The Halloween Grinch assumes control of this week’s column.
A friend of my daughter’s came over the other night holding a full bag of candy corn and snacking directly from it.
My first thought was, “Yum! Candy corn, ” for this is a seasonal food I look forward to almost as much as the spring’s first asparagus. In fact, if anyone wanted to make the case for high-fructose corn syrup, I would say that the existence of candy corn offers a pretty good a priori argument.
But then my second thought was, “Halloween candy? Already?” It wasn’t even October, and that annual orgy of ubiquitous cheap candy had started. Every year I hate it more.
I know exactly how it will play out in our house. Within the week, my wife will come back from the market with three enormous bags of candy, chirping merrily about how she got it purchased ahead of time. One of these bags will contain a mixture of the kind of sugary effluvia that sinks to the bottom of the trick or treat bag — the Atomic Fireballs, the cellophane rolls of SweeTarts, the waxy plugs of Dubble Bubble. One bag will hold noisy boxes of Good & Plenty licorice pastilles, rattling around like mini maracas. One will have assorted bite-size squares of chocolate candy bars.
The chocolate will disappear first, its position on a high pantry shelf behind the lasagna noodles fooling no one. The Dubble Bubble wrappers will soon start showing up between the sofa cushions. My wife will avail herself of the Good & Plenty, her guilty pleasure. Come Halloween, we will need to buy three more bags of candy.
According to a new study from the American Retail Federation, Americans will spend an average of $20.29 on candy, more than they spend on decorations and more than twice what they will spend on children’s costumes.
I understand that Halloween arose as a way of sugar-coating a Pagan ritual, but it seems that now all we do is sugarcoat sugar. And not to sound like a curmudgeon from the UNICEF box generation, but back in my day a treat was a treat. We did not celebrate the month of Sugartober with endless pantry candy, followed by candy-festooned Halloween parties, before we even set out to trick or treat.
How can I ever forget the time I returned from trick-or-treating with what seemed like a jackpot of 63 distinct items — three apples, five boxes of raisins and four No. 2 pencils among them. I remember I scored a full-size Baby Ruth bar from the slightly scary Russian lady who made all the children come into her house and sit briefly with her before presenting the candy on a silver platter. Also: three of my favorite Heath bars and one of those enormous SweeTart boulders that eventually crumbled into pastel sugar with enough biting and slobbering.
I had to hide this booty under my bed because my mother was on Weight Watchers at the time. Still, she found it and ate all the chocolate. When I discovered this violation and started to freak out, she loaded me in the car, drove to 7-Eleven, handed me $10 and said, “Don’t tell your father.”
I replaced the items as best I could and still had enough money left over for some comic books. I then allowed myself a piece of candy per day, saving the Baby Ruth for a grand unwrapping in mid-December.
My kids come home with hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of candy after trick-or-treating. We eventually take it from under their beds — not to eat but to throw away. Guess what? They never miss it.
Now there’s so much candy morning, noon and night that young obsessive-compulsives have nothing to catalogue. Every year I threaten to turn our house into one of those that hands out stickers or pencil erasers. But that seems grim. Maybe I’ll force the kids to come inside, sit down and talk to me. Then, for their troubles I’ll give them one full-size candy bar, letting them know this is the only true treat they’ll score all season.