Growing up in Southern California, home to the See's Candies headquarters, the "Famous Old Time" white chocolate box was a permanent fixture in my family's home around the holidays. My mother is an elementary school teacher, and to the tired parents of her six-year-old students, nothing said Merry Christmas and thanks for teaching my child to read and add things" like a box of above average chocolates.
When we were younger, my brothers and I would immediately confiscate my mom's candy and proceed to fight over who got to pick the first piece. My brother Jimmy had a knack for finding the caramels, and my brother Richard had a knack for pushing me out of the way when I whined about getting stuck with the rum nougat. Again.
Though I have grown substantially more mature since that time (now I know how to distinguish the rum nougats from the caramels), I still feel a thrill whenever there is a See's Candies box within reach. Especially since it has become such a rare occurrence in my adult life. No longer a resident of my parents' one-story Newport Beach home, my ability to siphon chocolates off my mother has been severely constrained by the traffic on the 405 Freeway. Plus her students ' parents have become vastly more creative with their gifts, wrapping up silverware sets and fringe-lined lamp shades instead of chocolate.
Two holiday seasons ago, faced with the prospect of another See's-free Christmas, I did something desperate. When the order forms for See's Candies circulated around my office, I ordered a 1-lb gift certificate. For myself. A few weeks later, I walked into the See's headquarters on La Cienega Blvd. and picked out my very own box of chocolates. At the time, I was embarrassed by my boldness, my cheeks burning with color as I handed the prim lady behind the counter the certificate I filled out to read "To Diana, Love Nick." Today, nearly a dozen trips later, the unconventional practice hardly fazes me any more. Until I'm asked if I'd like it wrapped up. The question always causes me to hesitate. Should I have them waste paper on a gift to myself?
Yes. And then I relish the giddy triumph of tearing the black and white checked paper off my very own custom box of chocolates that I don't have to share with anyone.
Future suitors take note -- my most recent custom 1/2 pound box: 3 Dark Nougats (honey nougat, coconut, vanilla, with almonds), 3 Scotchmallows (honey marshmallow and caramel), 3 Milk Chocolate Peanut Nougats (chewy peanut nougat), 1 Milk Chocolate Caramel (caramel with almonds), 1 Raspberry Truffle (rich buttercream with raspberries), 1 Dark Chocolate Truffle (rich chocolate buttercream with ground nutmeats on top).