Basket case

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to the best Easter treats
By: Nathan DonatoWeinstein The Press-Tribune
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Roseville resident Julie Asbury doesn't mince words when it comes to perhaps the season's ultimate point of contention: Peeps. I hate them, she said of the marshmallow confection that's ubiquitous at Easter (and on YouTube, where Peeps-acted movies and slightly disturbing Peeps science experiments are everywhere). But my daughter, she loves them. She's fascinated by them. I'm just not a marshmallow person. Nevertheless, Americans tomorrow will unwrap an awful lot of chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, Cadbury Cream Eggs and “ yes “ Peeps. Easter candy sales in 2007 topped $1.987 billion, putting it just below Halloween on the holiday candy-buying scale, according to the National Confectioners Association. And, like those elicited by a still-contentious Democratic primary or the NFL's instant replay policy, opinions come quickly on what absolutely has to go into an Easter basket: hollow chocolate bunnies and some plastic grass in a basket, or new-fangled Easter-candy gizmos in a character-themed bucket? For Citrus Heights resident Kori Urling, a proper Easter basket is an amalgam of sugary classics, novelty toys and age-appropriate gifts. Browsing the seasonal aisles at the Lead Hill Boulevard Wal-Mart this week for her four children, ages 4 through 15, and her boyfriend (he's the fifth child, she said), Urling eschewed the towering pre-made baskets “ too impersonal “ as she fussed over what to include in her handmade creations. They'll include some rubber duckies, a nail kit for her girls and, of course, chocolate bunnies. Her own weakness, Robin's eggs, goes back to her childhood “ which did not, by the way, produce a love of Peeps. I hate them, she said. It's just the texture. And they always get stuck in the (plastic) grass. These days, though, discriminating Easter consumers have options, thanks to a slew of outside-the-candy-box offerings, especially at big-box retailers. They include a staggering array of everything from parachuting candy containers and wind-up bunnies, to edible grass and glow-in-the-dark eggs. Some of these innovations are, perhaps, a long time coming “ a chocolate bunny that's mostly ears, for instance, satisfies those who maintain that's the only part of the bunny worth eating anyway. And parents can finally purchase health-conscious pre-made baskets that feature fun activities and games, rather than dentist-cringing sweets. Others are merely curious: a cruciform-shaped chocolate bar from Russell Stover? Is it even OK to eat that? Despite all this, the standard chocolate Easter bunny is still a favorite, according to the candy industry. A 2006 poll by the confectioners group showed more than half of children surveyed grabbed for the chocolate bunny first when checking out their Easter basket. Pam Edwards of Roseville doesn't hesitate to name what she craves most this time of year: Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs and See's (Bordeaux). But when crafting a basket, she also has to remember the preferences of her husband and their 17- and 25-year-olds to keep the peace. (An 18-month-old granddaughter will be getting an Easter basket, but no candy, because you can't get them started early on it, she said.) It's like a science, she said of coming up with a satisfactory basket. If I forget about something, I'll hear about it. My son will bring it up. Kelli Ridenour, owner of Kelli's Cookies on Douglas Boulevard, offers an elegant take on tradition with egg-shaped and pastel-colored cookies artfully arranged in a tiered basket and festively made up for the holiday. Still, even Ridenour admits she can't pass up solid chocolate bunnies, especially those made by Swiss chocolatier Lindt. And she also has strong opinions on other mainstays. Cadbury Cream Eggs, for instance, are way too ooey-gooey for me, she said. Back over at Target, Julie Asbury, the Peeps-hater, piloted her cart filled with goodies for her 4-year-old daughter, Maddie, and some friends of hers. You gotta have the chocolate Easter bunny, and then you gotta have little candy things at the bottom, she said of the ideal basket. What's her weakness? Anything with chocolate and peanut butter, she said. But really, I'm not buying anything for me.