Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Favorite Bar

First, let me start by saying that I don't think there are any candy bars that I'd turn down if I were hungry. All of them are good—it is just that some are better than others. However, I was recently asked to pick my favorite candy bar so that some of them could be sent in a “care package” from my family back home. I was able to quickly name my favorite.

My earliest recollections of candy bars go back to the early to mid-'60s, when my dad was the manager of Ohio Valley Speedway. I spent every Saturday night at the race track during racing season. My sister generally stayed in the concession stand where my mom worked, but I was allowed to sit on the bleacher row in front of the judges' stand where the announcer worked. I loved sitting up there by myself (there were other folks sitting around me who my parents trusted, but I felt like I was “grown up” because my parents let me stay there on my own) watching the races!

Each night at the conclusion, I'd go down to the concession stand to wait with my mom and sister until we all went home. That is where I learned about different candy bars. This was back in the 1960s, before all the new-fangled candy bars came along—back when a Hershey bar was simply plain chocolate rather than today's Hershey bars that feature multiple different flavor choices (such as “Cookies and Cream Hershey bar”, “Mint Hershey bar”, etc.). These were the days of classic brands such as Clark, Oh Henry, Fifth Avenue, Payday, etc. Most people seem to pick the big names such as Snickers or Three Musketeers. My favorite at that early age was a Zagnut bar, which can still be found today but isn't very common. It isn't a chocolate bar because it has no chocolate—just a golden toasted coconut coating.

After Ohio Valley Speedway changed hands and we no longer were tied to that track, Dad and I started going to the races at Pennsboro Speedway. This historic half-mile county fairground racetrack with its huge covered grandstand had started in the late 1800s as a horse track, but eventually race cars took over. It is wedged in a small valley amidst tall hills, with three bridges spanning the creeks that run through the infield.

It was on those hot Sunday afternoons at Pennsboro that I discovered my very favorite candy bar. The concession stands at the old Ritchie County Fairgrounds (the original name and purpose of Pennsboro Speedway) were located underneath the old grandstand whose aging wood had long since turned gray over the decades (unfortunately, this historic structure burned down in 1980). They had those big galvanized tubs like are found on farms, but here they were filled with ice. Soft drinks and even candy bars were atop and among the cold ice cubes (sometimes sinking into the frigid meltwater). The candy bars didn't get melted despite the heat because they were nearly frozen hard from sitting on the ice all day. It was at this race track that I discovered the joy of a cold Zero bar. They tasted great on a hot summer afternoon (the big half-mile track at Pennsboro had no lighting system, so they always raced in the day time).

Zero bars can still be found today, but it seems you often have to be looking for them to find one. They still have essentially the same silver and blue wrapper design. I enjoy the white chocolate fudge coating over the caramel and almond nougat. It is definitely different than most other candy bars, and it always makes me think of the good times I had with my father at Pennsboro.

Thus, as I sat here in this tropical climate, the candy bar I quickly chose was a Zero bar. I knew that even if they melted inside the wrappers while they were being shipped down here, I could still put them in my freezer and recreate the chilled version that I remember. I ate one bar already, and gave one to my host family to enjoy (Dominica has a lot of American candy bars, but they don't have Zero bars here, and they liked it). I hope to space the remaining ten out over time, never eating more than one a month (if that).

I still enjoy Zagnuts when I find them, but it is that other “Z” named bar that barely edges it out for the top spot, primarily because of how good it tastes when cold (if I end up freezing them too hard, I can always let them thaw a bit in the tropical heat here). I'm so glad they sent this little reminder of my childhood. The Zero bar gets my award for the best candy bar!

One of my Zero bars in front of my ice cube tray.

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