It seems so obvious now. What would a chocolate Skittle taste like?
Do you even remember Bonkers? They were rectangular cubes (what are rectangular cubes called?) of chewy chocolate-flavored... stuff. In fact, they probably had to put "chocolatey" or "chocolate flavor" on the label. I'm sure there wasn't any real chocolate in them. They had a little bit of chocolateish flavor in them, and a lot of weirdly artificial fruity chewy candy flavor too. You could kind of chew on them and suck the chocolate juice out. Of your spit.
There's no chocolate in these, either, but a chocolate flavored one is in there anyway. What the hell am I talking about? Why, ice cream-flavored Skittles, of course. And the chocolate ones taste EXACTLY like Bonkers. So much so that I had completely forgotten Bonkers existed for years before I put one of these in my mouth, and within seconds the taste brought the memories - and the name - flooding back.
There are five flavors in the bag: "caramel ripple" (ripple? Why ripple? Where's the ripple?), "chocolate", "vanilla", and, god help them, "orange vanilla swirl." And four lonely little "strawberry" pieces.
Caramel tasted a lot like chocolate at first. Artificial chocolate with artificial caramel filling. It was like a milky sugar Rollo. I didn't think I liked them, but I found myself grabbing more and more. I think that because caramel is just burnt sugar and milk, these ones have that extra sugary punch. Mmm... sugary milky punch....
Chocolate, as we have established, tastes like Bonkers. Funny thing: you know how in science class, you learn that the tip of your tongue tastes sweet and salty things, the sides taste sour, and bitter flavors show up at the back? If you're really lucky, you get to test this by eating in class.
Well, the chocolate Bon-- Skittle tasted like mocha on the left side of my mouth. A chocolate Bonker on the right. And in the front, it had the lingering fruity afternotes of root beer.
Strawberry tried even harder. On the left side, flavors of grenadine leapt forth! On the right, I realized it tasted exactly like a strawberry daiquiri Jelly Belly! In front, it turned into a Japanese candy, one of the very many that also combine fruit and milk flavors! (By which candymakers around the world mean "citric acid and lactic acid.")
The candybaggers were wise when they put only four pink candies in this bag. At first it was my favorite flavor. I was excited! It tasted like everything in the whole world! By the third one, I was overwhelmed with artificial candy flavor. There was way too much going on. It was like being punched in the mouth by a huge Jelly Belly with a crispy thin shell.
Now, a lot of people don't understand vanilla. Somehow, instead of being loved as a flavor in its own right, it has been turned into the doormat of the food world. People walk all over it, seeing it as just a lowly ingredient, as the opposite of fabulous chocolate, as a kind of blank slate, boring flavor that only boring people would love.
The Skittles people are obviously within that group. First of all, the vanilla Skittles tended to absorb the flavors of their little round neighbors. I actually pulled one of them out of my mouth half-chewed to make sure it was the right color because it tasted so much like an orange one. But goddamn if they didn't have nastiest sharp chemical taste in their crunchy little shells, too. And after a little chewing, the flavor totally disappeared.
There were some brief vanilla moments in between. They were kind of nice. They pulled off "ice cream" better than any other flavor. Maybe that's natural, because ice cream is the only format in which vanilla is really consistently used as its own flavor in the United States. But it wasn't that I tasted vanilla and thought, "hmm, ice cream." It was that these candies tasted more like really artificial supermarket-brand faux-french vanilla flavor ice cream than anything else in the world. Hell, you could freeze a pint of these and pass them off as jumbo Dippin' Dots.
But do you know what faded away even faster than the vanilla? The alleged orange vanilla swirl. It's weird because the really orangey vanilla one was really jarring. It was clearly a different flavor that had been overpowered by some strong force. But the actual orange vanilla "swirl" Skittles were very quiet and bland.
Maybe there was a terrible fight in the bag before I bought it. In fact, maybe on the way home there was a tiny war waging beside me and I didn't even know it. The vanilla Skittles were tired of being left to settle in the bottom of the bag! They wanted recognition, damnit! They wanted to be loved for who they were! They were going to riot and take over the entire flavor system!
The strawberry Skittles ran away! The chocolate ones were so confused, they didn't know what to do! Were they Skittles? Were they Bonkers? Did they even have a Skittle alliance? Why should they get involved? The caramel ripples were totally overlooked by the Skittle emissaries, mistaken for chocolate! It was up to orange vanilla swirl to face the reality of its heritage and make a decision about where its allegiances lay! Was it going to take over with vanilla?
Tempting! But it knew in its tiny candy heart that after the revolution, vanilla would go right back to treating it as a second-class citizen! It had always been reviled as a mutant hybrid of fruit and milk, but now it would show the world what it was made of! (Citric acid and lactic acid.)
Orange vanilla swirl gave its all that momentous day! It spent nearly its full flavor force in subduing wicked vanilla! It knew that the future might not remember the great deeds it did here, but it was worth it: the world had been saved!
What an amazing, complex world these candies live in. We can all be thankful for this limited edition glimpse into the strange universe from which the Skittle hails. Who knows when they will next open their borders to our rude populace?
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