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Column: Halloween candy angst

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

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.

22 comments Add your comment


October 11th, 2010
8:36 am

The Autumn mix with the chocolate tips….thank you Brach’s!


October 11th, 2010
8:41 am

Memories … all alone in the glow of the SweeTart.

My mother allowed us to go crazy with it Halloween night when we returned home from Trick Or Treating. I guess she figured that one night of wacked out sugar-high kids was better than a week or so of jittery sweet-crazy kids.

The morning after Halloween, our little pumpkin buckets were placed high up on the top of the refrigerator where – even with the assistance of a kitchen chair – we couldn’t reach it.

She would ration out one or two pieces per day for the following week or two and by then, only the “nasty” (we had a certain way with words back then) candy was left and it got trashed. :) Or maybe my Dad got hold to it – he would eat (and still will) pretty much anything sweet, regardless of its “nasty-ness”.

OH – and one last thing – don’t be downing on the SweeTarts. Aside from Smarties, they were always my favorite. Yes, even above the elusive Snickers bar.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajcdinecritic, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Column: Halloween candy angst [...]

jack trent

October 11th, 2010
10:42 am

Today Esquire Magazine announced their 2010 best new restaurant! Congrats to Bistro Niko and Miller Union for making the list.

John Kessler

October 11th, 2010
11:08 am

Thanks for the heads up!

M. Johnson

October 11th, 2010
1:02 pm

Awesome post. After careful inspection, my Mom would disallow about 75 percent of my Halloween haul each year due to slightly opened wrapper and other potential threats. I had to trick-or-treat based on volume, which quickly made me lose interest.


October 11th, 2010
1:12 pm

My son rarely eats the candy. We’ll still have a huge bowl full by Christmas which I’ll throw out to make room for more candy from the unending Christmas parties. Then by Valentine’s and Easter, all that will be thrown out too!!! For him, Halloween is all about the costume anyway. He’s a big time cosplayer!!


October 11th, 2010
1:16 pm

Now that was a funny post John. It brought back some “sweet” memories.


October 11th, 2010
1:17 pm

Oh, man; I loved those giant SweeTarts. It’s a wonder I have any tongue skin left; those things (three to a package) gave me terrible mouth sores.


October 11th, 2010
1:31 pm

I completely remember a friend of mine and I who were way too old to be trick or treating, but we did something silly and then went house to house for the candy.
The kids here do it too, and we all play along. I mean, seriously, I don’t want the stuff in my house! If I could give out the stuff my kids got, I’d do that too.
But it’s definitely a dirty trick that the stores put all that candy on sale mid september, knowing you’ll eat it and knowing you have to go buy more. So I don’t buy til I absolutely have to! Or I try to resist. But I still haven’t bought any candy, not yet anyway…


October 11th, 2010
1:35 pm

I miss the old Good N’ Fruity with with licorice inside. The ones available now are nothing but a soft skittle


October 11th, 2010
1:59 pm

BTW – those condiment packages that get left over from takeout make great “candy” for those overage and rude trick or treaters.

Sid Vicious

October 11th, 2010
2:31 pm

Candy? I can hardly pay my mortgage let alone buy candy in Sept or Roctober…

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by avn, Yr-Hwch-Ddu-Gwta and Rosemary Wickstrom, Tony Peacock. Tony Peacock said: Halloween candy angst: But then my second thought was, “Halloween candy? Already?” It wasn't even October, and tha… [...]


October 11th, 2010
4:24 pm

I feel the angst! I buy candy, only a few kids in the subdivision and then we are stuck with the candy. Only chocolate now and stuff we will eat. When the kids were little someone gave out religious tracts. Those were usually found on the street outside the house.


October 11th, 2010
10:52 pm

Thanks for the memory starter John!! I loved Halloween so much as a kid!! My friends & I always hit our neighborhood plus the one right down the road (alone – what a concept!!). There was one neighbor there who was always out & would leave a huge platter of candy on the porch. “Honor System” – ha!! It was always down to scraps by the time we got there and our school friends regaled us with tales of huge hauls of Blow Pops, Baby Ruths, Butterfingers, even the most-wanted Snickers. Finally one year my friends and I bit the bullet and buzzed over there first. We could see from a distance that the platter hadn’t been hit yet and were excited by thoughts of delicious chocolatiness……..but no!! It was packed full of those nasty peanut butter kisses in the orange & black wax paper. Blah!! Obviously we caught them on an off year – when we passed by at the end of the night the platter was STILL full. Did anyone actually eat those things?


October 12th, 2010
12:48 pm

I loved those straws full of flavored sucrose. Purest sugar rush eva!

There’s some flavor to candy corn that I never quite got. Not reall sugary but an underlying almost candy pumpkin taste.

I will say that Trunk & Treats are a great idea. Rather than wander around and maybe finding houses with candy, you can go around the parking lots for a guaranteed hit. Plus, the adults get to have fun too.


October 12th, 2010
2:07 pm

Great post. Well written.


October 12th, 2010
2:37 pm

Kar, I agree. I took my children to a Trunk & Treats a couple of years ago, and they had a BALL! They got so much more candy than going from house to house – AND IT WAS SAFER!! I think that it is so sad that people go to the extremes to harm innocent children. If you don’t want them at your house, LET THE LIGHT OFF. Yeah, this article did bring back some good memories. Oh, to bring back the good ole days.


October 12th, 2010
2:40 pm

I’m just now throwing away a large bag of last year’s candy from my kids. They never eat all the candy!


October 12th, 2010
3:46 pm

We literally give out five gallons of candy every year – our street gets lots and lots of trick or treaters. We give to little kids and big kids alike (little kids get a little more candy; big big kids might get one or two pieces). I usually have a mix of the good stuff and lots of tootsie rolls. My kids come home and dump out their bags and separate all their candy by type – gum, chocolate, sour stuff, boxes, lollipops… They trade with the neighbors (Kit Kats for Twix, etc.), and then we put the chocolate candy in the freezer, and the rest in a bowl in the kitchen. Most of the popular things are usually gone by Thanksgiving, and we throw out whatever’s left. The Snickers and Twizzlers belong to me (Mom gets first dibs) and they are hidden very cleverly; I can’t say where as my kids may read this and figure it out. Dad gets second dibs but all he wants are the black licorice, candy corn, root beer barrel, Mary Jane and peanut butter kisses so it’s all good. The kids get their sour stuff and Skittles and everybody is happy. We love Halloween.


October 12th, 2010
8:13 pm

At Kroger, they have positioned all the candy at the front of the baby aisle. So if you are heading through for a pack of diapers with your young child who seems to have been born with the knowledge of what candy, McDonald’s and Disney are, there is no distraction. THANKS a lot. I think it’s Publix who has cookies across from the baby food…