And Makes the World Taste Good
I’ve come to discover that Utah is an incredibly appealing state. Everyone we met commended us on my exquisite timing; it seemed we timed our visit during the best-looking weekend in recent memory. The mountains and multiple parks were swathed in changing leaves of yellows and reds. The sky was an unsullied bright blue. The sun had yellow rays beaming down. It was cool in the sweater-way, not the muffler-way. This was autumn as designed by a Dick and Jane book.
The girls had a glorious Friday night—which to uneducated parental ears sounded like an extended squeal—and then Saturday came and preparations for the party began. The girls weren’t unhelpful, but it’s nearly impossible to remember to carry chips and salsa to the rec room when there is more squealing to be done. In the interest of finishing the prep-work before Tuesday, Melanie’s mother and I set up most of the food. And then there were the desserts. Before I arrived, I had a dim memory of reading someplace that Mormons were crazy for desserts. I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations about any group. I will say that on the day of the party, while driving through Provo on a grocery-store run, I noted a doughnut store, a cupcake store, a pastry store and something called a “Chocolatery”.
That was on one block.
Finally, the party started. There was talking. There was a screening of “Despicable Me”. Melanie’s kareoke machine was brought out. To uneducated parental ears, it sounded like an extended squeal. When parents returned to pick up their costumed offspring, most of the guests were pleading to be allowed to stay a little longer, so I’m thinking it was a hit. The hostesses settled in for an late-night session of squealing, and the parents crawled into their beds, vowing to wash the frosting out of their hair the following day.
After a sluggish Sunday morning -- the girls baked and ate cinnamon rolls, the adults drank hot things and squinted blearily at a sink crammed with dishes -- we thanked Melanie and her family for their kindness and headed off to Park City which was, if possible, even prettier than what we’d already seen of Utah. Polychrome trees, sparkling lakes, breathtaking vistas. This was the natural equivalent of four dessert stores in one block. Daughter amended her life-plan to include at least one year of being a ski-bum. Then she noted we were in front of an ice-cream store. I scraped cinnamon-roll icing off her ear and countered in a firm voice, “Salad”.
Our next morning was a spent in Salt Lake City, and then to the airport for the flight home. We were happy but exhausted, feeling the effects of three nights of interrupted sleep, hours of squealing and the introduction of the “dessert for breakfast” concept. Because we were in Salt Lake, we visited Temple Square. Because we aren’t LDS, we were done in about ten minutes. I Googled What to do in Salt Lake City. Google suggested we see Temple Square. There were plenty of parks and hikes we could take but the kid didn’t have shoes up to walking long distances. (She packed assuming all of Utah was breathless to see the last word in cute shoes for girls from Los Angeles). We had three hours gaping ahead of us. I had no interest in entertaining Daughter in the airport for three hours and I couldn’t find a single thing to—
I silently handed the phone to Daughter and pointed at something. Her eyes widened.
“THERE’S A CANDY FACTORY IN SALT LAKE CITY? AND THEY GIVE TOURS? GET IN THE CAR!!!”
Daughter flung herself towards the car. I raced after her, shouting “WAIT! THE TOURS ARE BY APPOINTMENT!”
Daughter shouted back over her shoulder, “THEY’LL GIVE OUT FREE CANDY!”
I yelled back “IT’S NOT RUN BY WILLY WONKA, YOU KNOW!”
It was then I noticed we were running and shouting through the gardens of the most revered and iconic real estate in the Mormon world. If either Romney or Huntsman wins the election, I’d just bought myself a lifetime slot on the FBI watch list.
I caught up with her and we agreed to go visit the factory, if for no other reason than it was about ten minutes from the airport. We wouldn’t get a tour, but we’d go to the factory store and buy something delicious if slightly irregular to bring home to Consort. The factory was large, grey, about the size of a city block, very much a normal factory. Not a single Oompa Loompa was seen bustling about. We parked and I said to Daughter, “See? It’s just a place where stuff is made.” She waved a dismissive hand at me and barrelled inside. There was a smiling receptionist and three baskets with free taffy samples. Daughter flicked an eyebrow at me and politely pounced. I asked the receptionist, “I know this isn’t likely, but might my daughter and I get a tour? Maybe just slipstream onto some other group?”
As a matter of fact, we could. As a matter of fact, a tour had just started two minutes ago and were at their first stop. We scrawled signatures on release forms, donned hairnets, handed our bags and phone/cameras to the receptionist and were escorted to the group. Before you could say Halloween Jelly Pumpkins, we were staring at Jacuzzi-sized bags of sugar. I’ve never been on a tour of a candy factory before, so perhaps I’m not jaded enough yet, but this was awesome. I mean this in the most traditional sense of the word, this candy factory filled me with awe.
They had a three-story high silo filled with sugar. They had a large room full of rotating barrels for covering jelly beans with coloring. They had a conveyor belt only four feet shorter than the length of a football field for the boxing of various candies. I defy you to look at it and not see Lucy and Ethel frantically trying to keep up. Consort would have spent the entire tour in ecstasy looking at these immense machines which were both intimidatingly modern and clunkily old-fashioned. I’m no gearhead and I was delighted. Daughter was pleased enough, but her high points were the stops where we were offered a freshly-made sample of whatever each area made. Can’t say as I disagree with her. I’m no foodie, but I’m here to tell you that an hours-old jelly bean or chocolate-covered orange stick is an order of magnitude better than what you usually get.
We gazed in delight at the final bags of Christmas candy getting ready for shipping and the rooms full of jelly-rabbits awaiting April 8th, 2012. Outside, the weather was cooling down, but inside it was warm and sugary and always happily anticipating the next candy-related holiday. And, down deep, aren’t they all candy-related holidays? I just knew that somewhere in this massive structure was a flag-shaped taffy for Veteran’s Day, a blue one for Water Quality Month. Utah had won me over; desserts are for breakfast, candy should be measured by the ton and chocolatery is a word. I chewed my sample happily.
The tour ended and we de-hairnetted. The part of me which notices these things is happy to say that the employees seemed happy and that on the wall they had a commendation for exceptional safety from OSHA. The part of me which stays up late at night surfing the Internet for new reasons to fret was heartened to hear that the candy is run through a metal-detector before being bagged; I’d never specifically worried about metal in my candy before, but it was nice to preemptively check it off the list. The buttered-popcorn taffy tasted pretty much like sweetened buttered popcorn, thereby creating a new Platonic ideal of sugar and salt. We bought bags of mixed taffy to bring home and waved goodbye to the receptionist. Outside, the mountains were tinting a deeper red as the sun set and a breeze rustled my hair in the most adorable way. I felt wonderful and it wasn’t just the sugar. Daughter hugged me and said “This was an excellent weekend.”
Yes, it was.