July 25, 2003
posted by Nadia

I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to visit the Just Born candy factory, home of marshmallow Peeps, Mike & Ikes, Hot Tamales, and the like. It was, I must tell you, a truly magical place. Certainly magical enough that I couldn't imagine not writing about it here, despite my long absence (although I have a good excuse -- we were moving!).

The Peeps factory is as close to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as real life gets. The elevators smell like Hot Tamales, the walls are decorated with pictures of dancing fruit, and there's a 3-foot long giant plush Peep in the lobby. And this is just in the offices! It's when you step into the factory itself that the magic really begins. Imagine, if you will:

Hundreds of thousands of Peeps, lined up and marching like soft pink soldiers down the conveyor belt, nestled in wide beds of sandy pink sugar, carnuba wax eyes tilted heavenward.

Wide open bins, full of millions of translucent beans anxiously awaiting their destinies -- Will they be sour? Will they be sweet? What color will they be? Ah, the uncertain fate of the bean interior.

Giant tumblers, rattling and spinning, lovingly coating each bean with color, flavor, and shine. Alongside each tumbler, five-gallon pails of:
Flavors not found in nature, concentrated to their very essence. A mix so powerful, so precious, only a few spoonfuls are needed to bring new beans to life.

Lifelike machines, churning out boxes, weighing, sampling, packaging; the methodical rhythm of sugar evolving.

Candy on the floor; sugar in the air; carts full of candy, half-shredded boxes, clumps of sugar, condensed flavor, everything collected for massive shipments to very lucky pigs.

And me in the middle of it all, fists full of candy, cheeks plump with marshmallows, skin sugar-dusted, fingers sticky, my bloodstream sweetened and running at a fever pitch. Like a kid in a candy factory, and with a stomachache to boot.