In 1982 the World's Fair came to my (near) hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. It was A. Big. Deal. Do we have World's Fairs anymore? I haven't heard in ages. The icon of our World's Fair was the Sunsphere, which still stands proudly in Knoxville. It had gone into decline for a number of years, but has been revitalized within the last decade.
World's Fair fever swept through the region. I was 12 and went many times, sometimes with school groups, sometimes with my family. I have distinct memories of wandering through the exhibits (Australia was a favorite) with friends, perhaps experiencing that first taste of freedom in the big city. "Meet us back here at 9:30." No cell phones, no way to keep tabs.
Is it any wonder that one of my favorite Simpsons' episodes was Bart on the Road? (It's definitely in my top three!) But World's Fair Fever wasn't relegated to the safe confines of World's Fair Park. Every where you turned, there was an explosion of cultural references, and wandering our local department store one day, I stumbled across these Japanese rice candies. I must have tried them at the Fair at some point. The memory dims, but I think they handed them out at the Japanese Pavilion. I do have a distinct memory of standing in the gift-y section of Proffitt's Department Store and finding the candies there. Such treasure.
I had that same feeling when we stumbled on them again in World Market a couple of weeks ago.
What's so special about them? Not much. Slightly gummy, barely sweet with a rice paper wrapper that melts in your mouth (!). Magic to a girl of 12 who is discovering a world beyond the boundaries of the mountains that rim her small southeastern town.