There are Snacktaku reviews that come into being as a result of months of research, vetting out of potential candidates and focus testing. Then there are Snacktaku reviews that spring from finding a five-pound bag of candy on clearance at Walmart the day after Halloween. Look at all those damn Tootsie Roll products.
The day after Halloween is one of the certified snackologist's most hallowed of holidays, up there with the day after Easter and Boxing Day, for reasons you probably don't need to know. It's the day that perfectly good candy product get tossed aside, judged by the color of its packaging and not the content of its container. Such a joyous day for those that can look past labels to the flavors that lie within.
Lurking within the colorful plastic bag that doubles as a Johnny Spaceman helmet for curious children was some three pounds of cheap chocolate alternative, some long, some short, some thick, some encased in flavored candy-glass. There were flavored Tootsie Rolls—cherry, lime, lemon, orange and vanilla—and several boxes of Dots, the latter of which were fed to the cats. Ew.
Created by Austrian immigrant Leo Hirschfeld in 1896 in a small candy shop in New York City, the Tootsie Roll (Tootsie being the nickname of Hirschfeld's daughter Clara) was meant to be a cheaper answer to chocolates, something adorable scamps could pick up a handful of for a penny and eat without getting brown all over their black and white old-timey clothing.
It was an innocent time, a time where children would never dream of associating something they ate with cat poop. The fact that they were the first candy to be sold in their own individual wrappers might have helped.
I have never purposefully broken open a firm piece of feline dung, but I suspect it looks something like that right there.
Thankfully today's mixture of sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, condensed skim milk, cocoa whey, soya lecithin and natural and artificial flavors tastes much better than it looks.
Indeed, the Tootsie Roll looks like something that should taste much darker than it is, but instead of the deep, slightly bitter taste of a dark chocolate, these deep brown cylinders of taffy-life substance carry the lighter flavor of cocoa mixed with cream—like a chocolate shake, or chocolate milk with a bit too much powder piled in the bottom of the glass.
The deceptively diffuse nature of the Tootsie Roll also means you can eat a whole bunch of them without gaining any weight ever, or so I keep telling myself. While that's probably a lie, one of the thicker pieces only harbors some 50 calories, so I can eat 36 of them before I go over my calorie count for the day.
*counts empty wrappers* oh god.
Midgees: These are the tiny little individually wrapped candies we fell in love with as a kid, until we grew up and realized they sold Tootsie Rolls in massive, jaw-breaking hunks. Best consumed by unwrapping about 10 of them and forming a tiny person out of them. Screaming while biting into them helps.
Those Long Skinny Bastards: It's like four Midgees in one, only what's the point? I unwrap these and then reform them into a thicker candy log using my powerful forepaws.
The Large Stubby Ones Essentially half of a full Tootsie Roll Bar, these are my favorite chocolate taffy delivery devices. Sinking my teeth into these delivers a brief, thrilling rush born by the irrational fear that those pearly whites will continue sinking into the candy-flesh until torn from my gums. The sense of relief afterwards is very nearly as delicious as the Tootsie Roll itself.
Tootsie Fruit Rolls: These are slightly creamier Starbursts, except for Vanilla, which is not a fucking fruit, dammit. Vanilla Tootsie Rolls are not a pleasant alternative—they are the antithesis of all that is Tootsie.
Tootsie Roll Pops: A brilliant creation, delivering two of the candy groups—chocolate and fake fruit—in one exquisite package. Except for the chocolate-flavored ones, those are redundant and stupid. The ad campaign is completely responsible for my overwhelming hatred of owls. Screw owls in their stupid owl eyes.
Some nights I lie awake and worry. I worry that Tootsie Rolls, an Austrian-American tradition for more than a century, will fade from the national consciousness. I worry that it will become the Yoo-hoo of chocolate candies, cast aside in favor of the more genuine flavors of Kisses or Nestle Quik. Tootsie Rolls are a treasure, and should they ever disappear our great nation may very well turn to ash.
Then I find a bag on sale at Walmart, and all I worry about is making myself sick. Damn these things.