Before peppermint bark (a dark chocolate flecked with bits of peppermint candy) and the Peeps chocolate mousse reindeer, the holidays starred such candies as divinity, ribbon candy and marzipan fruit. Of these, ribbon candy is still readily available, but divinity, a meringue-type confection studded with a pecan half, is not. Once common in the South, outside of the home kitchen, divinity is seldom seen.
Almond-flavored marzipan fruit had been readily available in Charlotte, but no longer. Both Harris Teeter and Fresh Market had once carried a nine-pack gift box of this European classic candy. But tubes of Odense Marzipan paste are available at area grocery stores, as are products made with marzipan such as Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Mission to Marzipan, the marzipan cake at Trader Joe's, or the German Ritter Sport dark chocolate bar with marzipan.
Marzipan fruit candy is not the legendary sugar plums cited in Clement Clark Moore's poem, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and in the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" during Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ballet. Sugar plums are sugar-coated minced dry fruits such as apricots and dates. Marzipan, on the other hand, has a base of ground almonds and sugar, which is then shaped and finally painted to resemble fruit. Marzipan fruits and other objects are frequently used to decorate cakes.
Banana- and strawberry-shaped marzipan fruit are being sold during the holidays at the candy counter at Dean and DeLuca (6903 Phillips Place Court, 704-643-6868). Small decorated Christmas trees are also available. Each are $5.
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: [email protected] or 704-522-8334, extension 136.