The Truth About Your Grandma's Favorite Strawberry Candy

There are certain types of candy that seem to be ubiquitous at certain times and under certain circumstances despite the fact that no-one seems to be all that fond of them. Candy canes at Christmas, jelly beans at Easter, candy corn at Halloween...does anyone actually buy – or eat – these, and if so, do they do so for any other reason than tradition alone?

There is one type of candy that seems to fall into this same category – something nobody goes out of their way to acquire, and yet, somehow just seems to show up at the proper time and place. With this particular candy, though, there isn't a special season or holiday associated with it, but it instead attaches itself to a specific person: grandma. And that candy, of course, is the infamous strawberry bon-bon. (Yes, that's its official name. Now you know.) 

As rumor has it, you'll never see these offered for sale, at least not if you are a young person and/or a man. On the day you become a grandma (or a great-aunt, or even an honorary older "auntie"), a few of these will mysteriously begin appearing at the bottom of your purse. Once they start spilling out the top, you'll find that a cut-glass dish has materialized in your living room, and you are now honor-bound to keep this dish filled with those same strawberry candies, forever and ever, or at least until you move to a retirement condo in Boca Raton.

What's a bon bon, anyway?

If we lost you at bon bon, we'll back up for a moment to explain just what these are, courtesy of Boyd's Retro Candy (where you'll need to supply evidence of your grandma status before they'll let you order any of the strawberry ones). Bon bons are a type of candy that may date back to the 17th century where they were created for the Parisian royal court of probably some Louis or other. (France, after all, had XVIII of them in all, according to ThoughtCo.) The name comes from the French word for "good," so "bon bon" basically translates to "goody."

Bon bons can actually come in many types – chocolate-covered, fondant-covered, or covered with a hard candy shell like the one that surrounds the strawberry kind. What distinguished the bon bon from any other type of candy, however, is the fact that it has a soft, sweet inner filling (via Recipe Tips). Whether you bite right into your strawberry bon bon or have the patience to suck on it for a while first, sooner or later you'll get to its soft center that most would agree is the very best part.

How strawberry bon bons (maybe) came to be

No one seems entirely sure about the backstory of strawberry bon bons, which is fitting considering the fact that their front story (the whole "mysteriously appearing as opposed to being purchased" thing) is also shrouded in secrecy. Historic candy purveyor True Treats claims that bon bons started out as medicine, but Mel Magazine points out that all hard candies likely share this medicinal origin story that dates back to 18th-century pharmacies. Strawberry bon bons, specifically, are more likely to have first been produced during the "candy boom" of the late 1930s, a time period that coincidentally coincided with the rise of trick-or-treating.

WWII brought tough times for the candy industry as sugar supplies were then limited. In the late 40s, however, candy regained its status to the point where having a dish of candy became a de rigueur symbol of post-war prosperity. (Who remembers this? Grandma does. Or maybe Great-Grandma.) Of all the types of hard candy available, strawberry bon bons were among the most popular. This may have been due in part to their clever packaging (no other type of fruit-flavored candy is wrapped to resemble its taste-sake) and in part to the yummy surprise at the center, but might also have something to do with the fact that real strawberries weren't available year-round in mid-century America. In the depths of winter, a strawberry candy was a little taste of far-off summer.

The decline of the bon bon

Strawberry bon bons and hard candy in general are nowhere near as popular as they once were. Mel Magazine speculates that its lack of desirability stems from the fact that most hard candies are now cheap, mass-produced items inferior in quality to the ones turned out by leading candy manufacturers in decades past. Plus, chocolate is also more widely available now, as well as being reasonably-enough priced that grandmas who want to win over their pickier modern-day grandkids may be stocking up on Hershey's miniatures instead.

Candy Industry also notes that hard candies these days tend to sell well only if they offer some type of health benefit (such as being CBD-enhanced) or offer extreme or unusual flavors. But is the world really ready for mega-sour strawberry bon-bons or basil/hibiscus/rosé strawberry ones? What would grandma think?

Boozed-up versions of the strawberry bon bon

While Grandma might not approve of any trendy hipsterish strawberry bon bon reboots, she might just want to knock back a strawberry bon bon cocktail or two. The 8 Barrels Club has a recipe for such a drink that combines vanilla vodka with butterscotch syrup, lemon juice, and strawberry syrup. Of course, if Granny prefers her booze straight up (albeit with a hint of sugary sweet flavoring), the Candy Booze blog suggests dissolving a bunch of strawberry bon bons (it looks like they used 19 candies in all) in a pint of vodka. They say it takes a few days for the candies to dissolve entirely (the soft filling takes longer than the outer shells), but the resulting strawberry candy vodka is a lovely pink color and has "a good level of flavor" as well.