The Harvest of the Peeps

Spring is an exciting time of year. Out with the old, in with the new. The crazy, unpredictable weather that changes its mood faster than a 16 year old girl with PMS, (Phew! Glad those days are over,) and of course the promise of open toed shoes and white pants wafts through the air. I wore flip flops to take the recycling out last night and let me tell you, it felt goooooooooooood.

Everyone has his or her favorite springtime memory. Yesterday my mom told me how when she was a little girl Easter meant new dresses and Paton leather shoes for her and her sisters. I tried to get her to bring that tradition back but she wasn’t biting. Mom, if you’re reading this, take the hint. New dresses and shoes is a lovely idea to welcome the season. Great mother-daughter bonding.

I too have a fine Easter memory. I woke up one year, hungry to hunt down my Easter basket. What I found instead was a six-foot, stuffed, pink bunny sitting on the toilet. Did I mention he had a steaming hot cup of coffee, the newspaper on his lap, and a pair of boxer shorts around his ankles? Not kidding. I mean I know bunnies can be litter box trained but this was a little extreme. As if that weren’t odd enough, the following year I woke up to find Egbert’s brother, Jake—a stuffed, blue bunny sitting in the exact same spot. Different boxers thankfully. I already had to duke out bathroom privileges with my older brother. Now I had to get in line between two stuffed rabbits? I could see where I feel on the pecking ladder.

I like Easter because I like chocolate. There is nothing like a Reese’s peanut butter egg. And I mean nothing. Not a regular Reese’s cup, not a mini peanut butter cup. Not a Reese’s Christmas tree, nor a peanut butter pumpkin or heart. It’s all about the egg. Oh the joy of finding a six-pack of those in your Easter basket. My brother and I would ration them out for as long as we could. Half a bite before breakfast, half a bite after church. Eat the perimeter before dinner and the leave the middle before bed. I still feel all warm and fuzzy when I see those yellow ovals in stores.

A very close second to the Reese’s eggs is no doubt the Cadbury mini eggs. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would not agree there is something about that candy shell and the chocolate gem it houses inside. What is it exactly? Is it the soft, baby nursery color pallet of the shells? Is it the texture of the chocolate—not too melty but not too hard? Is it the way the candy shell feels when you roll it around in your mouth trying to saver the taste as long as possible? Seriously. WHAT IS IT??? And Cadbury is not putting out red and green or orange and black mini eggs. They’re not whoring themselves out to every holiday that rolls around. You can only find these at Easter, which I guess is a good thing. Good job keeping it real, mini eggs. Rock on with your most impressive selves.

Third on the list goes once again to those wizards at Cadbury. Say what you will about the cream egg but don’t deny it’s revolutionary charm. A chocolate egg filled with candy cream meant to resemble a yoke? Bring it! These are definitely in the love ‘em or leave ‘em category. No one picks one up on a whim. You either go to the store hunting for these little candy pioneers or you make some kind of puking noise when you walk by them at Walgreens. (And by the way, stop doing that. It’s gross. And come on now, they’re not that bad. I don’t hear you puking when you walking by mothballs or Paris Hilton perfume.)

But I digress. Spring isn’t only about Easter candy and Easter candy isn’t only about Reese’s and Cadbury. I’d be doing a great disservice if I left off the season’s most ubiquitous mascot—Marshmallow Peeps.

Oh don’t go making that face! “It’s all sugar,” you say. Well duh. That’s what makes them so darn lovable. And who cares what the shelf life is on those things? I say live long and prosper, little chicks! I don’t know about you but I hate dumping expired milk and yogurt down the drain. The dairy peeps could learn a thing or two from the marshmallow peeps.

In my family we have many traditions but very few rival the tradition I share with the only other person who appreciates peeps as much as I do—my father. I grew up hearing my mother saying, “You’re your fathers child.” I’m not sure if that was ever in question or if it’s meant to be some sort of endearment. I take it as the latter because there’s no denying Dad and I look just alike. We have the same sense of humor, same “riiiiiiiiight, that’s what you think smirk,” same legs (is that weirder for him or for me? You be the judge,) and same philosophy of practically knighting the people in our lives we adore and putting the others through some sort of Jack Bauer-esqe mental decapitation trial before declaring them trite and unworthy like a discarded kitten toy shoved under the coffee table. Fortunately those people are few and far between.

Our other similarity is we are both Peep aficionados and will agree there is only one kind of Peep: The Yellow Chick. Stop with the pink bunnies and green trees and orange pumpkins. Who’s running the product development department over there? Lucky the Leprechaun? My dad and I are old school. It’s all about the yellow chick and more importantly, the little chick’s head. As in, it’s always the first to go. It’s just so darn…bitable.

I remember a freezing spring day in college (it was upstate NY hence the freezing Spring) when a package arrived from my parents. Inside was the usual random array of lipstick castoffs from Estee Lauders latest free gift with purchase, cocktail napkins with funny expressions printed on them like “Put your big girl panties on and deal with it,” a spatula, pair of earrings, Reese’s peanut butter eggs, Cadbury Cream Eggs, black jelly beans—all from Mom and a 10-pack of yellow Peeps from Dad.

“Ew!” My roommate squealed. “Why are your parents sending you damaged candy? Couldn’t they wait until the day after Easter if they wanted a discount?”

She didn’t get what so many others don’t get. What she was referring to was the knife slit across the top of the Peeps packaging. That was no accident, I explained. My dad was harvesting the Peeps. It was damn near the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.

It takes one connoisseur to another to understand this delicate process. You can’t just bust open a package of Peeps and go at them. No! Peeps need to mature. They need to acquire just the right amount of staleness in order to achieve greatness. It’s a delicate balance and one that weighs heavily on instinct. When you’ve had a properly harvested Peep, you know it. And it will change your life. My dad was saving me the time and effort of harvesting my own Peeps. They were primed and ready. Prêt-à-Porte Peeps.

This year my Peeps arrived from Florida where my parents spend the winter. Oh wait—I mean, where my parents are “wintering.” Yes, I think that’s how you say it. Anyway, the harvest had begun early but alas, when the Peeps arrived on my desk there were two problems. Not to be an ingrate but my much-anticipated package of 10 only had 9 Peeps in it. When I brought it up to my dad he had an interesting theory.

“The Peep flew the coop,” he said matter of fact. “Perhaps he flew South somewhere over Missouri?”

“Well his friends sure do miss him. I just can’t believe he’d up and leave like that.”

“It happens,” he said. “There’s a bad egg in every bunch.”

The second problem was the Peeps were nowhere near ready for consumption. My dad was shocked, as he had started the harvesting days before the Peeps went in the mail. We blame the humidity of Florida for a slow harvest. I wonder if anyone in Florida has had a properly harvested Peep. That makes me sad.

The Peeps are currently residing on my desk at work where I check their progress every morning like a kindergartener checking on her mummified apple project. My co-workers claim to hate Peeps but yet they seem very interested in the status report.

“Soon, Grasshoppers,” I say. “Soon we shall harvest.”

Do you understand the pain of having to wait out a Peep harvest? With those little yellow bitable heads and black dot eyes staring up at me? Someday you will. I just know it.

So I implore you, fine people, to give the Peeps a second look when you see them in the aisle this season. Reserve your judgment and your snide remarks. Why not give the harvest the chance? And remember to keep it real. The best Peep is a yellow Peep. Not only do they taste better, but yellow blends in better with the insides of most microwaves. Oh yes, that is our other tradition—Peep art. I’d be lying if I said a Peep or two didn’t find it’s way to the inside of a microwave. I’ve left my dad paper plates gummy with exploded Peeps on his pillow. He’s stuck congealed yellow sugar statues stuck to napkins in my suitcase. Another similarity? My dad and I always need to have the last word and will spends hundreds of dollars on postage and Peeps to ensure that we will. Someday I’ll tell you about Fred the Head and the Purple Pillow. For now I will leave you with this: Check your mailbox, Daddy. I think I know what happened to the tenth Peep.

Harvesting the Peeps

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