I have never been shy about how much I like my Peeps. In this case, I am not referring to friends or buddies, as in, “I was hangin’ with my peeps watchin’ Nightline.” The fact is, no one who calls people “peeps” watches Nightline. The whole idea that I would put “peeps” and “Nightline” in the same sentence is absolute proof that I do not know how to use the Urban Dictionary definition of “peeps.”
I am, of course, talking about the marshmallow candies shaped like baby chicks and bunnies that are now sold at holidays year-round, but are most prevalent around Easter. Over the years, readers have told me how best to savor a Peep: How to properly age them to get that slightly stale crunch, or whether it’s better to dunk a Peep in coffee or hot cocoa or even chocolate fondue. Some readers – the sort who can get away with referring to their pals as “peeps” – shared with me how much fun it is to microwave a peep until it expands, explodes, or melts. (Do not try this at home. I repeat, do not try this at home. The website www.youtube.com has plenty of videos of people creating marshmallow Peep snuff films with microwaves, firecrackers, a garlic press, and a door. Yes, I watched them all.)
Recently, I went to the Peeps website, mostly out of intellectual curiosity, to see the recipes the Peeps company has for its bunnies and chicks. There’s a lot there, but a typical recipe is this: Bake a cupcake and put a Peep on top. Or make some pudding and put a Peep on top. I’m not precisely sure what I expected: Peep sushi? Peep stuffing?
The reality is that no Easter basket is complete without a pack of Peeps. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 million of them are sold every year, or more than two chicks for every man, woman, and child in this great nation. The company behind them, Just Born, is headquartered in – and here is a lovely irony – Bethlehem, Penn. The people behind Peeps are also the people behind “Mike and Ike,” everyone’s favorite movie candy when the movie concession stand has sold out of everything else – and I mean everything. Even the Milk Duds.
Just for the record, my wife actually likes Milk Duds, a candy designed by dentists to extract fillings from teeth. The Just Born company has tried to make “Mike and Ike” the Easter basket jellybean of choice, but so far that marketing initiative has been only a little less successful than the Doritos 2011 Super Bowl commercial with a guy sniffing a peep’s – er, pal’s – pants because they have Dorito dust on them.
In any case, I have every expectation that when the Easter Bunny visits Lincoln, Vermont and leaves me a basket, it will include some Peeps. If I’m lucky, they will even be the new dark chocolate covered Peeps. I do love the symbolism of the Easter chick: New life, rebirth, and the emergence from the tomb. And, of course, I appreciate the symbolism of the bunny: Spring, renewal, and abundance.
Easter is not the commercial juggernaut that Christmas is, even with the sales of all those marshmallow chicks, chocolates bunnies, and kaleidoscopic, corn syrup-rich jellybeans. But given the significance of the holiday and what it means to me in this life and, perhaps, in the next, I’m glad. The movement this week has been from a darkness of the soul to an absolutely exquisite brightness. There is the magic and the meaning of a resurrection. And so this morning, once again, I will savor peeps (lower case) everywhere, and that wonderful moment where faith and hope collide.
Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Peace.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on April 24, 2011. Chris’s next novel, a ghost story called THE NIGHT STRANGERS, arrives on October 4, 2011.)