Road Trip Time Machine – Mackintosh Toffee

There’s an old saying that states you can never go home again.

While that may be true, there are definitely certain tastes and smells that can transport you back in time and let you briefly relive moments from your past.

For me, nothing transports me back as fast as a certain smells. I mean, who doesn’t smell bacon and think of Saturday breakfast or Sunday brunch? Similarly, smelling freshly cut grass for me signifies summers of pushing lawnmowers and the smell of rain always reminds me of crazy Prairie storms.

For travelers, who can smell the ocean and not remember the first time they got their toes wet or the smell of certain foods they ate contentedly for days on end during their travels?

Last weekend I set out to relive a memory of my youth that will always signify the family road trip. For me, that’s the taste of Mackintosh’s Creamy Toffee. Those of you not from Canada or the Northern US States may have never tasted it.

Mackintosh's Toffee
The Original Mackintosh’s Bar

A cross between hard English butterscotch toffee and soft American caramel, Mackintosh’s toffee starts off hard (nearly brittle) and softens as you eat it. The first few bites can be murder on teeth and I know more than one friend who lost a baby tooth to it’s goodness.

As a kid, it came in a distinct thin, red tartan plaid cardboard box surrounded by wax paper in one solid piece of toffee. It was unlike any other candy bar wrapper and that was a good thing.

Seeing that the toffee starts off so hard, there were only two ways to eat it. The first way was to heat it up in the sun or next to your body and slowly rip off chunks with your teeth. Frankly, that took too long, was really messy and definitely wasn’t great for sharing.

The most common way to share it was to break it or to “Smack the Mack” as they say. This was our preferred method of enjoying it since this way, everyone got to enjoy a piece of it. To “Smack the Mack” you held the closed package in your palm and hit something hard to break it into small pieces. You only had one chance to do it because once the package was open, smacking it again left a mess.

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” Babs Hoffman

You were also never guaranteed what size your pieces would be since it was completely random, but part of the bar’s allure was hoping you got the biggest piece first. Being the youngest in the family, having an equal chance to get the biggest piece was always a thrill.

Growing up in a small town, one of the only places I could recall ever seeing those flat boxes of Mackintosh’s was at the duty free shop when we crossed the border into the US. My family loved deals almost as much as the road trip so crossing the border just over an hour from our house was a semi annual affair.

Tip! We keep ourselves entertained driving with audiobooks.

My mother, not known for her sweet tooth, loved Mack’s just as much as us kids and always bought a Mack’s bar when we crossed the border into the US. To this day, the only time I ever eat Mackintosh’s toffee is when I’m crossing the US border in a vehicle. That’s why for me, nothing signifies a family roadtrip to the States as much as a Mack’s toffee bar.

On that note, last weekend we took the kids down to Osoyoos, a sleepy resort town in BC, Canada, just across from the US border during Spring Break. Even before we left our house I knew it was a given that we’d cross over into the US.

To be honest, I knew that we’d be passing a Duty Free Shop and my mouth was watering at the prospect of getting my hands on a Mackintosh. I even explained my love of the toffee bar and explained our long standing tradition to my kids as we approached the border. They were excited by my eagerness (and to be honest, the prospect of getting some candy), so I knew they’d share my love for this toffee bar I grew up with.

“Until you’ve learned to drive, you’ve never really learned how to swear.”  Robert Paul

I’m not exactly sure what happened, but we somehow missed the Duty Free store turn off. Before I knew it, we were in the customs line waiting for our turn to hand in our passports. To say I was mortified was an understatement. I was so saddened I was tempted to do an illegal U-turn right then and there. Micki convinced me that it wasn’t in our best interest if we ever wanted to enter the States again so I reluctantly remained in line.

Even as we crossed back into Canada later that day I was still upset about not getting my Mack fix. If there hadn’t been an hour long lineup through customs I would have even circled around and gone through again.

As we returned to our hotel, Micki and the kids took the elevator up to our room as I wandered over to the vending machine for a quick dessert.

Low and behold, to my amazement, in slot #17 was a Mackintosh’s Toffee bar.

I was ecstatic. It was as though fate had smiled down at me. I couldn’t have been happier if I had conquered the desert and found both the holy grail and Shangri-La waiting for me. Of course, I bought the last two in the machine and ran up the stairs to quasi-heroic fanfare.

The only remaining evidence
The only remaining evidence

My kids thought I was nuts when I showed them how to crack the Mack but they enjoyed it as much as I did and fought for the biggest piece just as I did as a kid. We all had our fill and with the last piece of the quest complete, proclaimed the day a success.

The best part? It was just as good as I remembered.

Tossing it in my mouth I was immediately brought back to days before air conditioning was common and getting a window seat was a treat. Of being plopped in the back with my brother and sister patiently waiting for another piece of the quickly disappearing toffee while dad made a beeline for whatever town we were headed for, and thankful that, at least for a few minutes, we were behaving ourselves and he could have a moment of quiet bliss.

Sadly, the memories faded away as the last of the toffee melted in my mouth. The good news is that I knew the memory would come back again as soon as I opened the other package of Mackintosh toffee that I bought.

You know, the one I forgot to mention to my kids. 😉