The Sampler
at the Nashville Candy Store

The Restaurant Sampler

“He was like a kid in a candy store.”

We often hear this common turn of English phrase, but what does it really mean?

In order to get at the bottom of this etymological mystery, The Sampler did what any rationalist would do—conduct an experiment.

I released children into a candy-selling environment to observe what, they would do. I collected up a random sampling of various nieces, nephews, and godchildren along with their imaginary friends and my own inner child and headed off to the Nashville Candy Store located in the Heritage Mall at 41 South Van Buren in the heart of the Village (three doors south of the Nashville House).

Now, the parameters of the experiment require that each child, or “kid,” may choose one and only one item from among the candy store’s inventory regardless of cost, size, personal tidiness, or possible after-effects.

The Nashville Candy Store is the self-proclaimed “World of FUDGE”, and it is informative to watch the kids try to choose between over a dozen famous fudge flavors, like chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate pecan, black walnut, penuche (brown sugar fudge), and even Rocky Road fudge.

My favorites are the layered combination chocolate/peanut butter fudge and the heavenly chocolate peanut caramel (like a Snickers bar).

And kids love fudge, beckoning to them alluringly from behind those heavy plate glass cases. I warily eye a sale sign “Buy a pound and get half pound free”. But no child should eat that much fudge at one time, not even an imaginary one.

The children might pick something from among the bonanza of bulk chocolate items on display in the case: double-dipped chocolate-covered peanuts, chocolate covered raisins, chocolate bridge mix, or chocolate malt balls. You get the picture—if you coat it with chocolate, they’ve probably got it.

I reach for a bag of the Nashville Candy Store’s specialty, homemade peanut brittle. But my significant other gives me a significant look. I’m not sure whether it’s because of what it will do to my dental work or my waistline, but it appears that for me, at least, there will be no homemade brittle, whether peanut or cashew.

Once released into the candy-selling environment, different “kids” will behave differently.

Some will immediately choose something and stick with it and be perfectly happy. Others will pick up and put down a whole long series of items, desperately unable to make up their minds, often glancing forlornly at the adults for some kind of reaction to guide them.

In the interests of science, I try to maintain a passive demeanor.

Some children will choose the largest single item in the store, usually one of those oversized suckers.

Others will painstakingly look at every item and its price and ultimately choose the most expensive single item in the store.

They tend to like the jelly beans and “Jelly Belly” candies, which come in a blizzard of colors and flavors: berry blue, buttered popcorn, bubble gum, cappuccino, carmel corn, cotton candy, margarita, lemon and orange juice, raspberry, peach, tangerine, very cherry, watermelon, sizzling cinnamon—49 flavors in all, including a ten-flavor sour mix and ten sugar-free jelly belly bean flavors.

While we watch the little gears in their little minds go around, my Kitchen Companion and I act nonchalant and sort bemusedly through some of the old fashioned candies we remember from our own youths like Beeman’s gum and those little wax bottles with some kind of fruity syrup in them. We remembered the soft sugar peppermint sticks, jawbreakers, red hots, Boston Baked Beans, and JuJu Bees.

My father would say, “You kids want candy?” We did.

I have long since determined just what my own, inner child needs, requires, and deserves—licorice.

And the Nashville Candy Store has licorice: licorice babies, licorice wheels, licorice Scotties, licorice bridge mix, cream-filled Cream Rock licorice, imported Dutch soft licorice buttons, Finska licorice (a soft sweet licorice from Finland), and even beehive licorice.” I know from long personal experience that the premiere iteration of Glycyrrhiza glabra, the soft, dark, sweet/salty/tangy extract of the Euro-Asiatic shrub to be the big, ropy strands of Australian Kookaburra licorice.

“Black or Red?” inquires the chipper sales person.

I fix her with a look that sums up all the disgust, dismay, and disbelief of someone who’s been asked if he prefers the beach or a wading pool.

“The black,” I say firmly. I take a bite and am profoundly satisfied.

Which particular candies did the children choose? I can’t reveal the results of my study at this time. But I encourage you to do your own experimenting. You’ll be like a kid in a candy store.