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Friday, October 22, 2021

Column: Bite me

Love is in the air. Romance can be seen on the quad. Candy sales are up. The back corner of Target has turned some violent shades of pink and red. What does this mean? Oh yes, Valentine’s Day is around the corner.

Does anyone remember getting those candy hearts with the messages on them in elementary school? Chalk-flavored “conversation” hearts that said things like “be mine” and “love you.” Did you know that the sayings on those hearts date back to the 1860s? While many of the sayings had stayed the same, it wasn’t until the 1990s when NECCO actually began to update their heart sayings. They added phrases like “fax me” (how romantic).

Yet for the first time in 145 years, the NECCO Company has thrown out all the old sayings. Last year, the American public selected all of the sayings printed on the candies. Do you feel special, America? Sayings like “tweet me” were added; let’s hope “fax me” was taken out.

While I’ve always gotten at least one box of those conversational hearts, I always wondered why. I think they taste disgusting – like chalky, medicine flavored cardboard. Yet they’re one of the best-selling Valentine’s Day candies. Is it because they’re cheap? The average cost of a box is a dollar.

Or maybe what makes them so popular is the memory of getting them in grade school and strategically trying to arrange them so a classmate cutie could see. It’s the trickery that occurs in elementary school that secures the conversational hearts in our memory and causes us to continue purchasing these candy hearts. I mean, who doesn’t want to relive the memory of handing out little heart-shaped phrases like “love birds,” “marry me” and “true love” in the fifth grade? Man, those were the days – when you had to give a valentine to every kid in class, regardless of whether they were the teacher’s pet or class bully.

If you doubt just how popular these candies are, you can check out the NECCO website for the statistics. The New England Confectionery Company must produce 100,000 pounds of hearts a day for almost the entire year to supply the demand that sells out in just six weeks.

One reason you might want to snag a box this year if you haven’t had one recently is that they changed the flavors. I always thought every heart tasted the same, but before the flavors were grape, cherry, banana, orange and wintergreen. What kind of flavor is “wintergreen?” Now lemon, green apple, strawberry, grape, blue raspberry and orange can fill your taste buds.

NECCO has also expanded the line to include phrases in Spanish and chocolate hearts. You can even buy some Twilight hearts if you really can’t escape your inner tween. (Does the lemon remind you of Justin Bieber’s hair at all?)

I really think these little hearts are more than just cheap candy – you can see the change in technology, communication and social interactions in these hearts. A hundred years ago “tweet me” would be freaking ridiculous if it was printed on a heart – heck, it still is in my opinion.

But if you think back to when these hearts came out in the 1860s, printed candy was a pretty nifty thing. They have even worked to develop technology so the processes could be expedited and more candies could be produced.

Whatever happened to the good old fashioned “call me” or “let’s date” phrases? Not just on the candy hearts but in real life: what do you do when you meet someone new? Call them? Text them? Facebook stalk their photos?

This Valentine’s Day, what are you going to do? Candy purchases aside (always go for chocolate), how were your plans made? Was any actual physical face-to-face interaction involved?

I’ll admit I’m being a little melodramatic – I’m not against impersonal forms of communication. I just don’t think they should be primary forms of communication. They don’t have a “skype me” candy heart, thank goodness. Yet.

However, I wouldn’t be disappointed if a less-than-three heart was made. Even a less-than-backslash-three heart would excite me.

So to all the lovers lost in the candy aisles on Feb. 13, go for the Dove dark chocolates – everyone knows antioxidants are better for you than corn syrup-filled chalky hearts.

Tell SABRINA VIGIL what’s on your candy heart at svvigil@ucdavis.edu.

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