photograph by Matt Hulsman

You gotta wonder at the name — did sailors pull taffy when they weren’t trimming sails? Whatever its origins, saltwater taffy can be found on every seaside sidewalk, boardwalk, arcade, and causeway, in glass jars big enough to stick your head — I mean hand — into.

As a western NC child, I didn’t discover this nugget of gummy goodness until age 12, at Dee Gee’s in Morehead City, and to this day, I bypass the wax-paper-wrapped whites and browns for the sticky squares of yellow and pink and lilac and green pastels.

And while there’s nothing salty about the sugary taste, the taffy texture is just right for pressing flat to your palate or back against your molars. ’Cause whatever your age, unwrapping a piece of saltwater taffy days, weeks, or even months after that last day of vacation will take you right back to sandcastles, shrimp, and sea breezes.

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Susan Stafford Kelly was raised in Rutherfordton. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Carolina Classics, a collection of essays that have appeared in Our State, and five novels: How Close We Come, Even Now, The Last of Something, Now You Know, and By Accident. Susan has three grown children and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Sterling.