Some people collect Christmas ornaments. Some are forever hunting for snow globes. Others pride themselves on having huge numbers of fridge magnets from all over the world.
For our "Collections" column, we interviewed Jay Blotcher, who handles media relations for the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. We're willing to bet there aren't too many people out there who collect what Jay does.
What do you collect? Gum wrappers from all over the world.
What do you do with them? I weave them into a chain. The one I have now is about 11 feet long.
What prompted the collection? It all began when I was a junior and high school student. My French and Spanish teachers would bring in foreign candies. I was fascinated by how different the candies were and how they often used American names: Hollywood is one of the premiere gum brands in France. In Italy, they sell Brooklyn gum, with an illustration of the Brooklyn Bridge. I started weaving the wrappers together and realized I could do it easily. In college, I spent a year abroad and really got bit by the bug of foreign products. I collected my own wrappers.
Do you chew all that gum? No. I give it away, but over the years, I have chewed plenty and have noticed the taste differences. For example, the gums from the Far East have very floral aromas.
How has the collection changed over the years? Increasingly, gum is sold as nuggets, not in sticks with wrappers. So it has become very challenging to find wrappers. Also, wherever you travel today, you find American products such as Wrigley’s.
Any surprising benefits of having the collection? I've gotten my traveling friends involved. I ask them to look for foreign gum and the search becomes part of their vacations. It’s a nice reflection of the friendships I have. In an idealized way, I wish the people of the world could be braided together in harmony as my gum wrapper chain is.
Future plans for the collection? I would like to learn how to weave the chain into a vest or a bracelet.
Top photo by Andrew Moreo; photo of Jay by Brook Garrett