Sweet flavors of home feed expats' souls
July 8th, 2011
08:00 AM ET
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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.

Here, all the candy – more than 120 different kinds from sour gummi skulls to salty licorice - is imported directly from the Scandinavian country.

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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Filed under: Bite • Candy • Cultural Identity • Culture • Dishes • Favorites • Secret Suppers • Think

soundoff (157 Responses)
  1. Katja

    You can find candy from all over the world including 350+ kinds of black licorice sweet and salt licorice! You can find the selection at http://www.marinamarket.com

    July 8, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  2. ferrara

    Frangoes from Marshall Field's in Chicago - and at Macy's! Excellent!! I think people are getting confused between candy for kids and chocolate for adults.

    July 8, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Patty Poopity

      I really enjoy Exlax from Walgreens as it cleanses my palate.

      July 8, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  3. veve

    Now I wish I'd tried the chocolate in London when I went to visit – maybe next time. The food – even the fish and chips – was so bland that I could see why my friend said that England was the only vacation where she'd actually LOST weight.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  4. AnonymousNJ

    If there's anyone stuck on Hershey, I really highly recommend you guys to eat chocolate from other American and non-American companies. Any other chocolate, regardless of their country, is better than Hershey chocolate! The tastes can easily be distinguished. No offense to Milton S. Hershey, who created an iconic American chocolate company, but the taste is nowhere as good as the rest in the market. (I have mixed feelings on Cadbury. I haven't eaten it since I was very little since I don't like gooey fillings.) My favotie chocolate has to be a tie between Ghiradelli and anything Swiss. Japanese chocolate is good for the fact that it's not overly sweet. After having both Ghana and CRUNKY, I like Ghana more.

    @ adrian: :P Swedish food is awesome!!!

    July 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  5. Heather

    I've lived in the US, Canada and Germany and spent a summer in Spain. The candies from those places are all exciting to find because they bring back happy memories. Salty licorice though... I have only one memory of that and it's not good – heaving over the toilet while my dad (who'd given me the piece) laughed til tears ran down his face. It was the super strong ammonia stuff and I'll never go near any salty licorice again.

    July 8, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  6. Julia Child

    Ohhhhhh,this brings back so many fond memories of the time I spent in London with the SSA. All the little children running up to an American,smiling with their black or missing teeth and demanding candy.It was such a treat to kick those little buggers in the ass and to pass out peanut brittle since they could not eat it without teeth. Bon Appetit everyone.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  7. Meopinions

    Wish I could find Russian candy store in the USA. I miss candy from home.

    July 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  8. KindaSorta

    Superstop Market in White House Tennessee had the best candy isle. They carried all kinds of candy novelty and delicious!. I wonder if Paul and Jane know how happy (and fat) they made a lot of us kids in the neighborhood! Love and miss ya!

    July 8, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  9. boodles

    Just like to add Hershey's is one of my favorites. All the Hershey bashing is sad, but I wouldn't mind trying other countries chocolates. Maybe then I will see what you mean, but I love the saltiness of a good Hershey bar. They're not waxy like Kinder Egg chocolate-which are legal in Mexico!

    July 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  10. KindaSorta

    The best chocolate candy I ever had came from Germany, it was dark and had brandy on the inside........

    July 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  11. Naked On A Horse

    Haven't had a chance to read all the comments. Has anyone mentioned Godiva? Their dark chocolate (anything) is dee-licious! They have a salted caramel bark that's worth committing felonies over (sorry Casey Anthony, none for you!)

    July 8, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
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