When I first left California for foreign climes, I knew I’d miss the food I’d grown up with: tortilla chips and refried beans, hamburgers with avocado and monterey jack. What I didn’t expect was the desperate desire for candy. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were not something I particularly thought of as a favorite food but I would pick them up occassionally as a quick snack when there was no time for lunch. After I’d been away from home for a year, however, the desire for them became overwhelming. Those peanut butter cups became my heart’s desire, a taste of home, representative of all the junk food I had left behind.
I tried filling the cravings in a high-class manner. I bought a pound of peanuts which I ground into a natural peanut butter and then dipped thick chunks of dark Belgian chocolate into it. Although it was quite an interesting combination, I realised that the ground peanuts were only tangentially related to the filling of the peanut butter cup. I eventually found real peanut-butter (by which I mean ground peanuts with added sugar and preservatives and god knows what else) and took the time to make my own cups in a mini-muffin pan. They were quite tasty and made for a decent after-dinner snack but I never quite achieved that Reese’s flavor. In the end, I wrote a frenzied letter to my parents, asking them to please send me a care package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. To their credit, I received a small box of the candies via air mail within the month, no questions asked.
So what is it about Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and why couldn’t I re-create the experience? A quick look at the ingredient list gave me the answer.
The bulk of the peanut butter cup is milk chocolate but their milk chocolate is sweeter than anything you could ever eat as a bar. The primary ingredient of their chocolate is sugar, nosing ahead of the cocoa butter and cocoa mass and milk. The next ingredient of the cup is peanuts but the third is, again, sugar.
This would be so sweet as to be unpalatable but the fifth ingredient in this most unhealthy snack (I used to eat this for lunch?!) is salt, adding a much needed tang against the cloying sweetness. It’s the salt which upgrades the peanut butter center from diabetic nightmare to grainy addiction. Each peanut-sugar-and-salt bite ends with the sweetened milk-chocolate washing away the tingle of the salt and leaving you longing for a bit more to cut through the syrupy residue left in your mouth. Even if you ignore the E-numbers and seven-syllable ingredients that sound straight out of a chemistry lab, the combination is a bit scary: Sugar, chocolate, peanuts, sugar and salt.
Obviously, these simply can not be compared to the standardly reviewed items on Chocablog and I remain partial to champagne truffles. But recently I walked into a wonderful delicatessen and shop which sells all sorts of intriguing food, much of which is imported by the proprieter. Among the dried herbs and specialist rice and dried mushrooms, he has a box of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. His prices are exorbitant but they do come in packs of three cups, rather than the two I remember from my childhood. I think it’s important to stay in touch with my roots and so I bought all his remaining stock. I just want to have them on stand-by, to alleviate the rare feelings of homesickness that sometimes creep up on me.
Besides, he said he’d get a new batch in by Monday.