Monday, October 27, 2014

Twizzlers and Red Hots and Mounds, Oh my!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hallowe'en is almost here, and among the changing fashion in decorations, parties, and costumes, one part of the holiday remains constant: candy. Or, as my younger self would have put it, Candy!!!

As a kid, Hallowe'en was a highlight of the year. My mother had firm ideas about nutritious eating; stuff like candy and soda was a rare treat in our house.  So although our creative
home-sewn costumes were a thrill, and our small town Hallowe'en parade was a blast, the best part of the evening came at the end, when I would upend an entire pillowcase of goodies on the dining room table. My sister and I would score big when we went out - she was adorable, I was articulate, and we were both (thanks Mom!) very polite. We inevitable got invited to take another one or two pieces, which would then be sorted and swapped and saved at the table later on.

There was a clear hierarchy of Hallowe'en candy every kid knew. At the very apex were the full-size name brand chocolate bars, followed by the junior or snack size version of the same. Further down were the tasty single-serving candies: sourballs and lemon drops, caramels and Sugar Daddies. Near the bottom were the sweets that sounded a lot more fun than they were, like Pixie sticks, Bottle Caps and candy cigarettes (which, I'm sure, aren't made anymore.) At the very bottom, along with the occasional baggie of pennies and religious tract, were the weird old-people candies: Necco wafers and wax bottles of "cola" and Laffy Taffy in hard, inedible slabs. (Full disclosure: my husband loves Necco wafers. I think it's a New England thing.)
Today, as an adult, I still get a thrill out of stocking up on candy, because just like my mom, I don't usually keep it in the house. I went for several years when I couldn't eat chocolate, and even today I need to be judicious in its consumption, so picking up a bag of Hallowe'en M&MS makes me feel like a teetotaler on vacation where no one can see me slugging down Pina Coladas. I'm not the only one, either - I've learned I better get two bags of each kind, because one of them will be mysteriously half-devoured before the actual Fright Night!

How about you, Reds? What were the candies you loved in girlhood? And what are the ones that can tempt you from the whole grain/organic/locally sourced diet we all strive for today?

HALLIE EPHRON: I have a confession to make. I *love* licorice. I know, I know, black licorice whips and jelly beans are always the very last candies left in the bottom of the bags but they're my favorites. Red hots, too. And anything with coconut.

Chocolate? Meh. Peanut butter cups? Patooey.

So you can imagine I got along pretty well, trading candies with my sisters after we'd drag home our haul and spread them out in carefully delineated piles on the floor (Mine. Yours.)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Twizzlers! Yay, love Twizzlers.  And I agree, I am a big  black licorice fan, too. Mounds, too. Almond Joy! And I am very pleased they decided to make those little sizes. Two bites is  just the right amount.  Jelly beans, all kinds.  NECCOs (New England Candy Co) SHOULD be good, but they just aren't. Chocolate, take or leave. I am baffled by sour things, and hot things. And candy that DOES stuff. Who would eat a Sour Parch kid or (whatever those are) that only makes you pucker?  Or anything that fizzes, hisses or blows up in your mouth? I protest any candy that fights back.

And of course, Julia, One must buy the TEST bag to make sure the candy will be okay for your guests.

JULIA: I like that, Hank. I'll use that in the future. One does want to be a considerate host.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I don't remember getting anything I much liked. Tootsie Rolls by the dozen. Ugh. Same for Bit O Honey. And so sorry, Hallie and Hank, that I don't share your passion for licorice. Or Twizzlers.  Not Red Hots.  Oh, and I HATED candy corn, and there was always lots of that. And I agree, Hank, I protest any candy that fights back.

I do like good jelly beans. These days we don't have many trick or treaters, but I usually buy Hershey's kisses, knowing that I'll have a few and hubby will snack on the rest until Christmas.  Geez, we sound candy-boring... I have discovered on this book tour, however, hungry late at night with nothing but hotel mini-bar snacks, that I like Kit-Kats. Maybe I'll add those this year.  Oh, and I LOVE peanut M&Ms, so not a complete candy flop!
LUCY BURDETTE: My older sister and I tried our best to bamboozle the best candy from the younger kids, but my parents kept a close eye. I do love red twizzlers, but never the black stuff. I used to like Good 'n Plenty, but over that now. Debs, I will take your Bit O Honey, Hallie, your peanut butter cups, and anybody's Nestle's crunch. Wasn't it the worst when someone decided to give out apples? Or worst of all, toothbrushes!

I don't buy any candy now, because we are not on trick or treater's routes. And I would just eat it. Whether I like it or not...

RHYS BOWEN: I didn't grow up with Halloween but I went through my kids' bags with something like paranoia--was that box of Good and Plenty slightly unglued at one end?  I'd confiscate the gum and anything that was questionable, then I'd allow one evening to pig out before the rest got put away for occasional treats.

I live on a hill now and very few kids walk UPWARD to get candy but I do keep a good supply of Snickers, Kit Kats, M and Ms just in case! 

(And oh dear, if there is some left I hate wasting food...)

JULIA: That's the spirit, Rhys. Uneaten candy is sad candy. How about you, dear readers? What candy did you love or loathe at Hallowe'en? And what do you give out to the little ghouls and goblins (or more likely, Elsa and Captain America) today? 


  1. Oh, Necco wafers . . . and sometimes you could find a whole roll of the chocolate ones. Yum. Chocolate was [and still is] the best. Yuck to candy corn.

    I have become much more careful when I buy for the Trick-or-Treaters these days. I'm the spoilsport who reads the ingredients list before choosing, having been made aware that many children can't eat the stuff that's made where peanuts may have been. Last year we were a hit with Pepperidge Farms brownie goldfish . . . .

  2. I wanted to buy Tootsie Rolls for the Trick-or-Treater's this year but I could only find the small ones that had the twisted ends, not the medium-size ones with the sealed ends, and with the emphasis on safety (our Trick-or-Treat time was Sunday afternoon, and you can't give out apples because some idiots put razor blades in them years ago), I settled for mini Snickers bars.

    NO ONE came down our side of the street, and since I don't work in an office, I can't take the leftover Snickers bars in for everyone else to eat. That means I will eat them (I can claim it is in celebration of Diwali, right?)

    When I was growing up, my mom had a "candy drawer" in the kitchen, where we dumped all the leftover Christmas and Halloween candy after we'd pulled out the good stuff. My friends would beg for a chance to take something from the candy drawer; my cousins would raid it the way we raided our aunt's cookie jar (home-made cookies, much better than that stale candy). I swear, some of that stuff was years old, so my mom was always glad when one of our friends would take some of it off her hands.

  3. Whatever Halloween candy was left in mid-December went into my daughter's birthday piƱata, supplemented by my personal fav, bazooka bubble gum.

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  5. I'm a Californian and I love NECCO wafers! Loved Abba-zabba, Bit o'Honey, Baby Ruth. I didn't like black licorice as a child but I do now. I love seeing all the costumes on Hallowe'en night and handing out candy, and always try to have some non-nut candies for the kids with allergies. Luckily we get plenty of kids coming by. And this post reminds me that I haven't bought any bags yet. Or put up decorations as I normally do. Good thing I still have a few days left.

  6. Mounds and Tootsie Rolls don't last five seconds at my house. My husband brought home three bags of candy this weekend--as if they will still be around on Friday. What a nincompoop. We get bunches of kids, so I'm sure I'll be buying candy on Friday morning.

    Best new candy: dark chocolate Kit Kats. As the kids would say, they are The Yum.

  7. Chocolate candies were always my favorites as a kid (and still are; as an adult, I am far more of a chocoholic than I was as a kid), but I also enjoyed Bit O'Honey and Mary Janes. (I have NEVER liked Tootsie Rolls in any form, and have a sister who salivates for them when she passes by them in a store.)

    I stopped purchasing candy for trick or treaters a few years ago because surprisingly, nobody comes here. When my mom was alive, I'd go over to her house on Halloween because there were lots of kids in the neighborhood and I've always enjoyed seeing the costumes. (And I'm dressing up at work, even if I'm the only one in the office who does.)

    As a result of today's blog post, I'm thinking that maybe I should buy some candy for two reasons: to support the local economy (that's important, right?) and to consume in memory of Happy Halloweens of the Past. (And if any kids come to my office, I promise to share.)


  8. "Candy that fights back." TOO FUNNY!

    We have never had a single Trick or Treater since we moved into this house. Not one. The first year we were here, I dressed in my witch's outfit (LOVE my witch's hat!) including broom and sat by the door. And sat. snacked on a little candy. And sat. (repeat) Finally the doorbell rang and I was so excited I knocked the candy bowl over. It was Donald. He wanted some of the candy before I ate every bit.

    So now we don't buy candy for the non-existent Trick or Treaters in our neighborhood, but I have to admit - there's always little mini chocolate bars and Hershey's Kisses in a big bowl on a table in our living room.

    But no Butterfingers 'cause I would eat every one within an hour of putting them there.

    (don't you hate spotting a typo after you've hit "publish?!")

  9. Halloween has started already here--communities schedule trick-or-treating around other events, for safety reasons, etc. Very creative trick-or-treating events, too--car trunks were decorated at a recent local football game and kids in costumes went from trunk to trunk (with owners--of cars--in costumes, too) and collected candy.

    My neighbor brings his little granddaughter over for trick-or-treat, but being so rural, no other kids nearby. But, I keep hoping hordes of kids will show up and lay in an emergency supply of candy--assorted chocolate mini-bars of any variety mostly.

  10. Growing up, Mom made us dump all our candy (four of us) in one big bowl. There was no sharing, swapping or hoarding. Talk about taking the fun out of it.

    Over the years, I've become a bigger fan of dark chocolate that milk chocolate, so I'd be all over those dark chocolate Kit-Kats. But I mostly like good dark chocolate and, um, that usually doesn't get handed out.

    I am a sucker for fruit-flavored chewy candy (like Twizzlers or Laffy Taffy). No-go on licorice, though. Bleah.

    We don't have any candy in the house. Trick-or-Treat is spotty - some years we run out, some years we have a lot of leftovers. The kids are old enough to run their own Fright Night activities. It might make me a spoilsport, but I'm thinking of spending Halloween at Panera where I can work on my final revisions.

  11. I loved chocolate candy, pixie stix, hated neccos, but my absolute favorite was Tom's Peanut Butter Logs. If I could score some of those I was happy happy!

  12. I'm so relieved I'm not the only Necco Wafer addict on the planet!!!!! Kaye, why don't you get the trick or treat kids??? Thelma in Manhattan

  13. Thelma, we live in the wilderness. We have a few families on our road, but no children, and we're all waaaay spread out.

  14. Julia, your higherarchy of candy sounds about right to me. I usually buy Milky Ways to give out to the kids who stop by - if I'm home. The last few years, some friends have had a Halloween party, so I haven't given out any. Even when I do, I don't get that many kids since there are so many stairs to climb in my condo complex that it's a lot of work and they tire quickly. Trust me, they earn any candy they get here.

  15. Because of the huge family-friendly Halloween events at the churches and even still at the mall, we only got three kids last year -- and we're in a "kid" subdivision! I'm prepared for this year but you just don't know from one year to the next.
    In the past, our house was a two-person event to answer the door: I would open and hand out candy, my husband would have to hold the two dogs from bowling over the kids as they attempted to escape out the open door.
    Candy: yup, I liked pretty much anything chocolate except Baby Ruths. When we hand out candy, it, too, has a hierarchy. First to go are the Snickers, Three Musketeers, Milky Ways. Last to go are the Butterfingers and Reese's cups.

  16. I love some of the ones others detest -- like candy corn and black licorice and Tootsie Rolls. I agree about the hierarchy. When I was a kid, I coveted 3 Muskateers, Milky Way, Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, and Hershey's. No nuts though. I wasn't into Snickers, for example.

    Halloween was a free-for-all. I lived in a neighborhood with tons of kids, and we'd all be out there--without our parents--filling our pillow cases to the brim. Halloween doesn't seem as fun these days, actually.

  17. I don't get any trick-or-treaters where I live, on the edge of town, kind of country-city. My kids and their friends a few houses down and any subsequent kids are all grown now. I sometimes miss the little ones in their costumes, and I keep a bit of candy around, just in case. This year I'm going to a Halloween party at my daughter's in-law's cabin, where there will be a bonfire, dunking for apples, all dressed in costumes, and loads of fun. I can't wait to see the granddaughters dunk for apples. Since I adore Halloween, this party has me quite excited.

    Halloween was a great event when I was growing up, lots of kids going door to door in our neighborhood, a Halloween event downtown, and planning with friends for it all. I had an angel costume that my mother had made that got saved, and my son wore it when he was little. I have a most angelic picture of him in it. Sure wish we could post pictures here. Being the baby of the family with sisters 8 and 10 years older and brother 3 years older, my candy was pretty much my own, but I don't remember ever overindulging at one time. I was a lot more patient with candy then.

    The favorite candy type product for Halloween in my childhood was the wonderful wax lips. I thought wax lips were the cat's pajamas for sure. Then, there were the little wax bottles with the juice inside, another fun item. And, candy cigarettes were just the coolest, along with bubble gum cigars. A big score was something that hasn't been mentioned yet, a Clark Bar. Oh, how I love a Clark Bar. I haven't had one in forever. According to Wikipedia, the Clark Bar "has been known for decades to not be sold west of the Mississippi River, however 'Clark Bites', a bagged bite-size version has recently appeared in the Texas 'H.E.B.' grocery chain." Oh, and equally as wonderful as a Clark Bar was a Zero Bar, where I first fell in love with white fudge. Oh, man, my mouth is watering. A full-size Sugar Daddy, a Babe Ruth Bar, a box of Cracker Jacks, and a full-size Tootsie Roll were all good candies to receive, too.

  18. Trick or treating in Dorchester MA in the early fifties, I was happy when my treat bag yielded up Mary Janes, Mint Julips, Root Beer Barrels, bubble gum,especially Double Bubble, Sweet Tarts, Bit O'Honey, and Sugar Babies. If I was lucky, I might also find wax lips, Bonomo Turkish Taffy, Good and Plenty, Necco Wafers, and maybe a Sky Bar or a Baby Ruth. I was less happy to find candy corn or Tootsie Rolls and was happy to trade them with my brother for something more desirable. Back then we often got little bags of unwrapped candy and cookies as treats and we ate them without fear. How times have changed.

  19. Oh Dotty--Bit O Honey. That was lethal. Removed fillings from teeth! I used to love popcorn balls but of course now you can't allow anything homemade.
    And I'd forgotten I adore candy corn!

  20. Oh, Ramona, I'm with Mary Sutton; those dark chocolate Kit Kats sound absolutely divine!