Do you know what a ZOTZ is?
This is what a ZOTZ looks like:
And this is what a ZOTZ tastes like:
Let me describe them to you. ZOTZ are a tangy hard candy that is filled with a powdery crushed alka seltzer type substance that, when it comes in contact with your saliva, explodes with such a taste bud crushing flavor that your saliva glands spasm with ecstasy. It is... an ORGASM IN YOUR MOUTH.
I never got ZOTZ as a kid. We didn't have much money in fact, for the first several years of my life in the 60's and 70’s I would call us downright poor. I can remember one Christmas when someone put us on a “Toys for Tots” kind of list and free presents were brought to us. My dad's ego and pride were crushed and I still can't remember if we were allowed to keep the presents. All I remember is that he was humiliated.
I can remember a carpet so thin you could see the floor through it and the upholstery on our couch was so worn that the stuffing threatened to push through but my 3 brothers and I were fed and watered regularly and to tell you the truth, I didn't think much of my meager existence. My mother had created a happy, loving and fulfilling home.
There was a place in my hometown near Bancroft school named Pilkington’s. It was a small neighborhood grocery that was filled with the most exotic candy I had ever seen.
Big Red Wax lips you could hold between your teeth then chew on the wax till you were so disgusted you spit it out;
Wax soda bottles filled with a liquid that did not taste like soda at all.
You could chew on these too but why would you?
Hey, what was with the idea of wax for candy in the 60’s and 70’s anyway?
There were candy cigarettes rolled in paper and powdered sugar so when you blew on them, a little tuft of smoke would puff out
(No wonder my generation smoked so much);
and Candy Buttons which were really just drops of hard, dried colored sugar… disgusting!
I would walk to Pilkington’s with my friends and I’d watch them, their pockets filled with cash from their parents. They would take their time, looking at every candy and laboring over the burden of having to choose just one.
So that no one knew I was poor, I would look over the candy too and act like I was having trouble choosing which candy to buy but the difference was that my pockets were empty and if my father caught me at Pilkington’s I was quite certain it would result in a sound beating and possible death.
In the end, I would act like I simply just couldn’t chose and to perpetuate the lie if offered candy, I would kindly refuse and say I wasn’t in the mood for sweets. As a result each of the few times I went to Pilkington’s, I ended up with no candy at all.
The one candy I most envied and found it very hard to say no to was called ZOTZ. If I remember right they came in strips of 10 for a quarter (I think they were a dime at one time but it was the 70’s and inflation affected candy too). When you wanted a ZOTZ, you just tore one off the end of the strip, popped it in your mouth and slobbered till the candy popped open and the fireworks began.
My ZOTZ experience was very limited…
A couple of years ago shortly after I started dating Scott, I told him the story of Pilkington’s and described a ZOTZ. He had a hard time imagining this candy or the reason for any enjoyment in the experience of eating it. Thanks to the Internet I was able to search for images of ZOTZ and show him what they looked like.
“When was the last time you ate a ZOTZ?” he asked. I told him the truth. It had been decades and only a handful of times.
By the time I was earning my own money and could spend it like I wanted to I had moved on to more mature things like wine and cigarettes.
I had left Pilkington’s, ZOTZ and childish things behind….
“When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a can full of ZOTZ and some laughter and tears”
The first present I opened from Scott this Christmas was this tin container.
It is hippy dippy like me but I was unimpressed by the package. I wasn’t going to be setting this out on the coffee table so I suspected that there was some dark chocolate mint thing inside.
When I opened the tin, I found this instead.
It was a lifetime supply of ZOTZ! Six flavors! It looked like hundreds, maybe thousands of ZOTZ!
Scott has proved over and over that he is the ultimate gift giver. He has outdone himself this year and brought me the kind of joy that makes you feel like a kid again. This gift made the adult Lizzie cry and the child Lizzie laugh all at the same time. Then he drizzled the entire emotion with love when I looked up and saw the excitement in his face. I could tell he felt little again too. His smile was huge as he clapped his hands and jumped up and down with me.
Moments like these make me wonder if Scott himself is the best gift he has ever given.
Mr. Pilkington and his wife have certainly passed away by this time. They were old when I was young. Last I knew an old friend of mine, Mike Swanson had purchased the Pilkington’s store building and adjacent home. I had a chance to see it several long years ago and the old store has been converted into a man cave style garage which is very cool but it was a little sad to stand in there with the memories I had and know I would never have the opportunity to go in there with a pocket full of cash and buy my own ZOTZ.
I had forgotten most of these memories until last night when I opened the tin that held the candy from a man who is the sweetest gift of all.
Peace and Love,