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Bitter Sweet News

January 10, 2017

There will be talk of food today. That will be the sweet part. But before we can get to the sweet part, I’ve got to get the bitter part out into the open.

I promise. This will be just a few short words about being blind to the hate that surrounds us.

Intellectually, I know that Serbians hate Croatians. You can pretty much substitute any two groups in the statement. Sunnis and Shiites are good ones. Hutu and Tutsi also work. But do you know how much of that real animosity, violence, and intolerance I see on a daily basis?

None. Zero. But just because I’m not aware of it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Fifteen Jewish Community Centers in at least five states received bomb threats by phone. Yesterday. Thankfully, these were just merely acts of intimidation. But there were no bombs. Only the evacuation of small children while officials searched the buildings for explosives.

Think for a moment, what it was like to be one of those kids.
Or one of those teachers.
Or one of those parents.

It makes sense why some people will not see this as a hate crime. Jews are only about 2 percent of the US population. We forget this, living in New York, but most people across the country don’t see us at all. And they certainly haven’t been exposed to the hate directed at us for centuries.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It is. And right now, in America, it’s louder than ever.

Okay. That’s the bitter. Now onto the sweet. And nothing is sweeter than candy. So I thought I would share a little something surprising that I stumbled upon while shopping yesterday in Trader Joe’s.

Sponge candy!

For those who may not remember, this was a delicacy that I was turned on to at the end of last year. The Collar CIty Sweet Shoppe in Troy brings it in from Buffalo, and it’s delicious. But beyond a few old time candy lovers in upstate and western New York, I thought this was an unheard of delicacy.

There was another woman in the store who looked as equally surprised as to see a box of it on the shelf of a Trader Joe’s. What’s more, while the Buffalo-made version costs close to $20 per pound, this box was just about $3.50 for eight ounces.

So I had to buy one.

The box has nothing on it to indicate the the product inside comes from Buffalo. And because it’s a private label product, there is no state of origin. The label only says the product is distributed and sold exclusively by Trader Joe’s based in Monrovia, CA.

When opening it up to see the candies inside, it’s clear that not all sponge candy is created equal. The Trader Joe’s version has much less heft, and the sponge itself is significantly denser and crunchier. The centers lack all those glorious pockets of air that provide the unique texture of biting down on hardened foam.

The pieces are also a lot more haphazardly shaped, and the milk chocolate coatings are a bit bloomy.

All of these things are but little quibbles, because the sponge candy is still delicious. And it’s available to people who might otherwise have no access to the real thing. Of course, if you do try the lesser version at Trader Joe’s and want to try the better version directly from the Buffalo source, they do sell online.

And that’s pretty sweet. If we can’t come together on the basis of our shared humanity, maybe we can bond over near-extinct confections.

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