Digesting all there is to know about the Jelly Belly jelly bean

08/02/2013 1:18 PM

08/02/2013 1:19 PM

Seriously, now, consider the Jelly Belly jelly bean.

The Jelly Belly jelly bean has been around since 1976 and you can distinguish the Jelly Belly by the writing on it: Jelly Belly.

It takes between 7 and 21 days to make a Jelly Belly jelly bean, partly because of the time it takes to make it so shiny and bright, and partly, I guess, because of the time it takes to write Jelly Belly on each one.

The Jelly Belly jelly bean was just another jelly bean until 1981, when it was recognized as the favorite snack of President Ronald Reagan.

The president passed them around at every cabinet meeting and once famously said, ``You can tell a lot about a man by the way he eats a jelly bean.''

(I don't know what that means. Is there more than one way? Am I doing it wrong? Hmm.)

The Jelly Belly jelly bean was the first jelly bean sent into outer space, on orders by that same President Reagan. Take that, Russia.

The most popular Jelly Belly jelly bean is Very Cherry, though it was supplanted once, from 1998 to 2003, by Buttered Popcorn. Jelly Belly jelly beans that don't make the cut are called Belly Flops. Ugh.

The most famous among us have their likenesses done in Jelly Belly jelly bean art, including Elvis Presley, James Dean, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and, of course, Mr. Reagan.

In fact, Jelly Belly factory stores have miniature shrines to the late president and even sell Reagan memorabilia. They just love that guy.

OK, enough.

So why am I telling you all about the Jelly Belly jelly bean -- other than that it's so much fun to say Jelly Belly jelly bean?

It's because I, my bride and our 9-year-old grandson Jacob recently took a vacation and ended up in the unlikely city of Kenosha, Wis., one of two factory homes of the Jelly Belly jelly bean (the other is in California).

We had no intention of making Kenosha a destination, but it was just 10 minutes from my oldest son's home in Winthrop Harbor, Ill., and had a beautiful harbor on Lake Michigan.

No, it wasn't your normal vacation spot. It wasn't Key West or Las Vegas or New York, but it also wasn't Detroit.

It was just a nice little city, located between Chicago and Milwaukee.

Ironically, the bride and I had lived in Milwaukee for almost 15 years and never once considered driving to Kenosha? Who would?

Now that we live in South Carolina, it's the garden spot of the hemisphere. Life's funny, huh?

So here we were and, with a 9-year-old in tow, we had to visit the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory. We even took a tour on a little train and learned a dozen mind-boggling facts, none of which I recall.

Afterwards, we drowned ourselves in Jelly Belly jelly beans as we visited the factory store.

Jacob was in heaven, tasting every Jelly Belly jelly bean available, including, he tells me, a booger bean (sorry, but I can't capitalize that word).

He said it wasn't bad. I don't believe him, but booger is just one of the disgusting flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans, made as a joke: Pencil shavings, barf, skunk spray. Like that. What a bunch of kidders.

There are currently 50 flavors marketed and I think Jacob tried most of them.

His favorite was the 7-Up Jelly Belly. The bride's favorite was the Tabasco.

Because I'm diabetic, I tasted just one Jelly Belly jelly bean, the Buttered Popcorn Jelly Belly. It was, indeed, melt-in-the-mouth delicious so I'll call it my favorite.

So we carried home a few dozen Jelly Belly jelly beans, plus an odd-looking assortment of sugar-free Belly Flops for old Pop-pop. Some day I might eat them.

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