No, this is not the name of our crafters’ club…although I wouldn’t debate its accuracy. I thought, considering the name of this foodie blog and all, that it was high time I showed you some crispy bits. Please enjoy them in their full-coloured glory. These crunchy candy coralettes (also known as sprinkles, jimmies, candy vermicelli, sugar strands, hundreds-and-thousands, or hagelslag) are from Nutty Club, a Western Canadian company with their head office in Winnipeg.
In operation and “serving Canadians coast to coast” since 1903, I honestly believe they have not changed their branding since probably the 30’s. Bless them for that. I think the handless, dancing CAN-D-MAN on the package has worked his way into the collective memories of everyone who spent any time in the Prairies. The company specializes in confectionary and baking products and I have vivid recollections of both.
The racks of snacks are most often seen in small-town grocery stores, co-ops, and gas stations and contain snack-sized bags of ju jubes, allsorts, scotch mints, humbugs, chicken bones, and midget mix. Also available were the more savoury items such as peanuts, popcorn and sunflower seeds. My high school store had one of these racks and my favourite treat was a bag of salt-and-vinegar peanuts smuggled into typing class. Any type of food was strictly forbidden, so my typing buddy and I were flush with rebellion as we sneakily munched away at the back of class. In retrospect, it was rather unhygienic, what with the communal Smith-Coronas and all and then licking the sour salt off my fingers. But hey, it was the early 80’s and times were simple then; no one worried about these things. Well, apparently the teacher did.
Anyone who’s spent a nanosecond in a Prairie kitchen, especially during a bout of seasonal baking, has probably caught site of the Nutty Club food colouring in their funky bottles (see above). And no matter how many drops you added to the frosting, your red and green never came out more than pink and mint…not exactly what one hopes for when decorating those Christmas cookies.
Always the avid baker, my grandmother’s basement larder was a veritable treasure trove of Nutty Club baking products: bags of baking ju jubes she liked to put in her carrot cake (a nice alternative to raisins, I must say), the pressed sugar decorations reserved for special occasions, pecan halves, miniature candied fruit slices, and sprinkles and trim-ettes for days. My grandmother also enjoyed serving Nutty Club “juice” made from appropriately-coloured concentrated syrups to which one added water. Cherry was a favourite.
So if you’re ever passing through a town west of the Great Lakes, keep an eye out for the dancing CAN-D-MAN, grab a bag of Midget Mix, and participate in our national identity. If, on the other hand, you’re heading to Paris and see a box of these goodies:
…pick one up for me because these are NOT available here. I’ll pay you back.