Chewing Gum As Eye Candy

I have no idea when last I gave my jaws a workout on a piece of chewing gum, and it's been even longer since I purchased my very own pack. The refusal to support the corn syrup industry notwithstanding, I've got nothing against the stuff -- except when I step into a wad carelessly spewed onto the pavement by some miscreant, or better yet, unknowingly park my butt into a gum-encrusted movie seat waiting for me like a mischief night prankster.

Looking at gum in a whole new way. (New York Magazine)

And really, I'm okay if you're okay chewing with your mouth open, tongue and teeth snapping against the give and the pull of an edible rubber band, making more noise than the youngsters in the Great Ape House at the National Zoo in a race to maximize a flavor surge that lasts about as long as the average Top-40 hit. (Maybe that's why they used to call pop music "bubble gum?")

Personal politics aside, the plain and simple reason I refrain from gum is that I no longer have a taste for it. There are so many other things I'd rather chew on and savor, and only so many five-minute intervals in a given day. Perhaps my dislike for recreational mastication is the result of a chewing gum-centric childhood. My brothers and I grew up in a colorful, antiques-filled house with not one, but three authentic penny gumball machines. (This must be the reason kids always wanted to come to our house...) I had one in my room, for crying out loud. It was a strange yet interesting benny living on Penarth Road, and right now I can see both brothers with mouths full of gum, lips a shade a green or blue from the candy-coated dye.

Our chewing gum youth had an olfactory component as well. Whenever we'd visit Aunt Ginny and Uncle Clinton, who lived about 20 minutes away in Havertown, Pa., we'd drive past the Philadelphia Chewing Gum Company, which made, until 2003 when it shut down, Swell bubble gum (with an enclosed comic strip) and those weird-looking chewing gum cigars, among other chewables. Even with the window rolled up, you could smell the uber-sweet perfume of cooked corn syrup, powdered sugar and that mysterious bubble gum flavor that won the hearts of Americans after World War II. It smelled just like it tasted.

As a teenager, I had a thing for Blow-Pops and dabbled in an occasional bag of ruffled Razzles, and then I can't remember when I stopped chewing. Gum just disappeared from my radar - until last week. It's all New York magazine's fault.

Tucked into the current issue is a work of sheer genius - a "Gum" taste test, involving 132 kinds of chewables and a finalist round judged by WD-50 chef Wylie Dufresne and his pastry chef Alex Stupak. But the ingredient that has me salivating is the stunning photography, a chewing gum hall of fame shot by Levi Brown. The online slide show is even better, a brilliant collage of primary colors, shapes and sizes set against a black backdrop, giving the edibles a jewel-like quality.

Gum as art? Now that's a concept worth chewing on.

Talk to me today at noon ET for this week's edition of What's Cooking.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 25, 2007; 7:10 AM ET Candy
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Posted by: Anonymous | September 27, 2007 9:45 PM

I absolutely love gum! Chew it pretty often especially when go dancing. Helps with the good breath or if I'm just bored. My favorite is Trident Tropical Twist. I've been buying it for the last 2.5 years.

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Posted by: Stasigr | October 29, 2007 7:19 AM

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