Saturday, December 25, 2010

Stocking Achieved!

This is the actual take this year.

The tradition carries on another year! Let's keep this going till I am like 80, parents!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hey, Netherlands: Dit smaakt slecht

My brother just got back from the Netherlands, and he brought me one of (apparently) their most popular candies. Not surprisingly, the candy is licorice-based. In my limited experience with "Old World" candies, natural flavorings are much more common that here in America. The company that produces the candy is "Oldtimers," and there are several varieties of their licorice. My brother brought me the "mildzoute" variety, which means, roughly, "mildly salted."


I ate one of these candies. One. When is the last time I can say that of any candy? Possibly never. I think they must soak these things in the Dead Sea for a year or so. A herd of deer could lick on one of these for their entire lifetimes. And these are the "mildzoute."

There are, according to my brother and his Dutch friend, an extra salty variety-- for those who have just run marathons, I think. And, there are also just plain sweet ones, I think, but my brother would have gotten none of the pleasure from giving me something that just tastes good.

So, anyway, I am not trying to slam the Dutch, because I am sure that they have a rich and wonderful culture. But with the salt, Nederlanders-- back off a bit, man. You're wasting licorice here!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks to Candy!

On this day of giving thanks, I give a shout out to all candies. Even the nasty ones like Good & Plenty. Hey, G&P, we know that you are trying. It's not your fault that you taste like chalk and butt.

Happy Thanksgiving, faithful reader(s)!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Food or Candy? Chocolate as Hybrid Treat

In my last story, I hinted at a real dilemma for me: is chocolate best categorized as candy or food? Of course, I understand that this question is rather ridiculous, because if you consider food anything that provides nourishment or (minimal)nutrients, then all candy is food. So, perhaps I should ask whether chocolate is dessert or candy... but perhaps that question does not really un-muddy the water, either. Regardless, I think that the subtext of these questions is valid: is chocolate candy? Perhaps a more direct question would help:

Is a Snickers bar more closely related to Jujy Fruit or a brownie?

For me, the answer is clear: the Snickers lives in Brownie County.

If you read my examination of whether gum is candy, "A Rose by Any Other Name," you already know that I understand that marketing is a key determinate in the cultural understanding of what constitutes candy-ness. So, let's leave that piece of the argument by the wayside for the moment. Of course, chocolate is marketed as candy.

My argument on this issue is more linked to the eating experience, the most important aspect of any discussion of candy. When I eat a handful of Reese's Cups or pound down a Mars bar in like 5 seconds flat, I equate that experience to eating a brownie or noshing a Little Debbie cake. That experience is dessert. It is a sweet treat, but it is not a part of the Candied Life.
Does this dessert look like a "candy" bar to anyone else?

I think that perhaps for me, the key is that the flavors of chocolate "candies" can very closely be replicated at home. Sure, one cannot quite get the nougat or milk chocolate exactly the same as Mars does in the Snickers bar, but really, isn't milk chocolate with peanuts and caramel pretty easily reproducible? Again, I reference the brownie, and add to the list fudge, german chocolate cake and any number of other carriers for these flavors.

Now, I also know that one can, for instance, make his own gummis. Friend to the blog Seamus McGee once sent me a recipe for said. However, it is very hard to perfect the proper ratios of artificial flavors to red 40, and it is those ratios that relay the true gummi experience. Also, I don't know how one would ever reproduce the chalky brilliance of a SweeTart or the puckering sourness of a Sour Patch Kid.

In addition, eating chocolate is simply a more filling experience. There is more foody substance to these things, and when I eat them , there is a limit to the bulk I can put down. Eventually, there is a limit to how many gummis I can eat, but usually, we are talking jaw fatigue or teeth pain as the determining factor to my cessation. 7 or 8 ounces of chocolate and I am done for the day.

All this is not to bash chocolate or to give it a complex. Granted, it will never ascend to the rarefied air of the fruity candies, but it should not feel bad about that. In the world, there are people that write ridiculously entertaining candy blogs, and then there are the rest. It's the way of the world.
To be fair, Haribo ain't never had no ad as sweet as this...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween's Gift: November 1st

Tonight is the de facto last chance for most people's Halloween, as the holiday falls on a Sunday, and people would rather not have to get up for work after whatever debauchery they get into. Still, I would bet that the most important event surrounding All Hallows Eve-- the reduced price Halloween candy sale-- will not happen until Monday morning.

Oh, it will be a blessed day. Spooky Snickers, Booterfingers, and Whatchamakillits, all at reduced prices! At mega-stores like Walmart, they will probably start at -25% (the bastards) but at other places, one can find giant bags of 'fun size' candies at a full 50% or greater discount! This is the season when it is prudent to stock up on chocolate. Readers know that I am more of a fruity candy celebrateur, but that is not because I do not enjoy chocolate; rather, I consider chocolate more of a food product than a candy. I mean, is a brownie candy? What about fudge? Where is the line between baked good and candy? Will the world ever know?

Come here, my pretties...

Whatever the case, I am putting aside that debate for this weekend so that I can focus on the task at hand: filling the freezer with chocolaty morsels of all kinds. As I type this story, I am planning a strict regimen of squat thrusts and 'bow throws in preparation for the early Monday AM candy grab at the local department stores. It's not exactly Black Friday or anything, but if there is one bag of peanut M&Ms on the shelf, best to believe that it could get ugly. You don't want to be caught slippin when the prize can be had.

For those still handing out candy tonight and tomorrow, yours is the kingdom of heaven, my friends. Do the good work, and it will be repaid upon you threefold.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mambas' Claim Leaves Sour Taste in Mouth?

I love Mambas. They are nice counter-points to Starburst, a welcome candy competitor in the chewy fruit market. In addition, Mambas have two unique qualities: First, their flavors include raspberry, which is quite rare in the US market (of course, this owes largely to Storck's primarily European market). Second, their packaging is entirely unique. For one, it is made for portability. Within each long package, there are three separate packages, each containing 6 chews of the same flavor. Also, there is an element of mystery each time you purchase Mambas, because out of the four flavors-- Lemon, Orange, Raspberry, and Strawberry-- there are only three in each large package. Sometimes you might not even get the raspberry flavor that I just mentioned. That can be frustrating, but on the whole, I kind of like the fact that you get some Forrest Gumpery each time you get Mambas.

All this said, I have an issue with Mambas and the Storck corporation. They have recently added a "sour" line to their product, and generally, I would be celebrating this addition with glee. However, on the package, Mambas announce that their new sour candies have "long-lasting sour" flavor.This could not be farther from the truth. Personally, I can barely detect any sour flavor. When I ate the first sour Mamba, I actually looked back at the package to ensure that I had not inadvertently picked up the regular Mambas.

There is so little sour flavoring there, that one is astounded that Storck would openly advertise some notion of "long-lasting"-ness in their product. Granted, the Mambas are still solid; I enjoyed eating each one of them. However, I have come to expect way more from my sour candies, and a corporation throwing its hat into the ring should do a little more work to make sure that they do not go making outlandish claims on their packaging. Here is a list, from sourest to least sour, displaying where these sour Mambas fall on the pucker scale:

--Cry Babys
--Sour Skittles
--Sour Starburst
--Sour Patch Kids
--Sour Dots
--Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers
--Any sour gummi product
--My facial expression after hearing pop radio
--Sour Mambas

Perhaps Storck is not as familiar with the US market as it could be(?), but that is still no excuse. Get your house in order, Storck. I'll be watching.

I'm going to give you some time to fix this because you provide over two and a half ounces of candy per package, a 50% increase over most US brands. But god help you if you ever reduce your weight!

Look closely at the bottom right corner -- 2.65 oz. That is some good value, ya'll.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tis Still Good to Receive

I have to post an addendum to my last post, "Tis Better to Buy than to Receive." I am now not sure now whether that is always the case.

I say this because over the weekend, I received a package in the mail from a friend of mine. In it were 2 1/2 lbs. of candy. Yes, that much. And she has been reading the blog, so she got the candies right, too: a 2 lb bag of sour gummi zoo animals and a sack of blackberry and orange flavored Halloween gummis. I mean, damn-- what a boon!

I WASN'T saying boo-urns.

So, yes, I like to pick out my own goodies at the store, but you don't look a coupla pounds of gift hippos, lions, monkeys, and pumpkins in the mouth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tis better to buy than to receive

I have noticed that my recent store of candy has mostly come from others: plunder from inter-state candy exchange, gifts from my step-mother and father, pilfered bits from communal candy stashes here and there.

While it is always good to get free candy, I find that I am experiencing a bit of existential angst here. I think I am missing the jouissance one gets from visiting the candy aisle and marveling at the variety-- or the ecstasy that comes with the finding of an especially good deal on this or that goodie.

Usually when I am feeling a little empty, I eat some candy. In this instance, however, I think rather than eating candy, I need to make a trip to the local drug store or gas station and fill my batteries with some good old consumerism. God bless America.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

North is North and South is South, and never the twain shall meet

I recently visited some friends of mine who know the value of a good candy-- and a good blog. After having read my posts on TCL about Sour Dots, they emailed me across the miles and miles between us to say that they could not find the Sour Dots in any stores. Dots, yes, but Sour, no. Similarly, I found that once my step-mother and I had exhausted our supply of Sour Skittles, I could not find replacements in the stores where I live. Therefore, as I imagine has happened in the annals of history, a mutually beneficial accord was struck: I would bring them Sour Dots, and they would get me Sour Skittles.

Over 500 miles later, I find myself short three boxes of Sour Dots, but flush with Sour Skittles.

I tell this story in part to express the frustration that candy aficionados the world over experience with seemingly inconsistent distribution and marketing. Why are Sour Skittles better suited to one region than another? Why is the Sour Dot available in no short supply in some places and entirely unknown-of in others? If we could discover the answers to mysteries such as these, perhaps there would be no need for cross-state candy bartering.

But, maybe it's not so bad; for the exchange of candy between friends is as much an affirmation of kinship and camaraderie as an exercise in necessity. So long as I have friends who are happy to see me and happy to see what candy treats I have brought to our little marketplace, I have no real complaints.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Know Why the Bagged Bear Sings!

I have discovered one of the most excellent candy combinations ever, and I am going to share it here so that you, too, can enjoy it. But first, a little set-up:

I believe that anyone who reads this blog (anyone there?) will remember that two of my favorite candies are Haribo Gold-Bears and Sour Skittles. It just so happens that due to a gift of Haribos from my family (excellent) and a sale on the giant-sized bag of Sour Skittles ($1.49-- can you believe what a great world we live in sometimes?!) I had both of these candies in my possession. Faithful readers may also remember from my post on the joys and dangers of bulk candy that I like to let my candies intermingle whenever possible so that they experience other cultures.

Well, I think you see where I am going here: I combined a bag of Haribos with a bag of Sour Skittles and took them to work with me. By the time I had arrived, a brilliant chemical reaction had occurred: the acidic powder on the Skittles seemed to be oxidizing and sapping moisture from the bears, and the bears seemed to be simultaneously attracting the now not-quite-sticky, but sort of gummy (not gummi) sour beadlets. I thought at first that I may have erred in putting these two together, because the Skittles looked wet, and the bears looked as if they had been sitting in a marina too long and had gathered salt spray. But, man, was I wrong!

When I took a random handful of this mixture to my mouth, I knew that I was in love. The combination of the crisp outer coating of the Skittle with the firm, waxy exterior of the Haribo made for a textural bonanza. Combine that with the melange of disparate, yet harmonious fruit flavors and sour acid, and you have yourself a real treat. After I discovered this brilliant accident, I had to share the excitement. I showed my stepmother, a fellow candy-hawk, and she almost reluctantly took a little sample from the bag.

The next day, I found a half-eaten bag by my computer with a note that read: "Thank you! :)"

Thursday, September 9, 2010


At this moment, these are the candies within my reach: Sour Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, Haribo Gold-Bears, Hershey's Kisses, Hersey's Fun-Size Chocolate Assortment. Not bad. Could be a good night.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sour Dots

I have never hidden the fact that I love the sour candy. That citric acid is some good stuff. I generally love all the "sour" additions to candy brands. Sour Skittles are divine; sour Starburst (though impossible to find outside of the "Sweet and Sour" line, which I have already derided on this blog) are heavenly; Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers are transcendent.

But recently, I have discovered a new contender to the sour throne: Sour Dots. First, let me say that Dots are not fully appreciated to begin with. As jelly products go, I have them just ahead of Swedish Fish and just behind Sour Patch Kids. That ain't not bad, indeed. They have vibrant, wonderful flavors and colors, and each dot has a certain heft that you can really appreciate. Add to that the fact that you really get your money's worth ( a full 7 oz per dollar 'theater' box) and you have a strong holding, to be sure.

Another incentive of the Sour Dot: grape flavor. Not often enough used.

Sour Dots are even a step past the regular Dot. The sour matches exquisitely with the sweet, and the combination induces that perfect level of pucker, forcing you to slow your gobble and make the candy last even further. Granted, that slowing is a relative thing, but it is a nice bonus to the beautiful flavor.

On the whole, I give the Sour Dot an 'A' rating, and encourage all who read this to go get you some to see what I am talking about.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kodiak Gummi

Recently a friend of mine was nice enough to share the bounty of her 30th birthday-- a giant gummi bear. For a few weeks, she taunted me about the monster, telling me each time she saw me that she had forgotten the bear, but that we were bound to share it when she could remember to bring it. (I am still uncertain how one forgets for a moment about a Kodiak-sized gummi bear, much less refrains from eating it for three weeks, but to each her own, I suppose.)
This one's for you, Tall.

Anyway, for those three weeks, my friend had trumpeted the virtues of this bear-- that it was a full pound in weight and that we would need a Thanksgiving-style carving knife to enjoy it. I was eager, yet cautious in my optimism, and I patiently (not really) waited for my dear friend to live up to her word. Finally, she arrived at a social gathering with the bear, and it was not unimpressive. It had a definite heft to it, and it glistened in a large bear-shaped plastic container. It was orange, dense, glossy. However, upon inspection, I found that the bear was in fact only 12 ounces in weight (3/4 lb), and that made my heart sink just a little. In addition, the bear was a bit sweaty, as it was hot out, and it had not been refrigerated. I knew that texturally, the bear would not be much past marmalade.
There she is.

Still, when my friend took the bear inside to slice it up, I could not help but experience a rush of anticipation. Such a sizable gummi is not something to be taken lightly, and I wanted to share in this communal ritual of consumption with my friends. The gummi pieces finally arrived, and, as expected, they were sticky and glued to the platter. They stretched from the plate like gum on hot asphalt. However, all skepticism was pushed aside once I tasted the bear. It was one of the better orange candy flavorings I had ever tasted. It was sweet, citrusy, tangy, brilliant. It captured the oranginess of oranges, and it had a rich color that reflected its depth of flavor. I shall not soon forget the sacrifice made by that noble ursine creature-- it paid the ultimate price that others might taste a little slice of heaven.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Neneh Cherry and the Pink Jewelry Box

My parents are divorced, and my sister and I used to visit my mother in the summer. She was remarried, and we had a half-sister a few years younger than me. My mother's husband was kind of a goober, but we was well-meaning and we got along all right. We'd stay with my mother for about a month, and the trips were always eye-opening experiences. One thing was that at home with Dad, we had a black and white TV with rabbit-ear antennae, and it was never on; we didn't even ask Dad to watch it much, because we had not grown up watching. At Mom's, there was a large color TV, cable, and it was always on. One of my most vivid memories from childhood is watching that TV the first summer we visited, mesmerized by two sets of programming: the USA Cartoon Express and MTV videos. I had never seen either of these things, and the impact, as you might imagine, was immense.

I could go on forever about the USA Cartoon Express-- Jabberjaws, Speedbuggy, Clue Club, the Laffalympics... man, I soaked up 20 years of Hanna Barbera in a month that summer. Oh, and Scooby Doo, Blue Falcon, El Kabong! The hits go on!

Clue Club was the greatest.

Simultaneously, I was fascinated by the music videos on MTV. I had never heard any music like the kind they aired, much less seen the videos that accompanied them. This was back when MTV actually showed videos practically all day-- no douchebags whining about crap on reality shows. The two videos that defined that summer were LL Cool J's "I'm the Type of Guy" and Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance." I can still sing most of the lyrics to both of those songs. I waited lustily for those songs when I had control of the TV, and I reveled in their melodic genius. Neneh Cherry's song was especially wonderful, because as a kid, I was always trying to figure out what a buffalo stance must be. I imagined it to be a strong, regal stance, one like John Wayne affects in John Ford movies (I didn't know the John Ford part back then, but my granddad had always been a John Wayne fan, so I had an image.)

This was the video of a generation.

When I wasn't glued to the TV, I was riding a Huffy bike that my mother had found for me. It was one of the really old-timey ones, even back then: banana seat, large, jutting handlebars, wheel reflectors. There were a few kids in the neighborhood, and it was like a trip back to the 50s of Father Knows Best or something (again, I would not have known that reference then)-- we all raced down the street, played in yards, swam in the neighborhood pool. There weren't any kids back home, and it was great to just wander around on my bike, knocking on doors to ask if people could come out and play.

This is pretty close to the bike, as I can recall...

An added benefit of the bike was that I was often asked to ride the half-mile or so to the convenience store. Mom and her husband had only one car, so when he was at work, the bike was the mode of transportation-- because who wants to walk in the heat? So, whenever the household needed milk or bread or the like, I took a trip up to the market. It was tricky on the way back sometimes, as I had no basket and bags could be bulky, but I liked the fact that I was the go-to guy in the event of a staple shortage.

The other nice part about the trips was the fact that Mom was suffering from a decidedly guilty conscience-- and so, the world was my candy store. Practically every time I went to the little market, there was an implicit agreement that I could get a little something for myself. My step-sister started to notice this fact, and she began to accompany me to the store to get her fair share. As a result, we became candy buddies. We never got too much per trip-- just a Blow-Pop, a few Tootsie Rolls, or a small package of candy to split. Predictably, too, we became competitive about how much candy each of us had or could keep. We began not to eat the candy immediately, to save it to try to amass a great trove of it. Initially, we put each put our candy in plastic bags, but then one day, my step-sister had the idea that we should store it in an empty jewelry box. It was one of those tiered jobbies to display three rows of storage. It was pink faux velvet, and I thought it was divine.

This is about right--sweet.

Not because it was pink or girly or a jewelry box, mind you, but because the candy was put on such brilliant full display by this little pink box. Jaw breakers, Dum-dums, Tart-n-Tiny's: they all glowed as if phosphorescent against the pale pink backdrop. I am comfortable in my masculinity... why are you snickering?

Anyway, over the summer, we were able to collect quite a variety of candies, eating only the smallest tariffs and putting the rest in the box. We knew which was whose, but we liked the picture that a full jewelry box painted, so we kept the candy together. At the end of the trip, we split up our treasure and I took home quite a sac of candy. There was something satisfying about seeing it all mixed together in a plastic bag-- it seemed like the happy union of myriad sweet treats, and I had to dig through a mass of crinkling plastic wrappers to find what I wanted at any one moment. I hid my prize in my closet, and I ate on it for months thereafter. It was a sad day, indeed, when the last piece passed these lips. I have, on occasion, dreamed of finding a large bag of mixed candy in my closet, and I think I must be subconsciously remembering that summer when Neneh Cherry and a pink jewelry box defined my young life.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name?

Today I have been Spring cleaning. It was not brought on by the fact that it has become Spring, really, but I did feel compelled to take stock of my possessions and decrease them significantly. We keep too many things. Anyway, as I did so, I came across a very old evaluation of my performance at a job. Before I tossed it, I read the evaluator's comment that my chewing gum was not so professional. A fair enough point, I guess, but the supervisor's displeasure was not what caught my attention. Rather, the comment unearthed in me a philosophical question to which I have never found a sufficient answer: Is gum candy?

The question comes naturally to me, because my studies in the humanities and social sciences demand that I seek to know how cultural objects are classified. And, my training tells me that if I do classify gum, or even better, if I find out how it has historically been classified, some epistemological questions arise of gum-cum-candy. How have we come to know candy, and how does or does not gum fit in?

Almost without thinking, one might easily conclude that gum is not candy-- for the obvious reason that candy is fully consumed (is eaten), while gum is merely chewed and then discarded. This is a useful distinction. You don't find a whole lot of chewed up Milky Ways stuck to the bottom of school desks. In a way, then, candy is food, and gum is not. Hell, gum like Extra even says right there on the packaging that gum is 'not a diet food.' It contains no sustenance for the body; and certain candies, at least, supply some nourishment. But even the most elementary consideration shows that this binary of swallowed/digested vs. not-swallowed/digested does not take into account the cultural relationship between gum and candy. There are significant social and historical linkages that suggest it is not so far-fetched to consider gum a relative, if not a kind of candy. Let's break down the arguments for and against gum-as-candy through a number of different nodes of investigation.


Let's begin by examining what these things are. Both gum and candy are super sugary (or increasingly,[sigh] super sweetened) mouth diversions. They delight the palate and can send endorphins rushing through our brains. A possible difference between them is that candy is teleological. When you get a pack of Skittles, your purpose is clear, and there is an end in sight: once that last purple orb is eaten, there is no more rainbow. Gum, on the other hand, has a practically indefinite lifespan. One can chew and chew on it, and past a point, there is not much loss of mass and chewability remains pretty constant. One may have a reason to chew gum (bad breath, dry mouth, nerves) but I am not sure that one can always project an end to chewing. That is, unless one considers loss of flavor. In this understanding of gum, perhaps one finds its 'candiness'-- because, really, unless one is distracted or has a need for an oral fixation, gum usually is not chewed once flavor is lost. So perhaps, in that respect, gum does have a certain teleology. Of course, the makers of gums like 5 and other super-long-lasting brands are muddying the waters even further.

Actually, I wonder not if this is candy so much as if it is from this earth-- look at that explosive gum!


Both gum and candy have traditionally been marketed as (and are) between-meal snacks or treats, and usually come in portable packaging. One need only think of the candy aisle in a gas station or the impulse area at the grocery check-out to remind yourself how the two are paired and sold together. However, gum is often marketed in disparate ways to candy, as in the case of teeth whitening/mouth cleaning functionality and long-lasting-ness. Despite these facts, though, it would seem unnatural to us to find gum, say, in the toothpaste aisle of the grocery or drug store. Gum is part of the candy aisle, and has been for as long as most of us can remember. (I do want to pause here to say that I understand that another gray area is the mint. Indeed, if one were inclined to argue that gum is not candy because of functionality, that person might also have to argue that mints aren't either--that much gum and most mints are part of a category one might call 'dental maintenance,' or 'breath freshening.')

Another marketing difference is the demographic to which candy and gum are sold. With the exception of chocolate, candy is generally sold to a younger demographic than gum. Sure, there are adults in Starburst commercials, but they are usually young adults. And a lot of candy commercials utilize cartoon and other colorful figures to sell to kids. Gum has a wider appeal-- an older one. Some kids chew gum, but I think, would mostly rather have candy (though this is debatable). And old people continue to chew gum. And they are the ones who care so much about the sugar-free craze going on in gum-land. There are a few sugarless candies, but they are not popular and are anathema to most peoples' ideas of what candy is and is meant to do for us.
Candy? Gum? What are these abominations?


Finally, we come to perhaps the most slippery area of this debate: hybridization. What happens when gum and candy come together? It's like the pizza bagel-- is the thing a bagel with pizza toppings, or is it a bagel-crust pizza? Two interesting examples come to mind: the Charms Blow Pop and the Razzle. The Blow Pop is immensely popular. There's something about the union of hard candy and bubble gum that appeals to us in a major way. Is it, perhaps, that the Charms corporation seeks to break down the divisions of the candy aisle, to show that gum and candy need not come in separate packaging? Do we derive a kind of pleasure in not having to choose how to spend our hard-earned money, and can have our candy and chew it, too?

Portable, crunchy, chewy... Blow Pop, I salute thee.

Possibly, I would argue, but I am not sure that the Blow Pop is actually that hybrid, depending on consumption habits. I usually end up biting into the pop before I reach the gum, and that mashes shards of candy into the gum, for a few moments blurring the lines of what it is I am chewing. Because I am biting through candy shell, my mind and mouth want to swallow the candy-gum mass; however, I know that gum is not meant to be swallowed. If my elders weren't lying to me, I already have a 5 -lb gum tumor somewhere in my intestines, and I don't need to add to it. But, most people, I think, suck the sucker part until it is gone and then chew the gum. The line on their consumption experience is not so blurry as mine. There is a distinct end to candy and a move into gum.

Not so with the Razzles. Here is a self-conscious effort on behalf of the candy's producers to blur the line between candy and gum, to erase distinction and force us to deal with our preconceptions. Through a top-secret process, the Razzles people make a gum in powdered form, and they mold the gum into a SweeTart-like circular 'candy.' Indeed, when one bites into a Razzle, the brain is fooled, through sense memory, into thinking, "Hey, this is a nice fruity candy." However, as one continues to chew, the mouth's saliva reacts with the powdery candy and transforms it into gum. The powdery texture is lost, and the brain recognizes the rubbery texture of chewing gum. The urge to swallow, pretty powerful upon first bite, abates, and one settles into chewing mode. The Razzle, therefore, in a matter of seconds, makes a powerful statement about the slippery-ness of simple classification. It shows that essentialist conceptions need to be problematized and that one can never get too comfortable with binaries.


So, what have we come to at this point? Is gum candy? I am not sure. And, a cursory informal survey of a number of my friends and colleagues resulted in an exactly 50/50 split on the issue. So, it seems that this question remains a pretty personal issue. However, it also clear that from a cultural perspective, at least, there are as many intersections between gum and candy as there are distinctions.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Candied Chocolate

Hey, peanut M&M: I see you, Avatar-style. I'll eat you beneath the tree of souls.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Resurrected Affinity

Easter is coming up again, and that means - you guessed it - Easter candy! But long gone are the days of the plain chocolate bunny, though those are available if you so desire. Now, there are a plethora of tasty Easter offerings to help Christians and non-Jesus-lovers alike celebrate the death and rising of the world's savior/the life and times of a pastel bunny and his basket.

Pretty sure this is not what God had in mind, but hey, isn't a giant rabbit obsessed with painted chicken eggs just the best?

Indeed, I was talking to my father the other day, and he was saying that it was getting about time to start constructing an Easter basket... for my mother! I am not the only one who has some hard-core nostalgia for youth or who understands the joy that a giant store of candy can bring. {However, it should be noted that I have never gotten an Easter basket per se. As a child, my family's religion did not go in for such "pagan" expressions of "serious" religious holidays.}

The point of all this is to say that there are some exciting candy options that last for only a few more days, people, so get out there and snatch some up! I will highlight here some of the better options:

Starburst jelly beans. Easter is the season of jelly beans: regular, "speckled eggs," and spiced. But with the coming of super-brands, we now have brand extension, and that brings us things like these Starburst beauts. They are available year-round, but they are especially relevant around Easter. Get you some. [By the way, shockingly, the SweeTart jelly beans are NOT good. They have too thick an outer, pre-jelly layer, and that layer poorly approximates the SweeTart flavors. I still have a bag of them from last year in my house right now. I don't know why I haven't thrown them out, but I guess I cannot make myself do it. So sad.]
I've shown you these before, but here they are again.

SweeTart Bunny Gummis and SweeTart Chicks, Ducks, and Bunnies. These new SweeTart bunny gummis are ridiculous! All flavors are represented, which is one improvement over their other holiday lines {for instance, the SweeTart Valentine hearts, which I have called perhaps the best candy ever made, inexplicably do not include the orange or lemon flavors in the line.} Additionally, the SweeTart gummi seems to have been perfected for the Season, as the bunnies have the stiff, brilliant texture and sour of a Trolli Sour Bright Crawler and the flavor of the SweeTart. Too good. Also, shout out to the classic SweeTart Easter offering-- the regular, powder-based SweeTart chicks, ducks, and bunnies. They are not all-flavored, either, but they are whimsically fun.

Cadbury Caramel Eggs. The regular Cadbury eggs, with disgusting, cloying "yolk" are too sweet, too difficult, literally, to swallow. Not so the caramel egg. It is the one of the more perfect milk chocolate productions out there. The caramel has more heft than in, say, a Caramello, but it it is not so stiff as to not ooze a bit out of the shell when you bite in.

Yes! The three-pack, standard size! Salivations are imminent!

Reese's Eggs. Everyone knows these. Do I need to go into a spiel here? The extra peanut butter to chocolate ratio makes these a classic unlike any other. Sure, Reese's has expanded into Xmas trees and Halloween pumpkins as well, but let's be serious-- these eggs are the bomb, unparalleled-ly so.


There are also other options out there. Some other solid examples off the top of my head: Whoppers' Robin Eggs and Snickers eggs. Therefore, get out there people, and do not be afriad to make an Easter pig of yourself!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Girl Named Kandy

I met her walking on the Las Vegas Strip. I know what you're thinking, but she wasn't that kind of girl. As I approached the cross-walk on Flamingo Avenue, on my way to the Mirage, she emerged from Bally's. I gave her a sideways look; she was cute, in that man-she-could-be-from-my-hometown kind of way. She wore a fleece vest over a long-sleeve tee, jeans and sensible flats. A cobalt scarf hung languidly over her left shoulder, and she was digging through a shoulder purse. I smiled slightly to myself and turned away my gaze so as not to be rude.

But no sooner had I done so than she stumbled directly into my path. I instinctively thrust out my arms and caught her before she hit the sidewalk.

"I'm so sorry," she said. She was genuinely embarrassed, not angry that some stranger had grabbed her out of the air. I realized I was still clutching her, and I released her awkwardly.

"Are you OK?" I managed.

"Aside from the embarrassment, you mean?"

"This is Vegas," I said. "No worries."

"Well," she continued, "if I hadn't just lost 300 at the blackjack table, I'd feel better." She smiled and stared at me. Funny how people in Vegas so easily tell you about their finances.

"I try to stay away from that game as much as possible, but it is difficult isn't it? Was on my way to the Mirage to play some poker," I said. "Maybe turn my luck around there."

"Really? I thought about playing some cards, but maybe I should just cut my losses and go to bed. I'm here for 3 more days. It's a tough call..."

"Come over to the Mirage with me," I said, emboldened. "I promise not to take that much from you. They call me Ground Possum, by the way."

She squinted an eye at me. "Kandy," she said, extending her hand.

"You're kidding," I said.

"Haha-- laugh it up. A gift from my parents. And anyway, how do I know you're not some creep who trolls the Strip for young lovelies to come falling into your arms?"

"Do you watch a lot of romantic comedies?" I asked.

"Shut up," she said, and we began to walk toward the Mirage.

The jewel of the Strip.

That night we played side-by-side for hours at a 2-4 limit poker table. We talked about where we were from and what we liked to do on weekends (when not in Vegas). Turns out a couple of friends were coming in the next night to meet up with her, but they weren't much on gambling, so she had come out a day early. My kind of girl.

At the end of the night, I walked her back to Bally's and she kissed me on the cheek. "Give me your phone," she said.

I handed it to her, and she entered her number in my contacts. "Vegas Kandy," it said.

"Is that really your name?" I asked.

"Are you calling me a liar, Ground Possum? Call me tomorrow night. You can meet my friends." She threw her scarf playfully around her neck and turned dramatically away from me.

I walked back smiling to my room at the MGM. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a Certs, (with retzin). I wondered if I should text her to meet me at the top of the Stratosphere at midnight, but decided against it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Gamble That Didn't Pay

So last week or so, I was in Vegas for a few days. Mostly I was there for a conference, but of course, I succumbed to the urge to throw a few dollars down on a table here and there. One night, after leaving said dollars on said tables, I went up to the room to rest. Upon settling in, I found that I craved a little of the sweetness. Knowing that any candy found in the gift shop would be ridiculously expensive, I wandered into the vending area with a few dollar bills.

Upon inspection, I found that the machine offered mostly chocolate candy bars. That is all well and good, but I wanted something fruity. The only non-chocolate option was Twizzlers. Now, faithful readers know my take on the Twiz-- I have not hidden my relative disliking of the waxy ropes. However, I was in a bind: I did not want to go back down to the gift shop, and I did not want chocolate. Also, the package of Twizzlers was one of those giant, like 7 ounce bags, so it looked better to me than it normally would. A lot of crap is better than a little, I guess? So, I reluctantly put my 2 bucks into the machine and hit the proper letter and number... and the little metal ring rotated around... and the damn thing did not drop.
You've gotten me for the last time, Twizzy...

I thought about shaking the machine, but there are cameras every five steps in a Vegas hotel hallway. So, what did I do? I put in two more dollars, assuming that another rotation of the ring would give me my prize. No dice, as it were. The ring did free itself of the bottom of the Twizzler package, but it was so long that it fell backwards on top of the set of rings. Only tipping the machine forward would have given me the candy, and I was not willing to risk the sure security beating I would take in some Vegas back room. I'm not losing my fingers for some stupid Twizzlers.

The usual suspects that I could have had were it not for my hubris.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that one should never abandon his principles. Fructor sees all, and He must have been laughing at me that night. The irony is that no matter how bad the gift shop might have been, I could definitely have gotten the candy I wanted for the 4 dollars I wasted. Instead, I wet the cheap hotel pillowcase with my tears.

I was totally like Dawson here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bulk Candy II: Irksome Pricing

I have written here on my ambivalence toward bulk candy. On the one hand, bulk displays are impressive, and the variety of choices is undeniably enticing; on the other hand, there are issues of germs, staleness, and overall expense per pound. To add to this latter point, I will tell you about my latest experience with the local candy store:

I went there today to purchase some candies that are simply not available elsewhere. While there, I expected to be gouged by boutique-store prices (and I was) but I was not fully prepared for the ridiculous amount of stratification among the prices of different 'levels' of candy. There were, in fact, 5 different color-coated price levels assigned to the myriad candies in the store, ranging from about $7/lb to $11 per. While I can understand a little difference in price between powdery, chalky offerings like bleeps or "sweetart" (not SweeTart, but in that ilk) bears and chocolate-covered cashews and the like, I do not see how Jellies are a dollar more per pound than the sweetart items or how gummis are a dollar more expensive still. In fact, generally, in standard .79-.99 pre-packaged candy price rates, one can get almost twice the weight of gummis compared to SweeTarts, and twice that of gummis in jelly form. That is, one can get over three ounces of gummis and over 5 ounces of jellies for the same price of a 1.8 ounce roll of SweeTarts. However, in boutique land, these prices are flip-flopped, as soft chewables are given prime status.
Do these kinds of things make you want to buy lots of candy?

But this pricing per se is not what bugs me most. The real pain in the ass is that if you want to buy candies across the 'classes,' you have to get like five different bags and carefully manage not to put different 'colors' on top of one another. The added expense of different levels is one thing, but not being able to add all candies together into one, glorious sac and have them intermingle from the moment you turn the scoop into the bag is untenable. I want my cinnamon bears chilling with the sour patch kids, getting to know each other while I peruse the rest of the offerings. I want the Smarties to say "hi" to the licorice and the sour balls.

These chewy Sprees were appropriately priced at the lowest level.

Has our society not learned from our past mistakes? Haven't we moved past the need to segregate candies into categories based more on some idea of cachet than taste or consumer desires? As for me, I'd be happy if the store averaged out the candies to 9.50/lb and just let me pile it all in one bag. Since I could not do so, I conscientiously objected to the system and left the store without all the candies I went to buy. Oh, I got a small bag (I'm not crazy) but they were all of one class, one price level.

And I feel kind of dirty eating them.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Xmas Candy

I still get a Christmas stocking. Yeah, that's right. If I get home for Xmas, there is a stocking full of candy goodies there for me. It's one of the joys of the season. Turns out you can go home again.

The thing I love about Xmas candy is the themed packaging, especially of chocolate morsels. Sure, it is good to get some good chocolate-- Dove's, Cadbury, Lindt, etc. -- but it is also nice to get some of the absurdly foil-wrapped chocolates made for the holidays. Oh, it's not very tasty-- usually chalky and stale-- but there is something about it that screams "Christmas." To cite a couple of Marxists, there is a "ruthless unity" to it all, in aesthetics and flavor... but not in the pernicious sense. Of course, there's the standard Santa and reindeer types, and there are always Hershey's and Reese's bells. But I especially like the other themed candies that are not really Xmas related, but that also appear around Christmas time.

This is the standard Santa fare. We've all had it.

For instance, this year, I got a golf ball. It was not particularly flavorful (though the white cream in the middle was pretty solid) but it was the exact size of a golf ball, and it even had a standard set of dimples. I have also in the past gotten footballs and tennis rackets. Such gendered candy theming makes me wonder if there is a set of feminine candies and what they would be? Do girls get little chocolates that reflect what marketers think they like? My Little Chocolate Ponies? Barbie Bittersweets? It's not a burning question in my mind, but something to think about.
The golf ball I got was not this fancy and had the ubiquitous foil wrapper on it-- and on the wrapper was a landscape of someone playing golf. Brilliant.

I am just happy that my step-mom still thinks of little things like how I play golf and makes the stocking reflect that. It sure helps me keep up the whimsy. I'll be expecting that stocking every year until I die, and I hope my expectations are not dashed.