The Jelly Bean Blues

Published 3:58 pm Thursday, March 21, 2013

Does anyone know what happened to jelly beans?

Just check out the candy aisle at a local store and you'll see what I mean.

I went shopping this week for a bag of old-fashioned jelly beans. As it turned out, I was the only thing old-fashioned in the candy aisle that day. I'll be the first to admit it – when it comes to jelly beans I'm definitely a “has-bean.”

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In case you haven't looked recently those chewy gooey harbingers of Easter aren't what they used to be.

What happened to the good old days when jelly beans were as dependable as spring daffodils?

Daffodils are yellow – and so were lemon flavored jelly beans. In similar fashion, red jelly beans were cherry, green jelly beans were lime, and orange ones were just what you might suspect – orange (orange beans actually tasted a bit like tangerines, but they were still in the ballpark).

Today's jelly beans, if they're in the ballpark at all, are way out in left field.

The Easter Bunny I knew and loved as a child would blush at some of today's jelly bean choices. What are our children to think when Peter Cottontail goes hopping down the bunny trail with a basket full of pina colada or strawberry daiquiri beans?

It's enough to give any adult over the age of, shall we say, good judgment a case of the jelly bean blues.

I suspect the transition from traditional to tastefully-challenged started when someone decided to spice up standard jelly bean flavors. Once those innocent little candies got a little spicy the trouble began. When cinnamon and cloves were added to the mix it was easy to put more unjelly-bean-like flavors – like raspberry and apple – in the bag.

A few years back when the Harry Potter books and movies were popular, Bertie Botts jelly beans turned up in the candy aisle. These beans came in flavors even a wizard would be hard-pressed to pass off as candy – dirt, earthworm, even earwax (just the color of an earwax jelly bean was enough to discourage consumption).

Nevertheless, people bought them and supposedly ate them.

That was the problem with the new jelly bean flavors – the taste and the color often did not match up. A blue jelly bean, for instance, might be blueberry or wintergreen – even licorice!

Who ever heard of a blue jelly bean anyway?

As perplexing as this color confusion is for adults, imagine how it must seem to a child just starting to make the association between colors and common objects. How do you explain to a two-year-old that an orange jelly bean tastes like cloves?

Added to this dilemma are today's “gourmet” jelly beans. I purchased several small tins of them (not for a small price) at the candy shop in Colonial Williamsburg recently. I gave one to a friend at Christmas. I happened to run into this friend in the grocery store recently, and she still had the jelly bean tin in her purse.

“I want you to taste this jelly bean,” she said as she extracted a rose colored orb from the tin.

I obliged.

“Now tell me the flavor,” she prompted. She popped one in her mouth as well.

We chewed.

“Do you smell perfume?” she asked.

We paused in mid-chew.

“Roses!” we chorused in unison.

Neither of us opted for another sample. A rose by any other name, we decided, should not be a jelly bean.

While everything may be coming up roses in the world of gourmet jelly beans, I prefer my jelly beans in the good old American tradition: red, white – and no blue.

What more can I say – jelly bean blues anyone?