There’s no Nobel for candy, hard or soft, which is too bad. It could bring peace, by pieces. That prize is an elite exercise, yet, as a teen science nerd, I shivered when introduced to one and then another Nobel winner, gracious, patient elders with remarkable Erlenmeyer memories.
Lucky in Manhattan to have a Japanese market nearby, and because I’m enticed by anything in a post-Pop package, I fell for Nobel’s Super Cola, three ounces for $3, a dozen or so globes of hot surprise. I told myself that I sprung for my candyphile boyfriend, but they were really for me. When artists such as Lichtenstein or Indiana (not Gary) are ripped off for the package, I grab it.
Each tooth-shattering marble is wrapped in planet-bomb plastic. Never had anything like ’em. Passion for defunct or novel sweets is tiresome even to me, in an affectionate graveyard way. Still, my guy and I sucked one after another in a who-are-we way, and they are gone.
Nobel may seem an unusual name for a Japanese candy company, but here’s what Japan Candy Store says:
Nobel is a Japanese candy manufacturer specializing in gummies, sour candies, and other sweet treats. It was first known for its cough drops but these days it has become popular for its Japanese sour candies, Nobel Sours Gummy. The company got its name after one of its founders, Dr. Hideki Yukawa, received the Nobel prize in Physics.
Now, there’s another candy guy, from USA, in the same name game, Edward J. Noble, who popularized another’s invention, the white peppermints with holes that looked like the things they had too few of on the Titanic: Life Savers. He’s been called a “candy industrialist.” This Noble also started the American Broadcasting Company, ABC, but that’s another story.
Dr. Hideki Yukawa, below, born in Tokyo in 1907, did indeed receive the Nobel Prize in 1949 for his prediction of the existence of mesons, subatomic particles composed of equal numbers of quarks and antiquarks.
I was a mite puzzled. Why no Quark or Antiquark Gummies? Meson Mints? Four years after the end of a searing war, with radiation deaths, scars, and cancer Japan’s ongoing misery and the whole of Asia suffering, a native atomic expert was honored internationally. Collegial photos of him and grizzled Albert Einstein walking and talking are copyrighted, but searchable.
The Nobel peace prize that year was handed to a Scot, Lord Boyd Orr, for his work on world hunger. Plenty of that to go around.
Of course, I found no evidence that the winsome Japanese scientist had any role in starting the Osaka confection company, established in 1929 (when he was 22), first fashioning caramels. It changed its name to Nobel in 1949, probably in patriotic commercial celebration for his award. Maybe I’m wrong; Nobel Candy Company has not gotten back to me.
I have never been to Japan, although during the 1980s I was the New York City restaurant reviewer for two of that nation’s glossy monthlies, one called Bacchus, described to me as its GQ or Esquire. I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere that Bacchus translations, to be kind, had an oblique relationship to what I wrote. A column on diverse city food, which appeared just after David Dinkins was elected mayor and including as many compelling Black, ethnic and regional places as could be squeezed in, was efficiently bleached for Bacchus‘ mostly male readers. But I was paid well — until, soon after, I quit.
Candy isn’t dinner, although I have eaten at least one or two totally candy meals. All the time I’ve written about food, I found it difficult to select words for how things taste as I eat. I’m grateful that few readers have complained, but I was aware that if prose were batter or dough, I couldn’t fold flavors in naturally, the way you would with chocolate chips. I thought a food critic’s routine adjectives and frilly adverbs were dulling weights.
My job here is to say how this Super Cola ball explains itself in my mouth.
First, I must admit that I lost some sense of smell and taste about a year ago, when I got COVID-19. (I’m now fine.) Music critics get muffling ear infections, and art critics are faced with similar brakes on their confidence if they discover, occasionally by accident, that they are color-vision impaired.
It’s not easy for me to know if my doubt is “in my mind.” Why is this yogurt so bland? That apple tart has no pungency, no bite, something I frequently thought when eating out decades ago. In my case, COVID-19 has mixed itself up with aging, so I can’t tell what’s doing what.
Super Cola’s coated with immediate citric acid, causing a pleasant pucker, which dissolves into a sweeter candy with a vague taste I’d never recognize as “cola.” Flavors are often advertised suggestions.
Then you fall into one of two camps: the patient sucker, who over 10 minutes works it down to the middle, or the impatient, who goes “crack” and chews.
A kernel of baking powder, called Shuwa-Shuwa, sits at center. The name “Shuwa-Shuwa” supposedly mimics the fizzy sound a can of soda makes when clicked opened, according to a site called The Daily Meal, which also claims the same white stuff coated Pepsi-Flavored Cheetos, once sold in Japan. They didn’t last long.
In my book, you have to shake your can to get a sound like that.
There’s not much more to say. I found a hard-to-get item that makes me question my ability to taste, that moves me to feel 15 and 85 at the same time. A fountain of youth can also be a fountain of age, pretending always to fizz.