Thanksgiving was practically perfect. A long candle lit table of family and friends, a golden brown turkey, traditional oyster stuffing and wiggly cranberry sauce, a bevy of delicious side dishes. After we finished the main course and took a break to play pool and drink more wine we spread out the homemade pies with ice cream and chocolates. Midway through coffee my cousin Jen asked, “Where are the thin mints?” Jen knows, as do all my friends and family, that thin mints are as elemental to my Thanksgiving as turkey. But alas, this year we had none.
Ever since I was a child Haviland thin mints graced our Thanksgiving dessert table. They came in long narrow boxes, twenty white sugar wafers covered in dark chocolate. Nothing fancy like Andes or those pastel colored things. We craved only the 69 cent a box delicacies.
When I came to Cambridge in 1973 I was thrilled to learn that thin mints were made right here. Before MIT became the biggest landowner in town, Cambridge was a candy capital. As an undergraduate you could walk in any direction from campus, enticed by the candy laced air. The Haviland plant was in East Cambridge where the scent of thin mints in the fall escalated as they double shifted production.
Thin mints were available year round in the candy aisle of every supermarket, but before Thanksgiving they moved forward to dominate the seasonal displays. A few years ago they got booted from the year ‘round candy shelf; I figured most people were like me and ate them only at the holidays. I could still find them the week before Thanksgiving at any Star or CVS, 99 cents a box now. Last year I had to go to three stores to find them, and paid a whopping $1.19! But this year, I could not find them anywhere the week before Thanksgiving, at any price.
I discovered some today, online, where every product that crashes beneath the retail radar can sustain an afterlife as a specialty niche. I can order them by the case, $2.20 a box, still made by Haviland, although now that the only thing manufactured in East Cambridge are bioengineered genes, Haviland has moved upshore to Revere.
I weathered Thanksgiving pretty well without my beloved thin mints and now I have eleven months to decide whether to relegate them to a distant lobe of my permanent memory, or go online and order a case for next year. I might decide to move on from thin mints; the whole point of ‘cheap sweets’ is to be inexpensive, ephemeral, empty calories. Then again, I might decide, like so many irrational old geezers, that it is worth paying a premium to chase the taste of my youth one more time.