The Sweetest Season

These are all contemporary “brands.” When I was a kid, they used made-up, look-alike brands to copy actual cigarette packaging.

With Hallowe’en bearing down upon us, in past years it’s always been time to think about candy. For T and I, thoughts run along the lines of “what can we get to give out that’s good, but that isn’t so tempting for us to eat?” The problem, of course, is that we realize we really need to buy two bags of whatever we’re giving out to insure there’s enough left for trick-or-treaters on the magic day.

When I was a kid, candy seemed to have infinite variety, and equally infinite promise of delights to enjoy. The kids in the neighborhood used to ride our bikes the four or five blocks to one of several tiny, neighborhood grocery stores and spend a quarter on some sweet treats. There’s still a vast assortment of candy available, but many favorite brands of yore are gone, or have changed enough to be totally different. There are some candy types that I never liked, and some I’ve grown less fond of over the years, but my sweet tooth remains.

Weirdly, Candy Cigarettes were a thing that existed. Insidiously preparing kids to become smokers later in life, I loved the crunchy, powdery texture and they reminded me of Necco Wafers, which I also liked. The flavor didn’t have any variety, though, so if I wanted the mouth-feel that they provided, I generally opted for Necco Wafers instead.

Among my favorites were Jawbreakers. I loved the flavors, and once I had sucked on them for a while, they weren’t so hard to chew. Many years and several fillings, a root canal, and two crowns later, I avoid them like the plague, despite the fact that their flavor still appeals. They are more difficult to find these days, which makes avoiding them easier.

Another favorite of mine was Bottlecaps. Packaged then in a colorful paper packet, Bottlecaps were shaped vaguely like, well, bottle caps, and were billed as candy in popular soda flavors. They came in five flavors: grape, orange, cherry, root beer, and cola. The root beer and cola were the best. I love all things cherry, but the artificial-ness of Bottlecaps kept the cherry flavor from achieving greatness, so it ranks third. The orange was the least palatable, being so artificial-tasting that even orange soda seems like mana from heaven. In my marginally obsessive-compulsive way I always ate (or traded away) the orange ones first to get rid of them, and saved the cola and root beer candies for savoring. Speaking of utterly artificial, RUNTS come to mind, and I can’t explain my fascination with their shiny, colorful fruit-shaped teasing. Every now and then I buy a box: by the time I’ve finished them, I usually don’t want more until a year or so has passed.

Chocolate was always a favorite, but when I was young and trick-or-treating, it was rarely given out, so any house that did was marked as an ally, and spared any sort of tricks we might have considered. These days it’s a staple at Hallowe’en, and while it’s difficult to go wrong with any brand of chocolate, there are some companies who make the choice easier. Take Palmer candy, for example. Palmer chocolates can be found in the US, mostly at holidays. Among other things they make novelty chocolates, like bunnies for Easter, Santas for Christmas, and foil-wrapped chocolate “eyeballs” and monster faces during Hallowe’en. It is arguable that their chocolate is terrible; no doubt it is more shelf-stable than most brands, and they have the virtue of being cheap. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate quality over quantity, so I’ve avoided Palmer’s chocolates for many years now.

Other candies I take pains to avoid: those peanut butter kisses wrapped in orange or black waxed paper. The sheer artificialness of their flavor caused me to spit out the first one I ever had, and not touch them again. Throwing away food was one of the cardinal sins in my family, so I assure you I did not do this lightly. They may be cheap, but for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t buy these to give out, unless you really hate kids. Circus peanuts were something I expected more from; their constant flavor disappointment convinced me they were unworthy of further consideration. Wax lips are a thing that puzzles me to this day. I don’t get the point of them, save that they are a cheaper mouth appliance to enhance a costume than just about anything else, but the flavored wax loses it’s taste rapidly, leaving one chewing endlessly on a mouthful of wax hoping against hope for some flavor reward, only to be bilked of joy. I fully expected them to disappear years ago, and yet the gullible consuming public apparently buys enough of them that their manufacturer remains in business.

On the other hand, many people piss and moan about how terrible candy corn is; I’m quite fond of it, and would gladly hoover up the packages that others discard. I’m indifferent to Tootsie Rolls and Bit-O-Honey; if I desperately needed a sugar fix and nothing else was at hand, I’d gladly consume either one.

My sweet tooth is absurdly active, even in middle age, though my sugar consumption has toned down considerably from my childhood. My doctors are puzzled at how I can consume so much sugar and NOT be diabetic. Lucky, I guess.

2 thoughts on “The Sweetest Season

  1. Sooo if I, hypothetically, had a giant box of candy cigarettes that needs to be eaten, I should send some to you. Got it! 😉

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