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Night of the Living Candy Freak

October 31, 2007

I thought today would be the most appropriate time to discuss perhaps my favorite food topic: candy.  According to quintessientially Gen-X  writer Steve Almond, author of Candy Freak, I am a member of this illustrious group.   Call me what you will: Sugarmonger, Chocophile, Dentist’s Best Friend, Nougatwhore (where did that come from?), that’s me.  Like with most foods, however, I have a particular bend towards one type of sweet.  I don’t prefer cookies, or cakes, I think at this point we all know how I feel about cupcakes.  Pastries don’t do it for me, ice cream is good, but never quite hits the spot, no, when it comes down to the deepest, darkest of sugar cravings (this happens twice a day), I prefer candy. 

I grew up a few miles from the Ferrara Pan Candy Company in Chicago.  You know, the maker of such wonders as Lemonheads, Jawbreakers, Red Hots, Atomic Fireballs, and my personal idea of tragedy, Boston Baked Beans.   In those days, we walked the seven flat blocks to school, and the way home was paved with candy cigarettes, wax bottles full of corn syrup, Now and Laters, Root Beer Barrels, Jawbreakers, Bubble Yum, and endless other 20-50 cent options.  I include sugar cereal in the candy category.  Never allowed Trix for breakfast, I had to spend the night at friends’ houses to get my sugar cereal fix.  I preferred Katie’s house of Lucky Charms over Stacey’s Cocoa Pebbled kitchen.  For Christmas I often received a box of Froot Loops, which I also had mailed to me as contraband from distant pen pals.  I had to keep it under my bed, you see, and my pitiful allowance covered only the requisite after-school dimestore candy rather than a full box of Cocoa Puffs. 

Holloween was HUGE in Oak Park, Illinois.  The one day where all the freaks, candy and otherwise, would come out to Take Candy From Strangers!!  What other holiday gets you out of the house and interacting with your community in this way?  What other holiday allows you to break every parental rule in the book, to turn the other cheek of good sense, to revel in sheer vice?  Every year, every single house in the entire town was open for business.  Sure, there were a few raisin and pencil houses we did our best to avoid, but for the most part, Oak Park offered us a smorgasbord of sugary wealth, enough to develop a formidible cache to store in a dark, forbidden place and last at least until Christmas.  Almost better than trick-or-treating was after we came home, sweaty and disheveled from candysweeping the streets, we opened the Great Sibling Trade Center. 

First, we were forced to stand at attention, tears forming on our lids as Dad picked through to find his favorites from our stash- A parental tax imposed by a staunch Democrat who believed one should pay dearly for high quality services.  But then, it was a race to the bedroom where we dumped our bags and the bidding began.  With the speed of an auctioneer,  we would barter, shout, stomp and sometimes cry.  We could be heard all down the street: “Can I get one butterfinger for two cowtails, one for two, one for two, who’s got a butterfinger. . .” late into the evening.   

Steve Almond writes, “If I had been the kind of kid who kept a diary, the entries from the years twelve to say, sixteen, would have read: Got high, ate candy.” 

I don’t feel I am close to matching to his mania, his obsession with hording, categorizing, and generally playing with candy.  I do, however, relate to the presence of candy in his daily life.  Also, I agree that the best candy has come and gone, and I am constantly in the search for new creations.  The Caravelle, for example, is a thing of the past.  Chapter two in his book is nothing more than an elegy for this sweet wonder.  The Caravelle: A strip of caramel covered in a thick shell of milk chocolate, which was embedded with crisped rice.  I know, I know, the 100 Grand, right?  No, the Caravelle was in a whole different hemisphere than the 100 Grand.  According to Almond, “The Caravelle tasted more like a pastry:  the chocolate was thicker, darker, full-bodied, and the crisped rice had a malty flavor and what I want to call structural integrity; the caramel was that rarest variety, dark and lustrous and supple, with hints of fudge.” 

Had enough?  The Caravelle was discontinued when Cadbury acquired Peter Paul, and so many others were banished in the name of buyouts and the end of the smaller candy makers who maybe made one or two bars, but made them with equal parts precision and love.  In the spirit of sugar-coated nostalgia, indulge me and share with us your favorite candy, living or dead. 

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2007 2:24 pm

    Thank you for the nostalgic laughs today. I’d like to add that Now-and-Laters were currency at our elementary school. You could trade a package for illustrious goods such as Garbage Pail Kid cards.

    I have already broken into the gooey, chocolate stash we’re supposed to give out to, you know, kids tonight.

  2. catma permalink
    October 31, 2007 5:26 pm

    I’ve always loved Carmelos and while I haven’t seen them in recent years, they could exist it’s probably better that I don’t know about it if they do. Which brings up an interesting candy topic: to suck or chew? I like to put the carmelo in my mouth until it melts and the carmel oozes out of the sickly sweet milk chocolate. In general, it is a question of patience, but I always at least try to lick the tootsie pop till the center but I don’t think I ever quite had the endurance.
    My father was not so much a Democrat, but more the militia type and would inspect each candy for the suspicious needle or smell of ‘poison’. It took a few years of this ritual before I realized my pre-scanned loot was much larger and butterfinger-laden than post.
    Kan- love garbage pail kids- We don’t have icons like ‘Gooey Gretchen and Pimply Paul’ anymore.

  3. rascalgrrl permalink
    October 31, 2007 5:42 pm

    I have always been a big M&M and 3 Musketeers fan, though my soul belongs to Mounds. Dark chocolate and sticky coconut….heaven! What I don’t understand is why lollipops exist at all. A true waste of candy making energy, in my opinion.

    If not chocolate, though, I’ve always liked Sweet Tarts. And then there’s Sour Patch Kids. Truly a wonderful facial exercise and CANDY to boot!! And I can sometimes convince myself that the cheek and mouth and eye aerobics cancel out the calories.

  4. November 1, 2007 2:35 pm

    Good grief! I am thanking my stars they don’t seem to make those GODAWFUL peanut butter honey-chew things anymore. They came wrapped in black and orange wax paper and were the lowest life form in the halloween bag, surpassed in nastiness only by circus peanuts.
    Also, a correction: We DID get Trix cereal. Every couple of years.

  5. queen kirstifa permalink
    November 1, 2007 11:36 pm

    i don’t really like candy, except for the hippie kind (you know, the fair trade dark chocolate bars with the endangered animals on the wrapper and shit like that), but i love this entry. your recounting of your memories and sugar addiction is making me laugh like i’ve got a pixie stick up my nose.

  6. the dj permalink
    November 7, 2007 5:46 pm

    Dark Dark chocolate. Weak spots for Twix and Mounds. Mast General has these rich peanut butter malt balls that are pretty fantastic. Good toffee covered in bitter chocolate rocks my world as well.

  7. Pixiedyke permalink
    November 7, 2007 9:19 pm

    I LOVE cow’s tails. It consist of a wrapper of chewy caramel around a creamy center of plain milk ganache (maybe?) I love them. They make me excited.

    I also had this weird candy bar a few years ago with marshmallows and pretzels and caramel, but I don’t know the name. The texture was AWESOME.

  8. Husker77 permalink
    June 8, 2008 10:44 pm

    Caravelle was the best candy ever made. I can’t believe that no one revives this extraordinary candy. Please bring it back, my memories depend on it!

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