Almond Roca is an odd, crunchy toffee candy dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts. It comes in a pink tin, and each piece is wrapped in gold foil. When I was 11, it was the most sophisticated candy to grace my super-circumscribed world. Even more exotic than Whitman's samplers (which handily had the name and description of each candy written in graph style on the inside lid).
All that changed when I was 12 and went to London for the first time. There we met a wealthy Swiss woman and her handsome, wheelchair-bound twenty-something son (mountain-climbing accident) who had hired the same tour guide as us. We bopped around London with these ridiculously glamorous people. I learned that there are guys who can fit five languages into their head. I also learned that, even so, a young man might not be able to find the English word that describes the thrill a 12 year-old girl feels when attending her first play in London, wearing her first floor-length"evening" gown, accompanied by her first handsome European. He stumbled over "you're shivering" when he meant "enchanted." Whatever, I knew how I felt.
Anyway, his mom -- after two weeks of freaking my mom out by linking arms with her as they strolled about London -- gave us a gift of chocolate. "This is a little sweet of me," her note said, and it was. I'd never seen chocolate like that, tiny dark flat squares that snapped when you broke them in two. Some insanely expensive stuff from Switzerland, it melted fabulously in my mouth, tasting like butter and honey and wine all at once. I was transformed into Charlie pre-Chocolate Factory: I squirreled away a square to take home to Bakersfield, where I allowed myself one tiny nibble each Saturday until it was gone.
When I was 19, I went back to London with my boyfriend. I tried to launch a search for this marvelous candy I felt sure was available only there and no place else in the world, but I didn't know the brand and besides, we didn't have the money anyway. These days I eat Sharffenberger's or Equal Exchange Organic all the time -- I've even been to Switzerland and bought candy there -- but nothing can compare to that first "shivering" taste.
But Almond Roca pre-dated my sophisticated high-brow experience. I thought the tin made it particularly fancy, despite the fact that it was sold in drugstores. There was a slogan on the package: Brown & Haley makes 'em daily, 'cept Sundays. I found this hilarious; their reassurance that, dedicated as they were, they would never skip church to make candy.
So the other day, when a co-worker offered me a piece of Almond Roca with the apology, "I know you don't really eat stuff like this," I jumped on it. "Brown & Haley makes 'em daily, 'cept Sundays!" I yelled, grabbing a piece. Her look spelled utter confusion. "That's their slogan. It was my favorite candy when I was a kid. Look on the box." We examined the "tin" (which is now made of cardboard), but no slogan appeared. I started questioning co-workers, none of whom had any idea what I was talking about. A subsequent web search turned up only one hit, from someone who lived across the street from the Almond Roca factory.
We went to their official website. A whole crazy history of the candy appeared (Brown met Haley at church) but still no slogan. So I wrote in protest. This important historical artifact cannot be lost! Today I received this email:
Yes, Brown & Haley makes 'em daily! Nowadays in the busy season we even make 'em on Sunday. Your suggestion is a good one, and we will add to the history section of our web site in our post-Holiday refresh.
Chief Operating Officer
Brown & Haley
I'm helping to preserve the history of my favorite childhood candy! All I can say is: Je sentais un frisson de plaisir.