Unless you have been living in the remote reaches of some very unenlightened corner of the planet, such as, oh, Siberia, you have probably heard of “Peeps.” In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks in Siberia did know about these sweet little treats. They certainly know about tea and keep their samovars fired up all day long in case the stray wanderer or horde of relatives stops by unannounced.
At this time of year, “Peeps” pop up by the legions on the shelves and/or piled high in the aisles of grocery stores, drug stores, and even those big you-can-find-everything-under-one-roof stores. But what are they? Well, as Sergeant Friday used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am”:
Marshmallows. Shaped like baby chicks, bunnies, etc. In yellow, pink, and purple. Sweet. Chewy. Meltable (especially when one is sitting next to your teacup when it’s full of hot tea). Started by Sam Born, a candy maker born in Russian who immigrated to the U.S. in 1910.
That’s the basic facts of “Peeps” but there is another side to these wee, edible creatures: they seem to multiply every time you turn your back on them, like those gremlins. (Buy one package and you’ll soon find you have two. Buy two and in the blink of an eye you’ll have four. And be sure not to get ’em wet!) They also tend to share a trait or two with fruitcakes — they seem to get passed around and “re-gifted” a lot, they can turn rock hard but never seem to rot, and once you have some in your house, they seem to hang around forever. We use some of ours as doorstops!
The best solution to prevent the massive, tribble-like build-up of “Peeps” is to serve them immediately after bringing them home. One of the best settings for this is a special tea party, complete with every child living within a 10-mile radius. You’re gonna need just about any mouth you can find to stay ahead of the “Peeps” propagation potential.
It will also help to invite some ravenous adults, the kind you invite over to assure that you won’t have any leftovers from that 20-pound turkey you decided to cook for Thanksgiving, or the ones that can single-handedly guarantee there won’t be even the tiniest crumbs remaining from the dozens of pies on hand at the family reunion picnic since every uncle, aunt, and first-, second-, third- and fourth-cousin brought one. Just set the packages of “Peeps” in front of them, back away quickly to the kitchen, and try to ignore the sound of unbridled gluttony while you steep up the tea.
I find a nice Imperial Formosa Oolong Tea such as the one from Golden Moon to be a good choice. The smoky flavor for me goes well with sweets, sort of a balance of contrasts, and tastes great both hot and iced or chilled. A gentler accompaniment would be a white tea such as Snow Dragon or a green tea such as Japanese Sencha. Speaking of chilled teas, Darjeeling is another good option.
For those of you who think I exaggerate anything here, all I can say is, “You’ve been warned!” Go ahead, buy a package of “Peeps” or two or even three. Then, stand back and see what happens. Better yet, set ’em on the kitchen or dining room table, then go make some tea. Don’t take too long though!
(There’s more to the peeps story on A.C. Cargill’s blog.)
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