Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more and this week, we invite you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America in 2011. The week will culminate with a Secret Supper in New York City, and Eatocracy invites you to participate online starting Monday July 11th at 6:30 p.m. E.T.
The world tastes good ‘cause the candy man – or in this case, Stefan Ernberg - thinks it should.
Swedish-born Stefan Ernberg and his wife, Florence Baras, own Sockerbit in New York City. It’s a store with the tagline “Sweet and Sweedish” because it only sells candy - Swedish candy at that.
Sockerbit is just one of the latest country-specific candy shops to pop up around town for the sole purpose of feeding the nostalgia of expatriates.
“Every Swede when they were small, would take their allowance and go with their father or mother or brother or sister to the candy store on a Saturday, and buy their allowance’s worth of bulk candy,” said Ernberg.
“A lot of Swedish people living here, when they receive visitors, the first thing they ask them to bring is candy. It's a candy culture. It goes back so many years.”
After opening its doors this part March, the response has been anything but sour – especially for the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Swedes who currently reside in New York City.
“They were so happy, it was crazy. The girls were jumping up and down, laughing, crying,” Ernberg said.
But the emotional displays aren't just exclusive to Swedes and their penchant for Coca-Cola snakes and licorice toads. Plenty of expats rely on delicious and easy-to-share candy to keep part of their heart close to home.
“There's a shop about five minutes from us with a big sign outside that says, ‘American Candy’ and it should have my picture under the sign. I visit before every holiday," said Maureen Shaw of Mooloolaba, Australia – 16 years after her move.
Tony Pham, while based in Ho Chi Minh City as a Fulbright Scholar, said nothing reminded him of America quite like a pack of Swedish Fish that he would specifically request friends and family to send.
“I think it is important to be present and enjoy where you are (no matter where that might be), but it was also nice to be able to take a bite into those red gummy fish to remind me of the comforts of home when racing down the crazy streets of Ho Chi Minh City on a motorcycle.”
For some, it’s not just about the savoring the memories - it’s a matter of taste, and a bit of sweet nationalism.
Piers Morgan, who keeps a stash of his favorite British candy bars and biscuits in his office at CNN, recently opined on why British candy bars are so much better than American candy bars.
"...The chocolate tastes better. Our chocolate tastes better than your chocolate. There’s nothing you can do about it – it’s just a fact. You do some things better than us but actually when it comes to chocolate, we are so far ahead of you. Yours tastes weak, sort of insipid – it’s not real chocolate. Ours is proper chocolate. You get stuck in a Jaffa Cake and you’ll know what we are talking about."
Back at Sockerbit, Ernberg agrees quality is a driving factor.
“In Sweden, it’s normal sugar, not corn syrup. It’s all mostly natural colors, natural flavors,” added Ernberg, with no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) to boot.
Funnily enough, there is one candy you won’t find at Sockerbit because of that very reason: Swedish Fish.
The original Swedish Fish, as one might suspect, is made in Sweden; whereas the ones sold in the United States are made by Cadbury Adams in Canada with artificial coloring and high fructose corn syrup.
“The original ones are so much better, but we can’t import it because it has a color from chlorophyll – a natural color – that’s not allowed by the FDA,” explained Ernberg.
‘Til then, kids in the candy shop will have to go fish elsewhere - or settle for a gummi Ferrari.
Be sure to sweeten up the comments with the candies that remind you of home.
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