Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In praise of the Necco Wafer. . .

Is there any candy better than the Necco wafer? It's "the original candy wafer," after all. Thin and compact, I think of them as flavored communion wafers--the Catholic Church actually uses them as stand-ins for children practicing for the Eucharist!

Our household is stuck with a mess of 'em following Halloween, so this otherwise bland, nondescript candy got me wondering: Wherefor art thou, Necco wafer?

They're still AMERICAN MADE, for one thing, in Revere, Mass., by New England Confectionery Company, which has been turning out treats such as Clark Bars, Sweethearts (a traditional Valentine's candy), and Thin Mints since 1847. I imagine these things getting cranked out in a big, old New England-style brick factory, hard along a river with a hard-to-pronounce name, but actually Necco moved into a new factory in 2003.

The Necco Wafer is part of history, a vital component of the nation's industrial development, as well as Arctic exploration, according to Necco's website:

"1912: Explorer Donald MacMillan takes Necco Wafers on his Arctic expedition, using them for nutrition and as rewards to Eskimo children."

I can't vouch for the nutritious nature of the Necco wafer (although the packaging does boast that it is FAT FREE), but I guess if you're north of the Arctic circle, beggars can't be choosers. Out of salted meat? Good thing we brought this case of Necco wafers along! Wikipedia claims that Admiral Byrd took two and a half tons of Necco wafers to the South Pole, or nearly a pound a week per member of his expedition on their two-year trek. I'd imagine that was the last time any of them wanted to see a Necco wafer again.

Their indestructable nature (allegedly--a good portion of those I extract from a package are broken) led the US Army to divert a portion of Necco's production to the military during World War II.

Two more fun-facts about Neccos:
  • Wintergreen Necco wafers, like wintergreen LifeSavers, will create visible sparks when snapped in half or crushed in dim light due to triboluminescence.
  • Necco Wafers contain gelatin, an animal by-product.
Today, the Necco wafer is beloved--in fact, to commemorate Necco's 150th anniversary, the company's water tower was painted to resemble a Necco wafer roll and has "become a treasured part of the Boston/Cambridge skyline."

But I digress.

If you've never had a Necco wafer, you're in for a treat. Stacked like a roll of nickles and wrapped in a cylinder of brittle tissue paper, each roll of wafers is a like a crap shoot--maybe you'll get a roll with lots of the colors you like, maybe you won't. Inside are random (I assume) combinations of eight colors, each a different flavor--although I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what flavor is which, besides the chocolate and licorice.

Some folks see Necco wafers as art. Others rhapsodize on the "dust" these wafers give off. Myself, I just like to eat them. Well, a few of the colors, anyway.

Oh, Necco wafer, how do I rate thee?

  1. Grey (licorice)
  2. Purple (clove)
  3. White (cinnamon)
  4. Pink (wintergreen)
  5. Brown (chocolate)
  6. Orange (er, orange), yellow (lemon), green (lime)--these sort of taste the same to me.

Which is YOUR favorite color?


Whiskey said...

Looks like my favorites (orange & green) are your least favorites. I'll trade you all my black & purple for your orange & green...


BEK said...

You got a deal. I'll go get two tons of em from the Mega-Mart over in Arlen and we'll take off on a road trip.

If we can just find someone who likes the brown ones, we'd be set.

Anonymous said...

Are you all aware they have changed the flavors and ruined them forever!

Bought out the last this Xmas, 2009, and the flavors are now gone.

Everything has a beginning and an end .. amen!

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Anonymous said...

I didn't understand the concluding part of your article, could you please explain it more?