With the Christmas holidays quickly approaching two “store-bought” candies from my childhood come to mind - the marshmallow circus peanut and the orange slice.
It seems both of these candies have been a favorite in the rural hills of northeastern Mississippi for generations and these two treats were seasonal at one time, but today, both can be bought throughout the year.
I’ve heard my grandparents tell of enjoying the circus peanuts during their childhoods and according to various sources, this treat has a long history going back to the 19th Century.
From my own childhood I remember the packaging had a colorful clown imprinted on the bag and the curious banana-like flavor of the orange-colored spongy peanut was definitely a treat.
I don’t think the orange slice candies have a history as long as the marshmallow circus peanut, but this citrus-scented jellied candy, coated with a dusting of sugar was a favorite around Christmas during my childhood. This candy was such a favorite that a candied orange slice cake was introduced.
This cake was baked at least a week before Christmas and had such ingredients as walnuts, pecans, coconut, dates and of course a generous supply of candy orange slices. The cake, baked in a tube pan like a pound cake, was drenched with a concoction of fresh orange juice and confectioner’s sugar, then wrapped in foil and placed in the refrigerator, cold room (most everyone had cold rooms such as a spare bedroom that was shut off during the cool southern winter months), or the screened back porch.
This delectable weighty cake on Christmas day would be aged to a sweet sticky treat for the holiday meal.
Every Christmas season, I always make sure I have a good supply of marshmallow circus peanuts and orange slices. To me they are a part of the seasonal confectionary heritage of the rural hills of northeastern Mississippi.
Photograph of Marshmallow Circus Peanuts, Candy Orange Slices and Parched Peanuts by Bob Franks