“You can never do a kindness too soon, for you never
know how soon it will be too late.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
In this issue’s Chocolate News, I report on the Ferrero Group’s purchase of Nestle’s USA Confectionary Division, and although certainly a noteworthy news item in the overall chocolate world, it’s nothing that stirs any feathers in the realm of chocolate connoisseurs. Or does it?
Waxing Sweet Sentimental
To answer that, let me just say this — I guess it all depends on whether or not a Baby Ruth or a Butterfinger hold any sentimental value for you. For me, in all honesty, they do not. Researching Ferrero’s Nestle acquisition did, however, remind me of the company’s two other confection-related acquisitions in the past year – Fannie May and Ferrara (formerly Ferrara Pan). My current chocolate knowledge be damned, the truth is that both of those companies hold a special place in my heart, so I did indeed feel the heartstrings tweak a bit when I initially read the news.
Why? Well… it’s local. I grew up in Forest Park, a small town just outside of Chicago, home to the original production facility of Ferrara Pan. The factory didn’t only share the same town, it also shared the same square half mile… sitting just across the Eisenhower expressway from the house I called home for the majority of my childhood. So close, in fact, that one of my most vivid childhood memories is that of Ferrara Pan’s Red Hots in the making, with the sweet smell of a spicy cinnamon wafting across the expressway and right into my own backyard.
Ferrara Pan Candy Co.
On summer days, when I’d walk the five long blocks to our park district’s glorious pool (i.e. – my second home), my lazy summer strolls took me over Forest’s Park’s largest bridge, and right past the Ferrara Pan facility on its east side. On occasion, those jaunts included stopovers at the tiny little Ferrara Pan store, nestled into the front corner of the factory… a place where Lemonheads, Boston Baked Beans, Jawbreakers, and the aforementioned Red Hots made their way into my ridiculously unhealthy diet of yesteryear!
In most ways, it’s simply a passing memory… I didn’t live on Ferrara Pan’s candy by any means (who could), and it certainly wasn’t my favorite. The factory’s proximity, however, coupled with the wonderful scents oft-emanating from within and the company’s growing fame, eventually cemented a special place in the hearts of more than one Forest Park’er. For those in my age group at least, I can guarantee that a fair cross section of kids grew up with a love for Ferrara Pan.
In my case, it eventually connected itself to a little deeper family lore… so much so that the favorite short story I wrote during my trial-by-fire writing classes at the University of Illinois actually began with the scent of Ferrara Pan Red Hots filling the air…
It started with a happy late-morning goodbye to a super-sweet, black Great Dane named Sin, who entered our family only a few days earlier, yet made an indelible mark on all who met the big fella, including my best friend Chris at the time, who lived right across the street from us. As vivid as my sweet candy scented memories are of Forest Park back in the day, so is the memory of my friend Chris and I playing with this gentle giant of a dog in my dining room.
He chased us around and under the dining room table, played fetch within the seventeen-foot confines of our small, connecting living and dining rooms, and just delivered such a sense of wonderment and appreciation for animals in what, in hindsight, was an incredibly short span of time. Sure, a name like Sin on a big, black-haired beast might conjure otherwise for you initially, but trust me, five minutes with that amazing animal and you’d still speak his praises to this day too.
That fateful day, I said a long, playful goodbye to Sin, who flashed super sad eyes as I walked out of the yard (he always did), leaving him behind for a half day in favor of an afternoon at the pool just over the bridge. When I returned later that day, the morning sun’s bright light now replaced by growing, late afternoon shadows, the yard sat eerily still… quiet. My stepdad sat hunched, just outside the fence, the most intense look on his face I’d ever seen (and still ever saw for the rest of his long life)… fighting back tears…
It took me a long moment… but once I noticed the shovel, and the raised pile of dirt just in front of a large evergreen bush in our side yard, reality firmly clicked into place. Sin’s time with our family had ended all too soon and abruptly, and worse, all because his previous owner neglected to disclose everything about the dog’s health (and you wonder why I do what I do over The Walk a Mile Project). Sin died long before he needed to, and on that one hot and humid day, initially filled with quintessential summer happiness, I tasted sad, sudden loss for the first time… forever against the backdrop of sunny swims, Mickey Mouse ice cream bars at the pool’s concession stand, and the sweet, cinnamony wafts of Ferrara Pan’s Red Hots.
I really don’t share that story with you to bring sadness… only to remind you that sometimes, what may seem like irrelevance in our world today, may hold more significance than we ever admit to. And if, in your case, that means lamenting the change of Fannie May’s Mint Meltaways or Nestle’s Baby Ruth bars moving over to Ferrero Group, stemming from some important memories in your own life, I completely understand.
Yes, we certainly don’t tout any false wonders of big candy conglomerates here at Chocolate Connoisseur, rightfully so, but it’s also incredibly important to remember where we come from… and how it shaped who we are today. So if you find yourself craving a Butterfinger right now, while waxing sentimental over any sort of precious memory, you might as well pick one up and live in the memory a moment. Don’t worry… I won’t tell.
In Chocolate Positivity,
Editor-In-Chief, Chocolate Connoisseur Magazine