In Search of Lost Dining


Another surprising area for sharp memory is the taste and texture of cheap candy. Not imported chocolates, but Red Hots, Good and Plenty, Milk Duds, Paydays, Chuckles. I dreamed I got a box of Chuckles with five licorice squares, and in my dream I exalted: "Finally!" With Necco wafers, there again, the licorice were the best. The peculiar off-purple wafers were space-wasters. As a general rule in candy, if anything is black, red or green, in that order, I like it.

Roger Ebert's surprise, after spending a lifetime in movie houses, at finding he has strong memories of candy is one of many endearing moments in his farewell to eating, drinking and talking. (I'm not totally sure on the third item; at one point Ebert writes up what seems to be a live conversation.) It's sad to learn that Ebert—of whom I am genuinely fond and who earned his ticket on the space ark with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls—is so terribly afflicted. But he is still producing, in this case a reverse-Madeleine essay in which a philosophical truth (courtesy of some Jehovah's Witness friends) sends the writer on a journey through memories of food: 

And from that time I began to replace what I had lost with what I remembered. If I think I want an orange soda right now, it is after all only a desire. People have those all the time. For that matter, when I had the chance, when was the last time I held one of those tall Nehi glass bottles? I doubt I ever had one from a can.

The whole piece is loopy, moving and well worth reading. And take a few minutes to appreciate some memories a young Ebert helped create for all of us: