I am not going to be writing about any of these things today: how shocking it is that a bunch of pampered multimillionaire courtiers with single-payer health insurance known as “the Senate” failed to pass the Buffett Rule which would have raised their own taxes as well as those of their biggest benefactors… the Secret Service sex scandal… Republicans wanting to cut food stamps to boost the Pentagon budget… the unremarkable fact that Ted Nugent is still a ginormous @$$hole… and that David Brooks is still an idiot… and that some idiot who is not David Brooks thinks abolishing HUD is a grand idea because fuck the poor…that all those “too big to fail” banks are bigger now than they were before they destroyed the economy… that the environment is completely fracked… that global warming and pollution will continue to accelerate because Obama’s EPA is not going to regulate CO2 emissions from coal-fired plants… that IRS bureaucrats will soon be able to rescind your passport if you owe back taxes… or that U.S. women already die in childbirth at shockingly high rates for a Western democracy and maternal mortality has been increasing here over the last two decades.
Not a goddamn peep out of me on any of those topics.
Today, beloved loyal readers, I wish to speak only of…
Bonomo Turkish Taffy.
Until about a week ago I had never heard of Bonomo Turkish Taffy. I was dining at a fine local establishment with two brilliant, witty and hawt gentlemen — an Artist and a Pilot — when the conversation drifted, as conversations do, to the subject of artificial banana flavoring. One of my companions — the Artist — mentioned “banana-flavored Bonomo Turkish Taffy,” and soon both of them were excitedly reminiscing over childhood memories of Bonomo Turkish Taffy and the product’s tag line, “Smack It, Crack It!” They are both Jersey boys, so I naturally I assumed this was some local Jersey thing I had missed, having misspent my entire youth elsewhere. But no. As it turns out, it was a Really Big Thing nationally, although for reasons that I will get to in a moment it had been declining in popularity and availability by the time I was riding my bike to the 7-11 to buy candy.
To hear the gentlemen tell it, Bonomo Turkish Taffy was right out of Willie Wonka’s imagination. A close cousin to salt water taffy, it was described to me as a chewy, candy bar-sized slab, which, once softened on the palate, could be stretched like chewing gum. But that’s not all: I was informed that the way one properly served up Bonomo Turkish Taffy was to first freeze the bar, and then, with it still in its wrapper, smack it hard on a flat surface. Thus would the bar shatter into shards (“Smack It, Crack It!”), which could then be enjoyed as much for flavor as for the texture change from brittle to chewy as the pieces reach body temperature on the tongue.
Well, out came the trusty iPhone, and a Google search was promptly commenced. 645,000 hits for Bonomo Turkish Taffy! Impressive. Near the top of the search results was www.bonomoturkishtaffy.com, a site that is not particularly iPhone friendly, so I vowed to investigate further the next day. And I did. That’s how I learned the fascinating and quintessentially American story of Bonomo Turkish Taffy.
In 1912, Turkish Taffy was invented more or less by accident by an Austrian immigrant candy maker named Herman Herer. He had been making a batch of marshmallow candies for a customer, M. Schwarz & Sons of Newark, New Jersey, when he accidentally added too many egg whites to the recipe. He tweaked the results a bit and, for reasons now lost to the mists of time, dubbed his creation “Turkish Taffy.” M. Schwarz & Sons eventually bought Herman’s candy business and renamed his confection “Turkish Chewing Taffy.” Enter the Bonomo family:
In 1936 A. Bonomo & Son’s purchased M. Schwarz & Sons’ along with their product “Turkish Chewing Taffy”. At first, Turkish Taffy was sold to concessionaires on the boardwalk of Coney Island and through direct sales out of a basket on the boardwalk of Coney Island. Joe Bonomo is credited with their big break, by making a deal for F.W. Woolworth Company (Woolworth’s 5 & 10 ¢ stores) to sell Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy in the stores in large rectangular blocks from which pieces were broken off by a small hammer known as a ball-peen and sold by weight.
In the 1940s A. Bonomo & Sons was renamed Gold Medal Candy Corporation, and the big blocks of taffy gave way to candy bars wrapped in wax paper. Now customers could crack their Turkish Taffy themselves. But all was not well in candyland:
Gold Medal Candy had much success with the new bar but they were hampered by the warm weather. Since Turkish Taffy had cold flow properties and got quite soft and pliable by warmer temperatures, packaging and shipping during the summer caused great obstacles. The wax paper wrapper failed to contain the candy and the bars failed to retain their shape, causing customers to complain and retailers to be dissatisfied. These problems were cured by the innovative use of a foil wrapper. Since candy bars were not sealed in the 1940’s, Vic & Tico Bonomo used the dead fold properties of heavy foil to contain the Turkish Taffy shape and the remarkable non-stick properties of foil against the candy, to prevent stick… The wrappers bore the instructions, “CRACK IT UP! – HOLD BAR IN PALM OF HAND – STRIKE AGAINST FLAT SURFACE – LET IT MELT IN YOUR MOUTH”.
The only Turkish Taffy flavor had been vanilla, but Gold Medal now expanded the flavors to include peanut butter, chocolate, strawberry and banana—and a mysterious sixth flavor that is now forgotten. (They would quickly drop the peanut butter.) Candy Corporation of America eventually took over Gold Medal, and launched national ad campaigns starring puppets named BO NO and MO. Bonomo Turkish Taffy was officially a craze. But then Tootsie Roll came along, and completely fucked everything up.
In 1972 Tootsie Roll Industries purchased the rights to Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. A number of web based stories recite the same misconception that by the mid 1980’s Bonomo’s turkish Taffy was shelved by Tootsie Roll Industries due to lack of interest. In reality, shortly following acquisition, Tootsie Roll Industries changed the sixty-year old tried and true smack-it crack-it formula to a soft taffy. They dropped the name “Turkish Taffy”, changed the ingredients, packaging, and shape. Eventually the product was named Soft and Chewy TootsieTaffy. It was this product that Tootsie Roll Industries Shelved.
Fucking Tootsie Roll. WTF. All was not lost, however:
The passion and demand for Turkish Taffy never waned. Fans banned together to petition Bonomo Turkish Taffy’s return. With the advent of the internet, blogs and discussion groups were formed to reminisce about their favorite candy and lament its unavailability. After many years of trying, in 2002 Kenny Wiesen, of New York and Jerry Sweeney of Philadelphia were successful in acquiring Bonomo Turkish Taffy. After years of making sure that it would be returned in its original smack-it crack-it formula, Bonomo Turkish Taffy, LLC relaunched Turkish Taffy in the summer of 2010 introducing it at the largest and most prestigious candy show in the world, The NCA (National Confectionery Association) Sweets and Snack show held in Chicago. Bonomo Turkish Taffy is produced in the USA (York Pennsylvania) exactly the way it was between the 1940’s and 1972 [which will henceforth be known as The Year Those Fuckers At Tootsie Roll Completely Fucked Everything Up. -Ed.]. The original design and packaging was recreated and it is offered in bars and bite size twists in Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry and Banana.
On the website I ordered an eight-pack of assorted flavors for $7.75, which arrived in a few days.
Last night, I had the exquisite pleasure of dining yet again with the Artist and the Pilot — and boy, weren’t they amazed when I whipped out my eight-pack of Bonomo Turkish Taffy in assorted flavors. OMFG we were so excited! It was like we were little kids again! (Except with a lot of alcohol!) Our bartender put the bars in the freezer to chill while we enjoyed dinner. Afterward, the Artist loudly smashed the first bar: vanilla, his old favorite.
Suddenly, we were all about 80’s jokes: “Hey! Does anyone have a razor blade and a straw?” “Looks like a scene from Scarface!” etc. etc. But then…YUM! Bonomo Turkish Taffy was exactly as advertised: at first cold and brittle, and then chewy-gooey. Sweet.
Next came the Pilot’s turn (chocolate), then the bartender’s (banana), and finally mine (strawberry). Smack! Smack! Smack! I am quite sure that we were by far the most annoying denizens of the bar this night. (I am also quite sure that we were by far the most annoying denizens of this particular bar on many nights.) But no matter. Nothing would stop us. We made tiny “banana splits” combining of all four flavors at once. We were positively high on Bonomo Turkish Taffy.
Now, I’m not one to toot my own horn. But really, I think it’s fair to say that I had what can only be described as a once-in-a-lifetime flash of brilliance: “Vanilla ice cream!” I shouted. Within moments, out came a bowl piled high with scoops of it. After careful deliberation and much considered discussion regarding the next steps, I picked up the shards of chocolate taffy and sprinkled them all over the ice cream. I picked up my spoon, and tentatively took a taste. The chocolate taffy shard had frozen on contact with the ice cream, and when I bit into it, it smashed effortlessly into into a zillion tiny pieces in my mouth.
Pure. Fucking. Awesome.