If you grew up in Los Angeles, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered Kool-Aid Gummy Worms. If you’re unfamiliar, let me explain. Essentially, just as the name describes, this sugary treat consists of Kool-Aid powder mixed with gummy worms and a bit of water. It was popular when I was a preteen, going to middle school in Hollywood. Lucky for me, and unfortunately for my teeth, one of my best friends was a “vendor” of said candy. This means ya girl had the hook up, aka Kool-Aid Gummy Worms on tap. In my memory, Kool-Aid Gummy Worms had it all: They were sweet and tart—and who can resist a gummy worm? But will they hold up in adulthood?
My former gummy dealer (we’re still friends to this day) has graciously shared her recipe with me which I will use to determine if this treat is as good as I remember. According to my friend, the recipe calls for about 95% Kool-Aid powder (alternatives like Tang are also acceptable so long as they are in powder form) to be mixed with 5% water. This should create a paste which is mixed with gummy worms and then stored and eaten out of a Ziploc baggie. As I remember, it was convenient to just bite the corner and squeeze out the paste like a sort of makeshift piping bag. (By the way, “Kool-Aid Gummy Worms” is a mouthful, so I suggest we rearrange the first letters of the words to give it a new name: “GAWK.” A fitting anagram since that’s what people would normally do when seeing someone suck this bizarre, worm-filled paste out of a baggie.)
The process of making GAWK is pretty straightforward, but it’s hard to imagine an 11-year-old making like ten bags of these every morning before heading to school. I have to say, I respect the hustle. I initially tried mixing the Kool Aid powder alone with the water, but it proved to be WAY too sour. The missing ingredient here was granulated sugar. Thankfully, I had Tang (which comes pre-sweetened) to fill in the gaps. The gritty sound of the powder and sugar crystals brushing past each other as I mixed the tiny amount of water in with the Tang powder was unsettling, like mixing together liquid sandpaper. As I mixed it together in the kitchen at work, I could see my coworkers wincing at the sound, as memories of my mouth being cut up after polishing off a bag of GAWK flooded my mind. After sharpening my utensils in the sweet rocky paste, I scraped the contents into a baggie and proceeded to add my gummy worms. I used Black Forest gummy worms because of their size (love a large worm), and they were everything I remembered. Next, I sealed up the bag while trying to release as much of the air as I could, twisted it up, and was ready to bite the corner.
The finished concoction looks a lot like orange slime in a bag, which is how I know I followed the recipe to a T. I’m not sure how kids weren’t getting caught selling this at school since you could definitely spot the glaringly bright orange hue from well across any school campus. Is it completely unhinged? Absolutely. I don’t know that anyone should be consuming this with any kind of regularity (let alone averaging three a week like I did as a child). In terms of flavor, it’s definitely what I remember—perhaps a bit grittier than I realized. Although I remember the grit being less noticeable throughout the day, once the baggie had warmed up in your pocket and the gummy worms had absorbed some of the paste.
If there’s anything this candy slaps you with besides sugar, it’s tartness. I remember always loving the sourness of GAWK, and I’m glad to know that that wasn’t just some sugar-induced hallucination from my middle school years. However, attempting to eat and store this treat as an adult brings me back to the reality that if you didn’t finish it in one sitting, the thick paste was 100% oozing into your pocket. When I was in school, we experimented with using a gummy worm to plug the open corner and squeezing the paste to the opposite corner so you could tie the bag up in hopes of preventing leakage. I can say that I liked the flavor of this candy, but I also admit that I am scared of the version of me that looked forward to eating this every day.
GAWK is pure chaos, and for that reason, I will award it four sporks for nostalgia and taste.