An Easter Egg is a Sometime Food: a Review of the Cadbury Screme Egg

My Bunny ‘O Lantern makes so much more sense than a Halloween Egg.

When I was in sixth grade, my best friend was a Jehovah’s Witness. Whenever we had holiday festivities or birthday parties, Travis couldn’t participate and always missed out on the sweets. One day around Easter, a kid named Greg was eating some candy at snack time. Travis asked for a piece. “It’s Christmas candy, so…” Greg replied, in a cautionary tone that implied, “Are you sure you really want it?” I still don’t know if Greg was being considerate of Travis’s faith or just warning him that the candy was nearly four months old.

I thought of this recently after seeing that you can buy Cadbury Eggs at Halloween. Which is weird.

I love Halloween. Or at least I think I do. Now that I’m a parent, I’m not crazy about my kid eating a ton of sweets; it’s hard enough getting Stella to go to bed as is without the extra energy provided by high fructose corn syrup. But, she’s nicer to me when I let her have candy, so there’s that. Also, making Jack ‘O Lanterns is fun, and people really get into decorating for Halloween in a way that makes me excited for Christmas.

I also love the idea of kids, and even adults, going nuts over dressing up, even though it’s not something that I’m really dying to do personally. My last Halloween costume involved a pair of white socks with hastily drawn faces that I wore on my hands. My costume was A Guy Who Has Ghosts For Hands. This year, I’m going to wear a stick-on “Hi. My Name Is…” tag with “Dracula” written on it. Ergo, I will be Dracula.

I’m not a big fan of scary movies and such, but I like the Halloween atmosphere. I’ve always been too sensitive for gore, but I like spooky and creepy. I like the idea of a vaguely sinister day of the year where the spirit world is in close contact with the physical world and weird shit happens. Of course, I don’t really believe this, but it still makes for a spine-tingling rush when I find myself in a dark, quiet space this season.

The drug store near my house is not one of these places. It’s brightly lit, and, while not particularly noisy, you still aren’t going to be spooked by ghostly whispers there. Especially when you are on Zoloft and had only intended to breeze in for a refill. Sorry…Sertraline. I had meant to use the generic term. Since I will be referring to a number of products by name in the remainder of this piece, it’s best I steer clear of outright product placement whenever I can. So, I won’t be using the name of the drug store; let’s just call it “Smallgreen’s.”

Distractingly situated en route to the pharmacy counter, the Halloween aisle at Smallgreen’s is a Grand Guignol of plastic and sugar. The first thing I notice is a “Torture Tool Garland,” although the accompanying sticker on the shelf notes that it is a “Bloody Torture Tool Garland.” No thanks, Smallgreen’s. That’s just too much. I would prefer the clean torture tools. The packaging notes, somewhat reassuringly, that, “This is a decoration, not a toy.” Given the opportunity, my four year old would probably beg to differ.

Also available are the “Werewolf Multifang” and the “Vampire Multifang.” One would think that the versatility implied by the portmanteau “multifang” would be enough, but apparently you need different packaging for the same cheap dental prosthetic.

An animatronic figure named Nicky DaKnife seems to be some sort of zombie hobo gangster. I press his button and he thrusts da knife in and out of his head. Nicky talks, too, and at first seems like a bargain at $15, especially for a place like Smallgreen’s, where the mark-up on cheap plastic crap is incredible.

“What kinda guy jabs a knife in his own head?” he asks. “Me, dat’s who!”

I’m not sure who is writing for Nicky, but I think I see where the manufacturer saved money. Also, his hair seems to be peeling away, but that could be intended to be seen as a side-effect of having a knife in one’s head.

For $30, you can get a 400 watt smoke/fog machine. The fire department recently rushed to the strip club nearest my office only to find that the smoke machine had been accidently left on over night, so clearly there are some inherent dangers in owning one. Still, I have no idea what wattage is really appropriate. You probably shouldn’t use it in the tub, though.

But, most of the aisle is, of course, occupied by Halloween candy, from the marginally, seasonally different to the uniquely grotesque.

There is a “Horror Meals” tray of gummy candies in the form of bloody fingers, eyeballs, ears and tongues. Never mind that this candy is made in China, a country whose sketchy foodstuffs I generally try to avoid; gummy candy is gruesome enough in and of itself. It’s made with gelatin, which comes from hooves and bones and even more marginal animal bits. I know a rather smugly self-satisfied vegetarian whom I’ve seen eat Gummy Bears on numerous occasions. I’m waiting with gleeful anticipation for the right moment to break all this to him.

There are over a dozen varieties of Russell Stover chocolate pumpkins with different flavored fillings, none of which are pumpkin. There are giant bags of “Fun Size” candy bars, each individually wrapped and sealed to guarantee against the insertion of razor blades, rat poison, and other hazards renowned in urban legend. The packaging cannot, however, guarantee that the contents never came into contact with peanuts. (Sorry anaphylaxis-prone kids! Better luck at Christmas!) The candy coated Jordan almonds in pastel colors seem either out of place or out of season. But, were it not for the redesigned packaging, most out of season would be the Cadbury Creme Eggs, rechristened for Halloween as Screme Eggs.

For years, the Creme Egg was the only exposure I had to Cadbury chocolate. I grew up in a small town in rural Appalachia, and we didn’t really truck with Eastern exoticism from faraway places, like British chocolate, draught beer, or hot tea.

Eventually, I visited England and tried Flake from a neglected-looking vending machine on a subway platform. Given the machine’s appearance, I assumed that the chocolate’s cruddy, stale-seeming texture was related to its having been there a while. In retrospect, this is probably why the candy is called Flake. Years later, at an international foods place in Atlanta, I tried some manner of Cadbury bar filled with Turkish Delight. Despite the name, you might be surprised to learn that the filling did not consist of Ottoman hashish, but rather, some weird magenta goo I later found out was rosewater gel.

An illustration of the full range of reactions to the Cadbury Egg.

My dad introduced me to the Cadbury Creme Egg growing up, which is strange, because my dad doesn’t like things that are too cloying, and the Creme Egg can be momentarily incapacitating in its sticky sweetness. But, we loved them and still do.

A lot of people don’t; my wife is one of them, and she will make a face and fake (?) gag whenever I mention Cadbury Eggs. Most holiday foods have their fans and detractors. Consider eggnog (quick note to myself: stash away “Consider Eggnog” for future use on tombstone after cholesterol-related death, as name of holiday album, marketing slogan for National Eggnog Council, etc.). No one is so/so on it. It’s either a treat you welcome with the coming of the Yuletide, or the thought of it is nauseating.

I’ve found that opinions of Creme Eggs track like this. And, while my study is far from scientific, I’ve noticed a distinct correlation between people who dig eggnog and Cadbury Eggs. Or don’t.

But, even as a fan, I can’t say I welcome the Halloween incarnation of the Creme Egg. As I’ve gotten older, my preferences have shifted to darker chocolates: the kind with cacao percentages on the packaging. Okay, “preference” might be a stretch. I’ll still gobble milk chocolate like a dog with a death wish, but I’ve come to appreciate the darker stuff. For a few years, I’ve thought that a dark or semi-sweet variation on the Creme Egg would work really well. The fondant goo in the middle doesn’t really need help in the sweetness department, and a subtle bitterness might offset it quite well. The Screme Egg is a real missed opportunity in this regard. While the green “yolk” (rather than the usual yellow) does invoke shades of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien, and Gremlins, a nearly black egg would look so much more sinister.

Even still, repurposing Easter candy for Halloween makes no sense. While we’re at it, let’s just try to get more mileage out of the chocolate crosses I’ve seen alongside the bunnies and eggs each March. I’ve always thought that no matter what you believe, these are more than a little disturbing. Either you’re giving a kid a chocolate representation of an instrument of agonizing, torturous execution, or you’re allowing her to have the symbol of your Lord and Savior for dessert, possibly rendering it blasphemous with the first bite. Honestly, a chocolate cross seems much more appropriate for Halloween than an egg. Just turn them upside-down and kids can incorporate them into their pretend witches’ Sabbaths and black masses. Kids do that, right?

I was interested to see how my own kid would respond to the polarizing effect of the Cadbury egg. There are times when Stella seems like a random kid who has been assigned to me. She’s hot-tempered, passionate and dramatic. I am melancholic, passive and introverted. But, clearly she is my kid, as she has the genetic predisposition to love Cadbury Eggs. She was very impressed.

You have to crack a few eggs etc. etc.

We thought it would be funny to take a picture of a smashed Screme Egg in a frying pan, and then we disposed of the evidence before Mom got home. Stella did her best to scrape up every last big of green goo from the pan.

Oh right: my review. I’m not going to bullshit you: these taste the same as the Easter ones and either you’ll love them or hate them.

“Guess what,” I told her. “They have these at Easter, too, but the inside is yellow.”

“Wow.” she answered. (She responds to many insignificant facts with, “Wow.”) “Why?”

“It’s marketing,” was the best I could come up with.

“We should get one for Mommy,” she replied.

I look forward to sharing my hard-earned wisdom with Stella over a glass of eggnog.

Walgreen’s Smallgreen’s has Cadbury Screme Eggs 2 for $1.59. Or, just wait until Dia de los Muertes (trans. “Day of Half-Price Candy”) and stock up super-cheap for Easter.

A Needlessly Lengthy Explanation of the Latin Epigraph in “Ursus”

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I thought the idea of a pretentious-seeming epigraph in Latin that just turns out to be a piece from Winnie the Pooh is kind of funny. So there.

In the fall after I graduated college, my summer job had ended, and I had yet to land my first “real” job, if you want to call working an entry-level TV position for not quite 16,000 dollars a year a “real job.” In the interim, I worked part-time at a book store, where I was paid under the table, in cash, at the end of each week. The store was on Main Street in a North Carolina mountain town, and had intermittent tourist traffic. It sold books of local interest, best sellers, and an odd collection of used titles. The store was able to keep the doors open, however, by specializing in home-schooling materials –textbooks and such – with the sub-specialty of Catholic home-schooling. So, there were a lot of books in Latin. I became very taken, early on, with one of them. It was A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh translated into Latin, as Winnie Ille Pu. At the time, I though this was a random obscurity, but as it turns out, it was the only book in Latin to ever be on the New York Times bestseller list.

The week I left, I fed some of my final cash payment back into the store. I bought several used books and Winnie Ille Pu. I thought it would make an amusing gift for the girl I was dating at the time (which is, I’m sure, what my wife loves to be called). She had taken Latin in high school, and I thought she would enjoy reading passages from Pooh in a classical language. I came to find out that she retained absolutely nothing from high school Latin, just as I absorbed nothing from the two semesters of ancient Greek my freshman year in college, which irreparably screwed up my GPA. But, we still have the book, despite the fact that it is repeatedly put in the “to sell” pile. I always rescue it.

So, in short, what you’ve just read is the least poignant and absolutely worst re-telling of O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” ever.

Right. The translation. Which is, of course, the English original. I was able to find the correct passage by matching up illustrations and then sussing out Latin roots:

“I do remember, only Pooh doesn’t very well, so that’s why he likes having it told to him again. Because then it’s a real story and not just a remembering.”

See? English: marginally relevant. Latin: awesome.

Ursus

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Egomet reminiscor. Sed eae res fugiunt Pui memoriam, qua de causa fabulas
bis narrates diligit. Tum tamen fibula vera est, non solum opus memoriae.*
– from Winnie Ille Pu

Somehow I’ve made it through life, or at least the last thirty-four odd years, without accumulating much. I’ve picked up a lot of lint. I had a dryer sheet stuck to me once. But most of the time, all I could lay claim to were my clothes, which is weird, because I’ve never had much of a, whattayoucallit?, sartorial flair. One outfit that works is fine with me. A uniform, if you will. Just a shirt and I’m good to go. A shirt and nothing else, because that’s what Winnie the Pooh is supposed to wear.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not THE Winnie the Pooh. I’m not sure if I believe there really is one. I think I did, once. But me, I’m just a doll that looks like him. Or “stuffed animal” as the kid used to call me. He never would have referred to any of us as “dolls.” Because dolls were for girls and sissies, although, frankly, the kid did seem kinda sissy to me. Especially since he stayed interested in dolls – sorry: stuffed animals – long after any other boy in his class, well into fourth or fifth grade. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, yeah, I looked a lot like Pooh. Not so much the original Milne and Shepard conception of him, but the Disney version. Yellow, with the aforementioned shirt in fire-engine red. And, just in case anyone missed the point, the front said “Winnie the Pooh” in yellow thread.

The kid knew the red shirt was an integral part of the Pooh persona. I mean, without it, I was just a yellow bear with a stitched-on smile. And that’s what I became early one morning in bed when he got bored.

A t-shirt sewn snugly onto a torso – a torso smaller than the head that sits on top of it – well, that shirt is obviously not meant to come off, and the kid quickly learned this. With an unanticipated regret and a bitter sorrow that seized him just as he stretched the neck of the shirt over my too-large head, he burst into tears and pinballed through the dimly lit house to his parents’ room, waking them.

“I…Pooh’s shirt…ungh!” the kid got out between sobs. His parents groaned sleepily in response.

“Your kid ripped off my shirt and now he can’t get it to go back on!” I attempted to clarify. “Oh my God, I think it’s off forever!” The parents didn’t seem to hear me, but the kid cried harder.

The lady bought a few more minutes of rest with a promise to fix the problem later, but before long, the kid was already trying to pin her down on a time. “When, Mom? Mom, when?!”

So, that afternoon, the lady made a replacement: a tomato-colored vest in a polyester blend with a wide, zig-zagging hem. It was very 70s. She wisely added a snap on the front for easy and less-traumatic removal.

I didn’t like it at first. I was used to a t-shirt, and a vest was maybe a little Fleetwood Mac for my taste. But, while I was upset at losing my sole, lifelong possession, looking back, the replacement suited me pretty well. I never needed a costume change. Whether the kid made me a pirate’s sidekick, a squire to his knight, or an old-west sheriff’s deputy, the vest worked all around.

And now, I was personalized, giving me another advantage over my factory-decorated peers in the basket where all the other stuffed animals stayed. Myself, I always just stayed with the kid.

For a little while longer, we went everywhere together. The family would pack into the tiny Dodge hatchback, and I’d get buckled in with the kid so his seatbelt would fit better. He loved me. I could have done without the occasional peeing in bed, but overall, I thought he was okay. I have to admit, I did like being safe and warm, which is what I was most of the time.

So, I hated when I got stuck in a box in the back of a truck, but hey: part of the process, right? The kid’s family had already relocated a few times before he was five, so I could deal with it. Or I thought I could. During the first move, the kid was scared he would have to leave behind all his toys for the family moving in. But this time, he acted so certain I’d still be around that I kind of felt taken for granted.

My smile faded.

Not at that moment, I mean; the red strip sewn onto my face had faded to an uneven, scabby-looking pink after all the post-bedwetting washing and drying. I was just remembering something else about that I forgot to throw in earlier. Sorry.

Where was I? Right. Taken for granted. So what, y’know? I guess I was just as much to blame as he was for letting our thing together become a routine. But, pretty soon, we’d be in a new room in a new house, so we’d have a fresh start.

But, my misgivings about getting packed and shipped were nothing compared to how I felt when I saw the kid again.  Sitting there in a box, I could hear his older cousin saying several times he had a surprise for him. I heard the building excitement in the kid’s voice when he begged to know what it was. I was still wondering, myself, when the cousin hid me behind his back.

Then, I realized I was it.

The kid knew he was getting me back anyway, so I can’t blame him for being a little let down after all the build-up. But, when I saw the disappointment on his face, I saw my future.

Before long, action figures would replace me in the kid’s affections. More and more, he’d play with them while I sat on the bed and watched. Soon, I would be watching from the basket with the other dolls.

It’s not like the Pixar movies when a kid leaves the room, man. It’s like high school. Everybody has their cliques, and the GI Joes had no use for me. I didn’t have a ton of accessories or drive a cool Jeep with guns on top. I didn’t really have action-packed exploits to brag about, so apparently, I wasn’t tough enough. Never mind the fact that I was bigger and heavier, and I could easily have mauled any of them, tearing off limbs and snapping o-rings and such. People tend to forget that I’m, y’know, a fucking bear.

But anyway, I don’t know. I never really got that jealous of the action figures. Yeah, I got bored, and I missed the fun times. But, the kid was getting older. I’d had a good run, and I just figured that he was done with stuffed animals.

Then came the dog. Not the real dog, Rick. The kid never really bonded with him. I mean the black and white stuffed beagle. Snoopy.

The kid’s aunt bought him. He was the same size as me, but he didn’t just have a vest. He came from some store that also sold official Snoopy clothes. Not for the kid, I mean. For the dog. And not just like a shirt or pants. Like, everything.

The kid took to buying fashions and accessories for the beagle with an intensity that probably caused some adults and older children to question his nascent sexuality. There were hours spent perusing the catalog, and multiple shopping trips to buy outfits of all sorts:  safari khakis, boy scout uniform, business suit, pink aloha shirt with matching jams, snow suit, footie pajamas, kilted Scottish highlander garb, all of these with a hole for the dog’s cute little tail.

I don’t have a tail.

Were my eyes not glued firmly to my face, I’m sure I would have rolled them to the point of busting some seams. Just like that, the kid was back into dolls. Or, at least, a doll other than me.

I mean, it was pitiful. He didn’t just embark on the standard flights of fancy with the beagle: cowboys and King Arthur and buccaneers and all that. It was one weird ongoing role-playing thing where Snoopy was this billionaire who lived in his own private flying shopping mall and the kid was his bodyguard with all this high tech gear. When he wasn’t acting out these scenarios with the beagle, the kid was digging into his crayon caddy, drawing more weapons and submarines and jet fighters for his role as Snoopy’s protector. These were completely just rip-offs of GI Joe stuff, I might add.

Snoopy Guards!, he called the whole thing, often saying it with a flourish that implied, at the very least, jazz hands and sometimes suggested even pipe-dreams of an action-oriented entertainment franchise not to mention a blissful obliviousness to the concept of trademark infringement. He even submitted a creative writing piece about Snoopy Guards! which began with the line, “Dogfood milkshake: shaken, not stirred.” It came back with the remark, “THIS MAKES NO SENSE,” written in red at the top.

Obviously, the GI Joes seemed irritated, having been booted off their own black-ops missions by a cute, pot-bellied girl’s toy. But, honestly, the GI Joes always looked irritated. It was kind of their thing. Me, I was just embarrassed for the kid, thinking that if I were he, I would never tell anyone about any of this ever again.

But, for anyone willing to go up on stage in khaki shorts, dress shirt, red suspenders and black knee-socks, the potential for embarrassment isn’t always a discouraging factor. The kid got cast in a children’s theatre production of Winnie the Pooh, and guess who got roped into helping out. Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the beagle.

There was already a girl cast in the speaking part of Pooh, but the director thought it would be cute to have the kid hold me on his lap while he narrated as Christopher Robin, I guess implying that there’s the real stuffed Pooh and then there’s the imaginary walking, talking Pooh and so on and so forth. You know: the whole Calvin and Hobbes thing.

Simmering resentment.

Anyway, it was weird, and the kid and I were both a bit disappointed in the whole experience. He had really wanted to star as Pooh, and I was appalled to find that I was portrayed as a dimwitted fat-ass.  Stuck in a hole? Really? But, whatever. It wasn’t goddamn Shakespeare.

Still, as anticlimactic as the whole thing seemed at the time, looking back, it turns out it was the play that ended the kid’s attachment to dolls. And, I recall with no small amount of personal satisfaction that it was being pulled into the world of Winnie the Pooh that put an end to the kid’s creepy thing with Snoopy.

(Okay, well, for the sake of my story, that’s a pretty tidy wrap-up to the kid’s involvement with me and the beagle and stuffed animals in general, but I’m leaving out an obsession with all things Disney following a trip to Orlando wherein the kid filled up a whole book with signatures from all the roaming furry mascot characters: a book which he, for some time, considered to be a legitimate valuable autograph collection. Not that I need to spell this out explicitly, but you may already have surmised that the kid was a bit of a dork.)

But let’s just say it was the play that changed everything. Okay, so after the play, the beagle ended up in the basket with the rest of us, and most of his outfits went to a consignment shop. The kid’s obsession with GI Joe ramped back up for a while. After the action figures came baseball cards and then comic books and then rock and roll. And then, at some point, girls, no doubt to the relief of some family members.  The basket, with me in it, had long since ended up high on a shelf in the back of the closet.

I only saw the kid on and off during college. One summer, while leafing through Rolling Stone, he came across a Fruit of the Loom advertisement with a tiny pair of briefs glued to it. They were maybe just three and a half inches wide. I’m not sure why. To prove this could be done? To offer an undergarment option for the very small niche market of infants born dangerously premature but yet conveniently potty-trained? Who knows? But, the kid quickly moved from “Why?” to “What can I do with these?”

I’m sure he considered the beagle first, but there was no tail-hole. So, he took off the vest and put the underpants on me. One of his idiot mouth-breather friends suggested he add a couple marbles to the front to simulate my junk. Yeah, funny, right? With the exception of a short trial run, I was spared this indignity.

As silly as I felt (although I can’t deny that they were, indeed, pretty supportive), I think the briefs are the reason I’m not buried at the bottom of a box or in the basket back at his parents’ house. The kid found the sight of me shirtless in tighty-whities so continually amusing that he still keeps me around.

But now, he has a little kid of his own. She’s not crazy about me. There was an incident when she was a toddler: an incident where she was playing with me and a stuffed terrier. Yeah. Another dog. He fell off the bed and she followed, face first.  For a while, I felt I was under suspicion of having resentfully jostled them like the prep-school kid in A Separate Peace, but mostly, the girl blamed the terrier. “Careful the bed. Careful the dog,” she would warn. I haven’t seen him since.

But, things are okay, overall. Somebody bought a Piglet doll to go with me at some point. He’s cool, I guess, but really more of a work-friend than a friend-friend. Mostly, I spend my time on the shelf next to Thelonious Monkey and a musical octopus the kid convinced his daughter to name Cthulhu. (The kid’s still a dork, by the way.)

There’s another move in the works. I’ve seen some of the stuffed animals getting crammed into boxes with dishes and other breakables, and I guess my turn as packing material will come soon. Years ago, the kid was concerned that the people moving in would get his toys. The kid’s daughter, however, isn’t worried, but fully expects to get the toys she’s seen in the house they’re buying. And, why not? The refrigerator and the washing machine are staying.

The kid, at some point, put the gray vest from the beagle’s three-piece suit on me. I’m not sure why, but I’m okay with it. It maybe gives me kind of a tweedy air consistent with the original British Pooh stories. So, I don’t protest.

I would suggest that maybe I have completed some sort of life journey: a thirty-something year odyssey from vest to vest. But, I should probably add that I also still wear the underpants. They’re a bit yellowish now, although I swear it’s just from the age. They do tend to distract from my classier upper half. I’m like a centaur of questionable fashion. But, I’m still here.

(The above was read aloud at the June, 2012, installment of the “True Story!” Reading Series at Kavarna in Decatur, GA.)

*A Needlessly Lengthy Explanation of the Latin Epigraph