Not long after we moved here, it occurred to us that Mexicans and Mayans have a collective sweet tooth. The Yucatan consumes the most Coca-Cola per capita of anywhere IN THE WORLD. There is also candy everywhere. The first time it really hit us was the first time we walked into Liverpool, the classiest department store here in Merida. It’s on the north side, where the money is, and it carries everything from Baccarat crystal to Calvin Klein sheets to the latest Britney Spears perfume.
We pretty much knew what to expect, but what we didn’t expect was the first thing we saw as we walked in: a HUGE candy counter, with candies we had never seen and did not recognize. And it was doing a brisk business from all the ladies with their Louis Vuitton bags.
The second time we got a clue was when someone shipped us a box of Godiva chocolates from the States. They never arrived, of course. We know some lucky aduana (customs) guy was really happy that week, but what we also learned was that you are not allowed to send candy *into* Mexico. Why? We surmise that the candy cartel here is very strong and just doesn’t want American candy corporations taking over their business. And we can’t blame them. (Just for the record, Mars Corporation seems to have made peace with the Mexican Candy Cartel, because there are M&Ms, Snickers and Three Musketeers bars here. There are also Hershey kisses and a few other American candies, but really, not many. And just for the record, not our favorites. Well, there are also Jelly Bellies, sometimes…)
A few weeks ago, we were invited to the birthday party of a neighbor of a friend. The birthday boy in question was 2 years old, so a piñata was a big part of the celebration. Not that you have to be 2 years old for that here. Anyway, the piñata was hung, the children were blindfolded, the bat was presented and the swinging began. Many thrills and twirls later, the piñata was thoroughly bashed and smashed and tons of Mexican candy spilled all over the floor, only to be greedily collected into plastic bags by everyone (grandma included) at the party. Well, not the gringos. We wouldn’t presume to get between Mexicans and their candy. When all the candy was collected, grandma herself came up to us and presented us with a big bag of the candy, which of course, we could not refuse. She confided to us that it was just the first of three piñatas planned for the evening. Goodness! We departed with the big bag of mysterious sweets, which sat in our refrigerator until one evening we decided to sample and analyze them.
It was research, nothing more.
So we now present the array of Mexican candies in the bag for your perusal. We hope that those of our readers who are away-from-home Yucatecos won’t get too homesick looking at the pictures.
Our first subject, Bocadin, is a Mexican version of a KitKat bar. Nothing unusual there. It was smaller than a KitKat bar, but it was also free, so we feel wrong complaining about that.
Second in line is the Bremen chocolate bar. Rather nondescript chocolate. Really nothing special. But I’m sure the little kids love the picture of the cow. Chocolate hecho con leche! (chocolate made with milk!) and it’s a perfect size for grandma to sneak into her nightstand and pop into her mouth when no one is looking (“I don’t know why I keep gaining weight… I never eat candy!)
BubuLubu’s get our vote for the best name for a Mexican candy. Kind of Yogi Bear and Desi Arnaz all rolled into one. Inside the shiny electric blue packaging is a marshmallow, covered with a sickly sweet red jelly, all wrapped up in a chocolate coating. The marshmallow and chocolate part works, but we could do without the jelly.
Malvaviscos are just marshmallows by another name. A name that sounds rather sinister to us. Like maybe they are planning bad things behind your back, those nasty marshmallows. But come to think of it, “marshmallow” is a pretty weird word too. So there. Malvaviscos go down really nice with a cold martini on a hot day, we discovered, although this is probably not their intended use.
The next candy is really a candy family: sweet powders that are also spicy, or pica as they say in Spanish. These three are called Pica, Picazon and Rey. They all bite back. Mexicans love their sweets, but they love their chilis even more. Of course, if you are a parent in the United States, your kids have probably come home with something like this or if they haven’t, they will. We didn’t have candy like this during our childhood. We had pixie sticks and of course, the everpopular, Sweettarts, which were sweet and sour. But nothing that was sweet and hot.
The next photo is not candy… but it’s close. They are peanuts (cacahuates here in the Yucatan, mani elsewhere in Mexico). The preferred manner of eating peanuts in Mexico is Japanese style. Yes, it makes no sense. We would love to hear from anyone who knows the history. Japanese style means the peanuts are covered with a crunchy outer covering, like a 1960′s bar nut. If you like your peanut butter crunchy style, you’ll love these.
Last but certainly not least, we present Panditas. We know them as Gummy Bears. Panditas means “little panda bears”, not coincidentally. These little bears were every bit as good as their American brothers, and were particularly delicious with a shot of tequila. Olé and all that. Let the research continue…