Ijust had the worst Popsicle of my entire life. It all started a few months ago, when I was clipping coupons out of the Sunday newspaper.
“Oh, how quaint,” you say. “My great-grandmother does that,” you say. “Do you also wear white pumps and eat dinner at 4:30?” you ask. Please, I am trying to share a story of heartbreak, and you are interrupting.
So I was looking over the coupons when something made me do a double take. It was a picture of a giant banana on a stick, and it was breaking through a hole in the Arctic Circle. At first I thought — as surely anyone would — about that episode of “The Muppet Show” where Marvin Suggs and his singing fruit belted out a chorus of “We have no bananas today.” But then I realized that this was no stick puppet. It was a Wonka Peel-a-Pop, and it was “New in the ice cream aisle.”
It seemed that the legendary candymaker had done it again. He had managed to invent a vanilla ice cream Popsicle with an edible outside. The yellow skin on the Popsicle is pre-cut so that you can peel it just like a banana. And the peeling is banana flavored. It seemed straight out of the Chocolate Room in Wonka’s factory, where everything is edible. That is, except for the stick. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Wonka cracks that code, too.
So I clipped the dollar-off coupon, anxious to try this masterpiece. Just thinking about it brought back memories of the ice cream truck that used to patrol my neighborhood, ringing its melodious bell. Every day, right after the bus had dropped me off from school, I heard that hypnotic sound. My brain was hooked on the chiming of that bell that sent me running to the front yard from anywhere in the house. Mr. Pavlov would beproud.
My favorite Popsicle back then was called “Froze Toes.” It was made of pink ice cream in the shape of a human foot, and a red ball of bubble gum stuck out where the big toenail should be. It used to give me great delight to nibble my way around the inner heel, slurp up past the arch, and then bite off each little toe until only the bubble gum remained. A little bizarre, you say? Go ahead and judge me if you must. I’d just like to know your strategy for eating a pink foot on a stick.
Anyway, I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward to the Wonka Peel-a-Pop. I bought a box of 8, went home and, just for old times’ sake, rang a little bell. Then I took the wrapper off my Popsicle. Following the directions on the box, I bit off the end and then peeled back the yellow skin. For just a brief moment, I was too enchanted by the fact that I was actually peeling a Popsicle to realize that the Peel-a-Pop tasted awful.
But it’s true. First, the banana flavoring is just as gross as banana flavoring always is. Then, the peeling has a rubbery texture that would not be out of place on a calamari Popsicle. And on top of all that, the inside tastes like that cheap ice cream in little paper cups from my elementary school cafeteria—the stuff you had to eat with a flat wooden spoon. The whole thing really was horrible beyond words. I don’t think I’ve been so badly disappointed in anything since I saw the sequel to “Weekend at Bernies.”
It breaks my heart to speak ill of Willy Wonka. He was one of my childhood heroes. Who wouldn’t look up to a man who wore a purple tailcoat and top hat, had a chocolate river flowing through his backyard, and delivered poetic justice to obnoxious children like Veruca Salt? I read both the Roald Dahl books many times, watched the 1971 movie over and over and gobbled up my fair share of Wonka brand candy.
Now I feel cheated. I almost want to scream along with Grandpa Joe when he thinks that Mr. Wonka has tricked Charlie out of his lifetime supply of chocolate: “You’re a cheat and a swindler! How could you do such a thing? Build up a little boy’s hopes and then smash all his dreams to pieces!” But perhaps that would be over-reacting. Some people might like Peel-a-Pops. In case you want to try one, I’ve got seven left. I’ll go get the bell.