweet tooth

By Rick Houser – 

I have written many times of how I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and I’m certain hearing this one more time won’t bother you too much. I have written about life on our farm and a lot of the hard work my family and I did during those years. Those times were anything but bad times and I think a lot of my readers have experienced much of what I have discussed.
Now it’s time to move on to a subject I think we can all look back on “sweetly”,the sweets and candies of our day. I knew going to my grandmother Houser’s in the early years with my sister Peg and brother Ben always yielded us a Milky Way bar. We would take them back home and put them in the freezer and then would slowly work on eating them. Being frozen slowed down the process of having them eaten too quickly. Later on I remember getting a Clark bar.
Grandma seemed to know how to please her grandchildren for sure. One evening when we stopped at her home, she reached into a pantry and pulled out a bag and said “I have a huge surprise for you!” It was a bag of Horehound candy. I must admit it certainly was a big surprise. She said it was the candy she ate as a little girl. The hard candy was bitter sweet and had kind of a licorice taste. In reality, it was mostly an herb and truth be told it tasted badly and dissolved very slow. In a word, yuck, but to this day I have never forgotten that.
As the years passed, I found that I had something in common with my Mom. We had a sweet tooth and a major weakness for chocolate, so much so that it was easy to get her to buy chocolate candy in a store. This was a luxury in those days but for Mom and myself. I think we always needed that dose of chocolate to keep us going.
Mom went to the Kroger store in Bethel about four times a year so she could stock up on staples such as flour, corn meal, and sugar. This shopping trip filled the car and Mom earned a lot of Top Value stamps so the best part was yet to come. She would drive up to the Ben Franklin 5 and 10 cent store where she bought her sewing threads and supplies so that she could mend and quilt, but before we left she would go to the counter and order a pound of chocolate covered peanuts, a pound of chocolate covered raisins, and a pound of bridge mix. All of those were Brach’s brand which was top shelf! Three pounds of chocolate looked like a mountain of sweets that would last forever. This is where Mom made her mistake and left me in the back seat alone with that candy. By the time we reached our home on Fruit Ridge Road, those three bags had noticeably reduced in size and not only was Mom upset, but so was my stomach. She always thought this would teach me a lesson but by the next trip to Bethel, I seemed to have recovered.
Mom also was good at making fudge, chocolate or peanut butter.
She also would take mashed potatoes and some other ingredients, with sugar being a main ingredient, and roll them into a long roll and slice it into pieces. As she had rolled the dough, she had spread peanut butter on it and then rolled it up, making it very tasty. There were other confections such as “Divinity” and I don’t recall the name for the others but I do recall that they tasted pretty good. In the 60’s, she got the recipe from our Aunt Margaret for no-bake cookies. All of these treats were great to eat any time anywhere, any place, and very often. It was a very good thing we worked on the farm because that kept a lot of us from increasing our waist bands.
It was safe to say that there was always something sweet to eat at our house. If it wasn’t candy, it was Toll House cookies or Oatmeal Raisin cookies. I must stop here and point out that we didn’t just only eat sweets. We were offered them and then the temptation was removed from the table. Of course, if we begged enough it could earn them a second visit around the table. The down side was that Mom, my Aunt Margaret, Grandma, and cousin Lydia were all awesome cooks and could bake sweets as good if not better than most ladies in the neighborhood. Therefore, I became accustomed to the “sweets” always being available, so how could I keep up my resistance, if I even had any?
In the summer Mom would buy cartons of ice cream and it was very likely that she also bought a can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Rarely did I, be it at home or any relatives’ home, ever finish a meal without a desert of some kind that put the crown on the entire meal. I know that over the years Mom’s “culinary” reputation spread among the farm hands and we were seldom ever short on having enough men to harvest a crop.
It was just a given that if you stopped at Madeline’s’ house or to see Ralph on some business, the odds were in your favor that you would depart their home with a sweet taste, along with a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea. That is truly a good way to end any visit for sure.
I still feel bad that my Grandma thought she was treating us with that Horehound candy. Of course, she kept giving it to us until it was all gone.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.