Culture Undiscovered: Heartbreak at Caramelpalooza

I realize that food is a big part of everyone’s lives (it kind of has to be), but it’s a bigger deal to me than most people. I’ve been obsessed with food for as long as I can remember, and not the healthy stuff either. This isn’t bragging — my friends have bets going on when I’ll have my first heart attack — it’s just a fact of life for me. I shudder at the thought of eating a salad, and the whole “broccoli as baby trees” thing never worked for me. It’s gotten to the point where I can bond with just about anyone over food: Adele didn’t have my heart until I heard her say, “I love food and hate exercise,” and “I don’t want a Caesar salad with no dressing. Why would I do that?” Preach, girl.

Of course, my Achilles’ heel is sweets. In first grade, tiny little baby me had the cholesterol of a 40-year-old man because of them. That may have momentarily slowed down my intake, but never again. This will be a lifelong love affair, even if I only live to 50 because of it. My unnatural obsession with all things sweet lead to a full scale freak-out when I found out about Caramelpalooza at Smeeks candy shop on May 2, an event that was going to put 17 caramel makers together all in one place until the caramel runs out (this doesn’t take as long as you’d think — more on that later).

Caramelpalooza host Smeeks candy shop is a factory of cuteness. Photo by Jessica Pruett.

Naturally I was obsessed, as caramel is my lifeblood. It’s melted sugar! So simple, so perfect. I’m not the type to write love poems, but if something deserves one it’s caramel. Caramelpalooza was also held to mark the opening of Frances Vintage boutique’s summer pop-up shop, which is located right between Smeeks and Stinkweeds. News of this nearly sent me over the edge — candy and crafty home goods? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, it was. The funny thing about candy is, apparently, that I’m not the only one who loves it.

I got to Caramelpalooza 15 minutes in, and the candy had already run out. After taking a break to go through all seven stages of grief, I enjoyed myself in spite of it. There was a DJ in front of Stinkweeds playing cutie pie music like Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” (what everyone should listen to while eating caramel or other appropriately wonderful food), and I browsed overpriced, arty home décor to my heart’s content at Frances’ pop-up store. And even though I’m bitter about the lack of caramel at their event, I have to say that Smeeks is awesome and worth a trip all on its own.

I went in and bought a Black Cow bar and a hard-to-find Wunderbar to satisfy my caramel quota for the day, and then tried to resist the urge to buy all of the cool toys they have on the walls there. For those of you who don’t know, Wunderbars are chocolate/caramel/peanut butter crisp combos that taste sort of like a Butterfinger’s mature older brother, and Black Cow bars are basically slabs of caramel dipped in chocolate. Smeeks has a lot of other rare candy too, a big assortment of vegan chocolates, and throwbacks like Sixlets and Million Dollar Bars. Now that I’ve seen their wares, it’s pretty hard to hate them. At worst, they’re guilty of offering something that everyone loves. At least now I know that I’m not alone, and I still ended the night in a candy coma anyway.

Email me at jlpruett@asu.edu.