March 8 – Peanut Cluster Day
My first memory of peanut clusters is from the World’s Finest chocolate drives we had back in elementary school. You must remember those, either as a seller or a reluctant purchaser: for a few months of the school year, kids would hand out order forms to purchase overpriced chocolates from a low-quality chocolatier, usually to their family members (who would then take the order forms to work, forcing their coworkers and subordinates to buy from them). And each child would get a prize based on how much chocolate they managed to pawn off onto their loving relatives. (One year, I remember I sold enough to earn a blue spruce seedling that died shortly thereafter.) The candy itself didn’t ship to the school for another two months at least, and it wasn’t long into my elementary school career that I wondered why anyone would order such expensive chocolate only to wait months to finally get it, when a Hershey bar is never too far away. But, I had my blue sprice seedling and we had our $14 box of peanut clusters, so who was I to complain?
With the recent surge in peanut allergies, health-conscious school programs, and solicitation laws, do these chocolate drives even happen anymore? Anyone want to clue me in?
Beyond the World’s Finest brand, New York doesn’t see a whole lot of peanut clusters around. The mix of whole or chopped peanuts, chocolate, and a variety of other binding agents (from peanut butter to marshmallow fluff) is more popular in the South, where there’s always been a higher volume of peanuts to go around. And, the most popular commercial peanut cluster in the South is the GooGoo Cluster, a Nashville-based candy bar that’s been made since before the turn of the century. Rising in popularity in the Great Depression (when the peanuts in the bar were considered a cheap, high-protein meal), the GooGoo Clusters can still be found today…but very rarely in the Northeast.
However, if you just got to get your GooGoo on, Dylan’s Candy Bar on the Upper East Side has you covered. This Mecca of chocolate, candies, and anything for your sweet tooth also stocks an assortment of rare, vintage, and otherwise hard-to-find commercial candies. Unlike Economy Candy Market in the Lower East Side, Dylan’s collection focuses more on current regional favorites rather than your nostalgic sweets of yesteryear, so lots of trendy transplants can pick up a candy bar and feel right at home. And they have plents of GooGoo Clusters for every Southern peanut freak–and for celebrations on this national food holiday.
Dylan’s Candy Bar
1011 3rd Ave (between 60th St & 61st St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Dylan’s also has a nice selection of candies that are not so easy to find. At times, they have Goo Goo Clusters, which are hard to find north of the Mason Dixon line.”–Maria M.