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Throughout my life I have met many people in many different situations. But few stand out to me like the way I met Naná. Naná (Natalia Ghergorovich) appeared in my life one day on October 2004. We were young and we used to frequent music festivals to see a band that we now wouldn’t dare to name.
Naná was a friend of my friend Emilia, from La Plata, who had a habit of mixing and gathering peeps from various friends groups whenever she came to CABA. This is how I ended up talking to Naná, as we waited for the 84 bus on our way back home. It was a sunny afternoon and I will never forget the moment when she suddenly produced some Mogul Yogurt candy from her pocket.
It might have been an inconsequential thing to anyone else. But those Mogul treats, that afternoon, and that conversation were the foundation on which a lasting friendship was built. 16 years of talking about sweets, music, and books. No, we are not best friends. But we share a bond. Important things unite us, such as being only daughters and being alone with our mothers. Our love for Dani Umpi and Asian culture. But above all, the passion with which we talk about food. In Naná’s case, that means sweets. Mine is more general and largely focused on cold cuts.
In 2007 Naná created “the first and only candy review blog in Argentina” where, with the same love with which she handed me those Mogul the first time we talked, she reviews candies, gummies, lollipops, chocolates and everything in between. She also took a leap into the audiovisual world and has interviewed various celebrities, both local and international, to learn more about their taste in sweets. On her YouTube channel we can see her chatting with musicians, writers, and artists. We can also see her adventures exploring the sweets of distant countries. And my favorite videos are the ones of live reaction to new treats.
Since she started doing this, Naná has become “the candy girl”, the authoritative word in the field of sweets, with participation in television and radio programs, interviews for some of the country’s largest newspapers and magazines, hosting events sponsored by big brands. At a time when everything seems so hostile, I met with Naná to talk about sweetness.
Below is a translated version of our conversation.
To start off, what’s your favorite candy?
My two favorite candies have remained my favorites since I was a child. They have been available at the kiosco for as long as I can remember. One of them is the Billiken chewy candies. They come in four flavors: orange, strawberry, pineapple and apple. My favorite is the apple one. Many people say that it is a lot like apple Sugus, but I disagree, it’s much more acidic. Sugus is very difficult to define because its range is much wider. There’s been some polling on Twitter to see which one people prefer. But in the case of the Billiken, I don’t like the other flavors. I only like the green one, apple.
My other favorite candy is Palitos de la Selva. I feel like it’s a treat that has improved over time. They are making them a bit bigger. The shape is better. They changed the packaging. There has been a slight variation in color from the original pink to the current one, which is rather purplish or lilac, but at the flavor level I think it is incredible. This has not been the case with Billiken, and in fact I think they’re even smaller now.
There was a time when I really appreciated the trivia and information that came in the packaging of the Palitos de la Selva. But not so much anymore because I don’t take the time to read them. The way I eat Palitos de la Selva is almost manic. I buy a large quantity and I just eat, eat, eat. I quit smoking, so they’ve served as a replacement, although maybe they shouldn’t. But when I was little I did really like the trivia on the packaging a lot. Not just any candy comes with bonus features.
Is there like a subgenre of sweets that come with reading material? Palitos de la Selva with their trivia, La Yapa with its information about nature, Bazooka chewing gums with their comic and horoscope. And of course Dos Corazones.
In the case of Dos Corazones they call it “chocolate with poetry”… this is something I wish someone looked into. The quality of the poetry being released through these treats is truly horrific. Some sort of investigation should be done. It is the only form of poetry currently circulating in the kioscos.
The Águila chocolates used to come with stories…
I think the book had some Wizard of Oz type characters on the cover. It was called “El Librito” and carried a very small Águila logo. They were beautiful. Chocolates with a fable. At some point there were also some candies that carried famous quotes from different writers. The final step of all this evolution I think are the fortune cookies.
What do you make of treats that include surprises?
It’s an issue. I know that in Chile, Kinder Surprises were banned. Also in a couple of other countries as well. It is controversial that a child would choose a “food” because it comes with a toy. But in truth there’s not really any true “food” in the entire kiosco. I don’t know, it’s pretty bad either. If it’s bad but you can also come out of it with a toy … I dunno. Kinder used to have very good toys. I think the quality has decreased considerably..
Not only that, but they also make them for boys and for girls separately. Seems like going backwards. They changed something that used to be good and universal and not tied to gender.
I wonder how they arrived at that decision. Was it a line that young boys wanted to mark themselves? Felfort also has a line of sweets for girls and another for boys. It is a little box, like the one that Jack Chocolates used to have (speaking of sweets with a surprise) that was actually really good. Now there are two lines, one for girls and one for boys. Topolin now has a Topolina as well. A blue version and a pink one. The one for girls comes with crayons and the one for boys comes with a mini soccer ball. Even in its Angry Birds surprise box, Felfort has a line for boys and another for girls.
It is so unnecessary. Because for as long as there were Jack chocolates that came with a toy, the fun was simply collecting them. There was no distinction for boys and girls. They were all superheroes and that’s it. Or Simpsons characters. They were great collectibles.
I find it upsetting that they’re tarnishing the legacy of Ricardo Fort.
Ricardo Fort is such an interesting character. I’m so sad I didn’t get to meet him in person. At one point, my friends went to see FORTuna and I said no. “Oh no, I’m going to Puan, I’m not going to see Fortuna.” And now I’m kicking myself.
There are two people that I would be very intrigued to know what they would be like today: My father and Ricardo Fort.
It’s the same for me. I ask myself that question about my father, about Fort, and no one else. It’s a question that doesn’t occur to me about anyone else. Fort was a very ambiguous character. On the one hand, he was super ostentatious, but at the same time somewhat marginal, with a populist streak. I heard that at the end of his shows he would throw Felfort chocolate coins into the crowd.
Before I forget, I want to add something about Palitos de la Selva. They released a line with new flavors that I did not like. Pico Dulce, who were always very generous and sponsored me in everything I pitched to them, they made some chewy candies similar to Palitos de la Selva. There is a lot of that in the world of sweets, that a brand makes a copy of another candy. They released their “cremi” line. Pico Dulce Cremi, which are good but it’s not the same. Pico Dulce also has hard and chewy candies with their original flavor. It was like an evolution from lollipop to hard candy and from there to chewy. A very linear but fail-safe trajectory. The flavor was maintained through the different presentations. It’s like Argentine brands have this idea of, for example, the new line of Vauquita (sweet milk snack). Vauquita with mint, with banana split, with chia seeds … I don’t understand why they don’t make it easier and just cover it in chocolate.
The evolution of sweets should be to bathe them in chocolate. Like the chocolate-covered Mantecol snack. Or the chocolate-covered Oreos and then their evolution into Oreo alfajores.
The Oreo alfajor is interesting. Because it is rather soft, less crunchy compared to the cookie. I do not eat it. It reminds me of a classmate who was bullied a lot because she loved eating Oreo alfajores and the corners of her mouth were always black. They called her comebarro (mud-eater).
The Oreo alfajor is actually one of my favorites. I like alfajores that are derived from cookies, like the Pepitos alfajor.
I tend to avoid treats that are derived from other treats, or that merge two candies. Disappointment is always a risk when you dare to try a new treat. It is strange because if it is true that there are many treats that have stayed in the kioscos throughout the years. But new candy releases, for one reason or another, don’t stick. I think there’s something in the industry that is failing. The only releases that remain on the market are actually re-releases of old treats.
Do you think this is so because the Argentine candy consumer is rather traditionalist? That the Argentine palate is not so adventurous?
Yes, I think there are many people who do not dare to try new things. For example, they recently released chocolate-flavored Tita and Rodhesia and I don’t know if I want to try it. You already have a good product! If they wanted to innovate they should have given it a second chocolate bath. Add more layers of chocolate! I still have to admit that the Tita alfajor is very good.
i haven’t tried it. But I highly recommend the Dia% brand alfajor.
Dia has good products. But their alfajores don’t have a chocolate covering. Although they make up for that with the great price. They are always on sale.
Yes, they always run out and you’re left with the ones with white icing.
In general, I go for the ones dipped in chocolate, but I like the Jorgitos with white icing. Or the fruit with icing. The membrillo Guaymallen. The fruit Jorgito. Jorgito is a brand that I appreciate a lot and that also accompanied me a lot in events. Always good vibes. And the reality is that it is an affordable alfajor that is also very generous. Other brands out there cost twice as much. There is the smaller presentation that still gives you quantity. I’m sick of the small treats like mini Rhodesias or Snacky. I love miniature things… but you can’t sell me a bag that has three mini Rhodesia. That doesn’t happen with Jorgito.
You mentioned Guaymallen. How do you feel about its owner?
I think he is another very interesting character that we may value more in the future. At first I really liked him. Then I don’t remember what comments he made that caused such a peak in popularity. Everyone loved him and suddenly they started hating him. I did not understand, because I had not been following his story so closely. I think he lost his freshness. But I like the shirts he wears. Guaymallen is also a very noble alfajor. At one time you could get 10 for 1 peso. Even today it has a good price-quality ratio. And it’s never bad or stale. I also love that gaucho on its logo.
What’s your favorite snack brand logo or mascot?
A few years ago, in Estilo Nana we ran a mascot world championship. Actually two. In the first one Jorgito won and in the second the La Montevideana logo won. The first one was controversial. The final was Jorgito vs. Topolin and Jorgito ended up winning. I personally like Fantoche’s clown a lot.
Are you a fan of lollipops?
My candy intake has dropped a lot in recent years. That’s the reality. I’m not going to lie to you. Every so often I do have a good lollipop or gummy, but I lean more towards foreign ones, like Jolly Ranchers which I love because they have a very strong flavor. I like that kind of lollipop better. Like the one that comes in Topolin.
How do you feel about Chupa Chups? I remember the Spice Girls lollipops.
Yes, they were so tasty! I remember they had a holographic look and were delicious. The lolly, the stickers, the packaging, incredible. They had a very vivid taste. Dali designed the Chupa Chups logo.
Returning to what we were talking about before. Why do you think the Argentina is so traditionalist in our choice of sweets?
I think it has to do with the fact that our flavors are not strange or strong for us. But around there when you eat sweets from other countries … a lot of the time they don’t taste anything. We have a very high bar of sweetness. And that’s why we don’t need to add a lot. American sweets tend to have have a thousand things fused together. We getting around it by adding some dulce de leche and that’s it. Maybe we’re missing a little adventure. They tried to do it when they combined the Rex cookies with the Cofler chocolate and it was very bad. It was a disappointment. It sounded amazing but when you tried it, it was rubbish.
Perhaps it would be good if the Águila line of chocolates expanded further. Because within commercial chocolates I think it is the best one. They released chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa but there is still no really good chocolate for those of us who like milk chocolate.
Make sure to follow Naná on Instagram. This is the first edition of a series focused on Argentine sweets. In the next one, we will test and score treats that can be found at kiosks. Until next time!