Channel the confidence of a snack that knows exactly what it is.
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Stacks of Reese's peanut butter cups
Credit: Sarah Crowder

We've become odd, haven't we? The isolation and surreality of the past couple years has caused many of us to regress to a semi-feral state, daunted and alarmed by things like zippers, small talk, other people's nostrils, and the general art of being a person in public. I'm increasingly concerned that when we're collectively expected to re-emerge, tousled and bleary, into the "real world" to interact with other humans in a pre-2020 fashion, I'm going to forget how to form sentences. I'll just be able to do the weird little songs I've been singing to my two dogs, Penelope and Ogdred, all day as I hunch over my laptop, or the truly creepy joy noise I made when I found a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in my freezer.

That was one of the moments I knew I'd truly lost the plot. I reached into the slide-out freezer drawer to crack a few cubes into my millionth iced coffee of the day, and caught a telltale flash of orange wrapper from beneath the tray. I mean, I knew I'd stashed a post-Easter (or maybe it was post-Halloween; time is a flat circle and iced coffee is always appropriate) bag of peanut butter cups in there to mete out to my husband and me as a balm in moments of angst or boredom. But I'd tossed what I thought was the empty bag some weeks before, thanking it for its service. A single cup must have slipped out, biding its time in the tundra until it could be put to its highest purpose. The sound that emanated from me was a mortifying "OOOoooOOOOooooHHH!" of delight — think fireworks, a surprise reveal of a friend's new puppy. Bill Hader playing Keith Morrison learning a gristly new detail of a cold case. 

So if it would please the court, I'd like to offer into evidence this cold, hard, indisputable fact: Original Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are perfect, and I am defenseless against them.

This is as surprising or controversial an opinion as saying that chilly water is a nice thing to drink on a hot day, or that Keanu Reeves is a good-looking fella. But still, why shouldn't we take a moment to appreciate a reliably happy-bringing thing? I'm sure this is the moment where someone feels compelled to compose a vitriolic comment, tweet, or airplane banner about how Reese's Cups are made of that inferior, waxy American chocolate, and that the peanut butter enrobed within is weird and gritty. But you know what? So am I. I've tried a bazillion different schmartisinal approximations of Reese's Cups (including a Keto rendition that remains the most vile packaged snack I've ever had the misfortune of tasting) but not one of them has come close to that Proustian sense joy of teasing the paper wrapper from the machine-sharp crimps of the cup's outer edges, sinking my teeth through the chalky chocolate to the pebbly peanut center, and sighing with comfort.

It's not just the flavor combo that's almost become shorthand for what constitutes a perfect pairing. It's a ratio thing. Some people prefer the jumbo-sized cup, the minis, or a specially-shaped holiday edition, and that's entirely valid. But for me, the standard-sized version is both the ideal serving size and the precise measure of pleasure. If the chocolate were a millimeter thicker or the peanut butter more abundant, it would still taste of trick-or-treat abandon and airport vending machine respite, but something would be off. This ideal calibration is only heightened when the peanut butter cup has had an hour or two (or even months) to loll in the freezer. The snap of coldness is a gentle flick to the senses that something special is going to occur, and your tongue, brain, and psyche best brace for serotonin. 

My most recent Reese's Peanut Butter Cup was enjoyed in the passenger's seat of my car (I gave the other half of the two-pack to the driver; I'm not a monster) and for once, I didn't just wolf it down. I took a moment to peruse the label and saw the phrase "GET READY TO TASTE PERFECTION." Perhaps a braggy thing to assert if you're a person, but for a snack that's achieved icon status, it's exactly the right energy to put into the world. As we wobble back out into the company of friends, colleagues, and uncomfortably close strangers, maybe I'll take a hint and channel the confidence of a mass-produced chocolate treat that knows exactly what it is. That won't be any weirder than anything else I was gonna say.