Sweetzels Spiced Wafers
Just like old boy Proust had those madeleines, so I have my Sweetzels Spiced Wafers. True, they are just mass produced supermarket cookies, packaged in a paper box of no sleek design. They often come two boxes for $5. They are hard and crunchy, and sadly, they do contain a trace amount of trans fat. Why do I love them so?
Growing up in Philadelphia, one is surrounded by iconic local foods: cheesesteaks, hoagies, soft pretzels, Tastykakes, Amish pies, Good's Potato Chips (heck, Charlie's Chips, too), birch beer, Bassett's ice cream . . . do you have all day? We like to eat. Our native dishes are humble, but they are tasty.
In the pantheon of local foods, Sweetzels hold a special place as a seasonal treasure. Legend, or perhaps just the home office out in Skippack, PA, claims that Sweetzels Spice Wafers have been made from a colonial-era recipe for over 90 years now. They appear at the beginning of fall: not the official calendar date, mind you, but the week that grammar schools start classes. By winter, they've disappeared. We must gather our Sweetzels while we may, and savor the glorious autumn weather along with them.
My late October birthday parties were never complete, cake and all, without a plate of the dark brown goodies. They are a bright taste of fall, sort of like ginger snaps, only with more cinnamon and molasses flavor. To my knowledge, they are the only cookie that tastes equally great dunked in milk, tea, or hot apple cider. Take that, Proust.
Eat local. Eat seasonal. Eat Sweetzels.