If Memory Serves: Zero Candy Bars

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If Memory Serves chronicles moments from my dining past, perhaps explaining what's wrong with me.

It has been dismissed as a white Snickers. The company that makes them has changed hands so many times it's near impossible to keep track. And when I went to the 7-Eleven by our posh, teak-lined office suites to pick one up, the clerk told me they didn't bother to reorder.

Seems few people buy Zero bars anymore.

But when I was a kid, the strip of nougat, caramel and white chocolate was so different than anything else on the market that you just had to love it. Zeros were, in fact, my favorite candy bar--and not only because for the unique luster when you first ripped into that space age wrapper.

Under that rippled blanket of white was a sensation unlike any other. Instead of chocolate a wave of malt, soft caramel and mellow flavors emerged. There were hints of peanut and almond wrapped into one indistinct whole--it was beautiful. Some people would freeze the bars, making the white chocolate (they now call it white fudge) coating seem logical, but I preferred them at room temperature.

The bar first appeared on the market around 1920 as the Double-Zero, produced by Hollywood Candy Company out of Minnesota--the same outfit that introduced PayDays. In 1934 they shortened the name. And the rest should have been history.

Hollywood Candy Company, however, was bought up by another operation, which was purchased by another--and so on until it ended up as part of Hershey.

Zeros were always sweet, but now the white "fudge" coating smacks of sugared corn syrup (and there's a reason, as you'll see below). Your teeth tremble for several minutes after finishing even part of a bar. And I can't say this for certain, but I'd venture that the earlier non-Hershey version did not contain soy "pieces."

Otherwise the flavor of nutty nougat and malted milk is familiar--though I'm comparing to memory, which is always an iffy prospect.

As I said at the top, some people refer to Zero bars as a white chocolate Snickers. The two are hardly similar, though: Snickers lists milk chocolate as its first ingredient, followed by peanuts--and the flavor is dominated by cheap chocolate and nuts. Zeros, on the other hand, are carried by sugar and corn syrup, with vegetable oil in third.

Great. I hope they really were better way back when.

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