Ranking Easter Basket Candy

Happy Easter to those who follow the Christian faith, and Chag Pesach Sameach to my Jewish friends who are celebrating Passover.

For many of us whose families celebrated Easter, there are happy childhood memories associated with finding Easter baskets and getting a chance to dig into a treasure trove of candy, at just about the time that the Halloween and Christmas sugar rush had fully worn off. In our house, the Easter basket routine involved the thrill of the hunt for your basket and then the enjoyment of the candy. But of course, not all candies are created equal. The other day the B.A. Jersey Girl and I discussed Easter candy and our personal favorites as we returned from lunch–which caused me to compile this ranking, in inverse order, of the candy I would find in my Easter basket.

11. Circus peanut chicks and bunnies — One year the Easter bunny put chick- and bunny-shaped candies in our baskets that were made of the same mysterious substance as circus peanuts, and just like circus peanuts, they were disgusting–stiff, chewy, with that weird circus peanut shell and gummy, slightly stale-tasting interior. This revolting development simply demonstrated that the Easter bunny was fallible. Fortunately, the Easter bunny noticed our collective negative reaction to this ill-fated experiment, and the circus peanut candies were never again to find their way into our baskets.

10. Large jelly bean eggs — As this list will demonstrate, I was not a fan of jelly beans in the Easter basket, but the worst jelly bean-related candy was large jelly bean eggs. These had a kind of thick, coarse, granular shell of sugar and then a gluey, stick-to-your-teeth interior. I would try one of these to see if they had improved from the year before–which never happened, incidentally–and then would try to work out a trade of the remaining large jelly bean eggs with one of my younger, credulous sisters.

9. Regular jelly beans — I ranked regular jelly beans ahead of the large jelly bean eggs because at least they were smaller. In our baskets, the jelly beans would get snarled in the fake plastic grass, and it took time to find all of them and put them into the trading pile. The jelly beans were a throw in, designed to entice my younger sisters with visions of quantity over quality. Some years they actually fell for it.

8. Plastic eggs with jelly beans — Our baskets usually featured a few brightly colored plastic eggs. You suspected they were filled with jelly beans, but you were never quite sure, and could hold out hope for some other form of candy until you had wrestled the eggs open and sent the jelly beans inside flying everywhere. Then you knew, of course, but I rate the plastic eggs with jelly beans higher than other jelly bean offerings because of that faint glimmer of hope that existed before the eggs were opened.

7. Fancy decorated chocolate eggs — On some Easters, our baskets would include a fancy hollow chocolate egg that was decorated with little flowers and ribbons. The flowers and ribbons were made of the same impenetrable, tooth-breaking candy that you could buy at the grocery store in number form to put on a birthday cakes. The problem with these eggs is that they were impossible to eat without creating a mess. If you bit into the egg, all structural integrity was lost and the egg broke into pieces, and then you’d have to pick up and eat the pieces, with the hard candy attached, and end up smeared with chocolate and a mouthful of chocolate and that unchewable hard candy. These often were trade fodder, too, in hopes that my younger sisters would be tempted by the gay decorations without thinking through the inevitable ramifications.

6. Foil-wrapped chocolate eggs — Finally, we’re starting to get to the good stuff. These little chocolate eggs provided a nice little wad of chocolate and a pleasant sugar rush, but the foil wrapping was the big problem. Foil wrapping simply is not designed for chubby fingers eager to get to the chocolate inside. Every year, you would bite into one of the little eggs only to realize that a shard of foil remained on the surface, and when the foil made contact with your teeth an extreme jolt of pain shot through your mouth. The foil-wrapped eggs were an effective way of forcing frantic kids to take their time and pay careful attention to detail, lest they suffer the excruciating consequences.

5. Chocolate bunny — No Easter basket would be complete without a chocolate bunny. Some years, our bunnies would be solid, and some years they were hollow. I preferred the hollow version, because it was easier to take off the ears with one large chomp, but either form was eagerly consumed. I didn’t even mind the small hard candy eye.

4. Peeps — Our baskets always included the bright yellow chick peeps, and occasionally would have pink rabbit peeps. Usually, we would get one peep. Peeps were great because you only got them at Easter. Unlike chocolate candies, you didn’t eat peeps at the movie theater or at Halloween or Christmas, so when you found them in your Easter basket you’d kind of forgotten about them and how they tasted. And then when you bit through the stiff outer shell into the softness beneath, you remembered. Few things taste as good as a bright yellow peep on a clear spring morning.

3. Chocolate covered cream or peanut butter egg — These came in an easy to open wrapper, like a regular candy bar, and had a flat appearance with a ridged chocolate covering. The cream version had a runny, sugary interior that looked like an egg yolk, and the peanut butter version had a stiffer, more granular peanut butter than was found in the household Skippy jar. It was a good Easter indeed if you could trade dozens of jelly beans and the jelly bean eggs with one of your sisters in exchange for one of these delicious treats.

2. Chocolate marshmallow egg — We’re now getting to the point pf true favorites, where it’s almost impossible to rank one above another–but difficult decisions must be made. The chocolate marshmallow eggs were like the cream or peanut butter eggs, but what nudged them into second place on the list is the quality of the marshmallow–which wasn’t like the marshmallow cylinder you’d put on a stick to roast in a campfire. No, this marshmallow was creamier, and sweeter, and delectable. When you got one of these chocolate marshmallow eggs, you knew intuitively you were enjoying some very high-end stuff.

And, number 1 is:

Speckled robin-sized malted milk eggs — These were my all-time favorite. The brittle shell outer shell, the thin coating of chocolate just underneath, and the crunchy malted milk interior that would melt in your mouth if you could resist chewing it up–this candy was the stuff of which childhood dreams were made. Back in the day, I probably could have eaten my weight in these little egg-shaped goodies. Much as I liked the marshmallow eggs, it is impossible not to put the malted milk eggs at the top of the Easter candy list.

I haven’t had any of these candies for decades, and it wouldn’t be good for my waistline to have any of them now, but it is fun to think about them and remember the simple pleasures of an Easter basket.

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