Chicks That Stay Fresh
Long After the Party’s Over
Basements are nasty, dark, moldy places. Ours was, especially the unfinished part we called “the furnace room” that was about 3 feet by 14 feet, and held an oil tank, furnace, humidifier, breaker box, central vacuum, and stuff. Some important items were stored: paint, tools, screen, extra tiles, furniture projects, whatever would fit. If you wanted to open the window above the oil tank, you had to it climb atop the tank, lean over it, grab the spider-web-encrusted pane, and push.
Basements are damp; of course they are, they’re underground. Engineers have devised countless ways to keep basements dry, and some of them work, especially those that require a second mortgage. Other people use dehumidifiers, bleach to kill the mold, and the ubiquitous shop vac to suck up whatever the spring rains dump into that hole in the ground. Killing mold in basements is an ongoing chore. No matter how often I cleaned, if a book sat on the floor overnight, black speckles of mildew sprouted like tulips pushing through the ground in spring.
Until I figured out the overnight mold growth, I used the “storage room” for papers, photos, anything I couldn’t cram in other areas of the house. The “holiday” corner was where I stowed wrapping paper, boxes, and the plastic eggs I filled each Easter.
After a year or two of cramming, the storage room became impassable, and if my five-foot-two, 115-pound self couldn’t fit in the space, nobody could. I knew that time had come to clean when I had to replace items like hammers, nails, mops, and brooms because I couldn’t access them.
Out came the boxes and bags and I’d sort, toss, clean, and organize. Few things I found surprised me, but I was disappointed when I mold destroyed photos and the kids’ artwork. Did I mention that the mold took over? It was moldy. You know your basement is moldy when your child says the smell of bleach reminds them of home.
During one extreme cleaning session, I opened every box and bag with the intent of finally cleaning and clearing the area. It was early spring because other times of the year it was too cold to be in the basement unless the space heaters were spinning the electric meter into oblivion. When I found the bag of plastic Easter eggs, I was relieved because the previous Easter, I couldn’t find them and used baggies tied with pastel-colored ribbons. Because they had been stored for two years, I knew I’d have to wash them. As I picked up the eggs to take them apart, I noticed one was heavier than the others. Feeling queasy, I realized it still had candy in it. I imagined mold-encrusted jellybeans, malted milk balls sans the malt, or unrecognizable tiny chocolate bunnies swimming in a pool of goo. Holding my arms away from my body, I opened the egg. Sitting inside as yellow as, well, as yellow as a Peep, was a Peep. I was shocked. Peeps are yellow, so why the shock?That Peep was in the nasty, dark, moldy basement for two years and as I studied it, I saw that it didn’t have a dot of mold. The Peep looked like a Peep just out of the package. I touched it; it wasn’t gooey or damp. In fact, it was only a bit drier than fresh Peeps. It had lost a bit of its spring.
Horrors! I loved Peeps, loved being the past tense. That love ended abruptly when I found this almost-perfect Peep that had languished in the basement for two years. What ingredient did they contain to preserve them so long? I have never eaten another Peep since finding those preserved Peeps—plural, because I found more, all in fine condition.
Some love affairs come to an end. No longer did I anticipate the spring arrival of boxes nestling yellow chicks with their sweet black eye dots watching me from the store shelves. Never again would I taste the smooshy marshmallow, sugar-crusted delights. Never again would I save the heads of the Peeps for last. Never again would I gorge on Peeps until I was queasy and sugar high.
I once was fond of Easter for reasons beside the spiritual ones. I loved Easter in those pre-worldwide days of anything available at anytime because in the weeks leading to Easter, I could have my Peeps and eat them, too. Peeps have now morphed into marshmallow bunnies, hearts, and santas—each holiday has its version of marshmallow candies, crusted in sugar, and loaded with preservatives. If something that’s supposed to be edible festers in my basement furnace room for over two years and doesn’t, well, fester, that’s a sign that Peeps should never pass my lips. I miss them, but now you can’t get a Peep into me.
The Peeps I purchased to photograph for this blog have an expiration date of March, 2014—two years away. My kids know I don't eat Peeps and they know why. Nonetheless, since the day I bought these for pictures only, they’ve asked when, oh when, would I take the pictures so they can eat the Peeps.