A very long time ago, I received a little bag of something I’d never seen before as a holiday gift. They looked like raisin clusters, but these were covered in white chocolate instead. Some information came with them, I believe – something about being a family recipe called Polar Bears.
I tucked them away until some time during the holiday week, when they seemed to peek out of the bag of miscellaneous gifts and wink at me. I took them out to examine more closely. While I didn’t generally eat food little children’s hands had mixed, the struck me as an adult gift, maybe because of the accompanying card, which seemed to tell me that a parent was involved. Whatever – if I got sick, I got sick.
I opened the bag and began to taste my very first Polar Bear. And there are no words for that experience, that first time, sugary goodness melting in my mouth which I discovered later was a mix of white chocolate, peanut butter, peanuts – the salty kind – marshmallows, and Rice Krispies. I sat, I savored, and I plotted my next move.
That involved examining the bag carefully. There were only two clusters left, and at that time, I had three other members of my family living at home – my two teenaged children and my husband. How could I possibly divide them fairly? I wondered. That was just justification in my mind to hide them from all concerned. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, after all. I secreted them away – but not for long – and treated myself to the other two over the course of the next day or so. (Or was it the next hour or two?)
But the story gets better. Once back from vacation, I was meeting with my team when the subject of holiday gifts came up. We began to share some of what we had received. (No, parents, we don’t need the gifts, and yes, the holiday cards are enough, but still – a few special gifts, and especially gift cards to places we actually go to, don’t hurt. We’re human, after all.)
At some point, someone brought up, rather tentatively, the subject of those delectable candies. “Did anyone try those . . .” “You mean, those, those . . . Polar Bears?” It had gotten quieter, and we were all looking somewhat guiltily at each other. Why? Well, as it happens, we had all tried the candies at home, and everyone had done exactly what I had done: hidden them from our family members. Every last one of us.
After we stopped laughing, our next step, of course, was to get the recipe. Which this parent was more than happy to give us. We had liked her son before, but this really sealed the deal. So it became a tradition: making Polar Bears every year. People in all sorts of places, both in New Jersey and beyond, have been gifted the special treats, and many have gone on to make them on their own.
By the time we had this parents’ second child two years later, we were experts in the making, and the eating, of Polar Bears. They are still something to be eaten in secret, with doors closed, to avoid the inappropriate sounds that occasionally come from our rooms. But yes, we do now share.
I hope for you, this holiday season, some delicious treats of your own to give – or to receive.
Happy holidays to all.