Swedish Fish

I recently was in a gas station (my favorite gas station chain in the continental US, actually, which isn’t yet found in Kentucky), and couldn’t resist purchasing a bag of these:

That, my friends, is a Swedish fish. When I saw a bag of them hanging at the gas station, I impulsively grabbed one for the road. I had to buy it.

If you know me slightly well, you will find this odd, as it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing I would eat. But if you know me really well, you might know that I have sentimental memories attached to Swedish fish. I even remember the exact time I last had Swedish fish–fall of 2000, Homecoming weekend at my smaller-than-small-town college. We had a prospective student staying in our dorm room with us that weekend. One of J’s roommates got a  box of Swedish fish sent to him as part of a care package. Yes, that’s how much I love this stick-in-your-teeth-goodness.

When I was a kid, my grandfather owned a campground up in the Northeast, and we’d go there a few times a year, always over my birthday it seems, and I’d always forget it was my birthday and somehow manage to be surprised when a party was thrown. But that’s not the point of the story.

The point is that at this campground, there was a ‘rec hall,’ and in the rec hall, there was a candy counter, and under this glass counter, there was an open box of Swedish fish, sold for 2 cents each (we got them for 1 cent each, since we were family). Because the box was open, and the fish were slightly stale, even now I prefer them to be hard, rather than fresh and gummy. I remember the small white paper bags, and I remember waiting as the worker counted out the twenty-five or fifty or one hundred or however many I had ordered, one-by-one, into the bag.

When I tore open the bag of Swedish fish the other day and chomped down on one, I was suddenly feeling the cool cement floor on my bare feet, dripping wet with chlorine water from the pool with a damp towel around my waist, listening to the ping-pong table snapping in the background. And then I started thinking about the red polo shirts that the staff at this campground wore, the golf carts they drove, the CB voices I’d hear from the one hanging from my grandfather’s waist and the mysterious codes they’d use to communicate. Then I started thinking about the seasonal campers who were there year after year when we would drive up to visit. The kids who grew up as we grew up, the parents with the thick Massachusetts accents. And I wonder what these people are up to.

These are communities I haven’t thought about for at least a decade.

And today, just from this candy… amazing.



3 comments on “Swedish Fish

  1. Elaine Wise says:

    Swedish fish, counted out from a grumpy old man or his sweet wife (who we, as kids, always hoped was there since she would slip in a few extras!). Saturday mornings we would be allowed to walk into town – the large town of Penndel – to the penny candy store. We always had to stop at the Catholic church as we walked by since I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood and the others needed to go inside for confessions. Then we would continue on to the penny-candy store and spend our allowances. Funny – my favorite is also the Swedish fish, and they put them into a little white bag also, counted out from a large box. Wow, did you bring back memories with this one!

    • elizabeth says:

      Great memories, Elaine. Thanks for sharing. I particularly like the tidbit about stopping at the Catholic church on the way! Maybe we’ll have to share a bag of Swedish fish some time soon…

  2. Olivia says:

    I just had the same reaction at Rita’s Italian Ice last Saturday!!

    Do you know they have a Swedish Fish flavor of ice?! It tastes EXACTLY like the candy…it’s sooo strange! Either way, I taste-tested the flavor(which I have had before), and the next thing I know I was telling the teenage girl behind the counter what it reminded me of.

    I told her about my summers at the Dauphin pool, sitting on my beach towel during the adult swim counting out my penny fish to see if I got more than what I paid for…like she cared about my history/love of the candy and how it instantly takes me back to summer at 10.


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