My Favorite Not-Just-at-Halloween Candy

If you’re reading this column on the same day the newspaper arrived in your mailbox, it’s Halloween. I’m wondering how things will go in my neighborhood tonight. Will Covid keep the trick-or-treaters away? Will the ones who show up wear scary masks over real masks? Will they travel in family groups or will 10 or 12 random kids show up at my door at the same time?

My plan is to wash my hands with warm soapy water for at least twenty seconds and then load candy into individual cellophane bags, secured with a twist tie. I’ll leave the bags, spread apart so that no one need touch anyone else’s, on a table on my porch with a sign that says HELP YOURSELF TO ONE BAG. Then I’ll turn on the porch light, close my blinds and go upstairs to read a book. Which will NOT be “The Haunting of Hill House.”

Here’s the big question: What kind of candy will I put in those cellophane bags?

It’s an eternal dilemma. Should I buy candy I like so that if any is left over it won’t go to waste? Should I buy candy I don’t like so that I’m not tempted to eat it before or after Halloween? What kind of candy do kids really like? Last year, I asked the trick-or-treaters who came to my door what their favorites were. The answer? Reese’s Cups, M&Ms and Skittles. In that order.

So I bought plenty of those treats. I also bought some Double Bubble because I enjoy a chew every now and then. And I bought Hershey’s Kisses because they fill out a candy bag nicely and everybody on earth likes them.

But I’m not handing out the candy I love the most.

Some of you who know me well might guess I’m talking about Atomic Fireballs, which I adore. Years ago, I wrote an entire 650-word newspaper column about why they’re my favorite. I once sucked down so many fireballs in so short a period of time that it took the skin off the roof of my mouth and I had to go see an oral surgeon.

His advice? Limit your intake to one fireball a day, which I have disciplined myself to do, though it makes me sad.

This column is about another favorite candy, a candy that’s too often unfairly maligned. I’m talking about candy corn. I’ll never understand why people make fun of it. I’ll never understand why people dislike it. It’s one of the oldest manufactured candies in the United States and one of the most delicious. Invented in the 1880s, this waxy tri-colored treat was once called “Chicken Feed” because it’s shaped like a kernel of corn. By the 1940s, its harvest colors and low cost made it the obvious choice to hand out on Halloween. Back then, trick-or-treaters probably weren’t so picky.

I’d be handing out candy corn this year except that I couldn’t find in individual packets and no parents in their right mind would let their kids eat candy that’s obviously been scooped out of a big bag by who-knows-who and repackaged in a sandwich bag.

So I guess I’ll have to eat the two-pound bag of candy corn that’s in my pantry all by myself. I’ll set some aside to add to peanuts-and-Cheerios trail mix. The rest I’ll enjoy one glorious piece at a time, biting off the wide yellow top first, then moving on to the bright orange middle and finishing with the pointed white tip. Ahhhh. It just wouldn’t be Halloween without candy corn. And the best news of all is that I don’t have to worry about it taking the skin off the roof of my mouth.

(October 31, 2020)