Summer 2019, my first season as a farmer's market vendor and am I selling super unique, jojoba beard oil or campfire scented soy candles or even homemade rice krispie treats outta my trunk? Nope! I went for what the majority would call the most challenging to make confection for western Washington climate. Finicky, temperamental, divinity candy.
Another vendor at a market asked me, "Why divinity?" Um . . . because kettle corn was already taken? *snicker*
Why not divinity? It has to be one of my favorite treats next to candy corn and I can't be the only one on the planet who thinks so. When faced with a choice between chocolate or divinity, I will choose divinity every time, except that I almost never see divinity being sold and if I do see it, I've been disappointed because it never lives up to the memory I have of those ambrosial, puffs of sumptuous cherry goodness my mother used to make when I was a kid.
Competing with Cherished Memories
Over the course of my farmer's market summer, I discovered that those who stopped by my booth fell into one of two categories, those who already knew what divinity is and those who had no idea what divinity is and for all the latter group knew, my little balls of tasty delight looked more like the world's smallest bath bombs at first glance. What?! Admittedly, it was kind of funny to offer them a sample and watch eyes roll off to one side and noses wrinkle while their minds deliberated the "how" issue of sampling soap on the fly but that's another story.
The number one comment I heard from those who were already familiar with divinity was "I haven't had divinity in years." In retrospect it has occurred to me that I offer more than just candy. I was now in the business of selling a profoundly nostalgic experience. People reached back in time to holiday memories and beloved family members, many of whom were no longer present in their lives. In some cases, the last remembered experience of divinity is forever linked to a departed and cherished loved one who somehow even managed to make off with the family recipe. *wink*
How Does Whip Me Sweetly Stack up?
"Nobody makes divinity as good as my grandmother's was."
How does one respond to a statement like that especially when they haven't even tried mine? Answer: I don't. In a respectful nod, I'd silently wish them well and let them go. For them, divinity is one of the last memories they have left of their dear grandmothers, mothers, uncles, aunts, etc. and the thought of upsetting or even replacing those memories is too much for some to even imagine. I totally get it.
So, how did Whip Me Sweetly stack up overall this summer? Pretty darn good I would say. Mostly, my candy had the same texture that many remember from their youth, which helped build my initially wavering confidence about my candy. Some had difficulty wrapping their minds around the flavor variety and would only try the one flavor divinity was ever made with until I showed up.
"Do you have just the plain traditional vanilla?" they would ask.
"Yes, of course I do," I would reply with a smile.
Sometimes I was able to persuade them to break tradition and get a little wild with the french vanilla. Then there were those surprisingly adventurous ones who were fearless about trying flavors like coconut cream or sugared violet and found new delight in those flavors too.
Some (very few) said my candy wasn't what they remember and that's perfectly fine. I saw divinity remembered fondly, with laughter, sometimes through tears, other times with stories of failures or injuries and other times even longingly by those who can no longer enjoy it for medical reasons. I got to hear first hand how others have experienced this confection called divinity. My experience at the markets has been educational, priceless and rich. I have come to the conclusion that there really isn't a "wrong" way to make divinity. It is a matter of preference. I have settled into a kind of confidence that I make pretty good candy, that I don't need to change a thing and if there are more people who enjoy mine than don't then I figure it no longer matters if my version doesn't please everyone. Nothing ever does anyway.
Thank you for your support, Washington!