When I was five, my grandfather kept a stash of 3 Musketeers bars on top of his fridge. Not just a handful, but an actual display box like the ones in the check-out aisle at the grocery. He bought them because they were my favorites; they lived on the fridge because they were contraband. I wasn’t supposed to have sugar. Honey and blackstrap molasses from a co-op grocery that smelled like carob-flavored mummy, sure, but not the refined stuff then subject to a hippie-driven moral panic. My other grandparents also sneaked around my parents’ sugar blockade, but Papa’s contravention was by the far the most extravagant: a store box! And all for me.
Once I gained a degree of autonomy, my parents’ plan seemed to backfire. I bought head-sized Hershey bars, rainbows of gummy worms, crackly plastic bags of truck-stop caramels. I lacquered candy to make earrings in junior high and discovered in college how quickly new friends appear when you carry an open box of Ring-Pops through a roomful of people in raver pants.
Turns out it was all more Rumspringa than conversion. The year I left college, my teeth got sugar-sensitive, so I stopped eating candy to focus on my caffeine addiction. Along the way, I lost the taste for anything sweeter than the occasional slice of cake. A few months ago, though, ravenous and lured by the flicker of after-hours vending machine light, I had my first 3 Musketeers bar in years, and it was awful: cloying and waxy and stale. But that sound—the sound of teeth slicing through marshmallowy aerated nougat—knocked me right back to Papa’s kitchen and the moment I discovered that subversion tastes really, really good.
Erin makes coffee, books, and content strategy in New York and Portland. She blogs in sloth-time at Incisive.nu.