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...


  1. I find the American definition of candy ambiguous, borderline imprecise and frequently confusing. Because I was first exposed to English in its British variant, I have always thought of candy as what you might call "hard candy." Mars bars, snickers, Reese's Cups or even chocolate are sweets. Chocolate is dessert, dessert is sweets. Not candy.

    Even though I now use American English, I still make that old world linguistic distinction.

  2. And to make things even more fun, you can have sweets and candy for dessert.

  3. So, I posed this question to my step-mother, and she said that chocolate treats are indeed candy. She actually burst out the dictionary to show me that the def of "bon bon" includes the word "candy."

    While I respect her opinion, I am not necessarily questioning whether chocolate is defined as candy; I am questioning whether it /should be/ defined as such. But, still, her contribution adds depth to the debate.

  4. Indeed, bon bon is a chocolate-covered candy or a truffle. However, in France bon bon often refers to any candy, and it doesn't have to be covered in chocolate. In such case, the nature of "bon bonness" lies in it's candy/truffle/fondant center, not chocolate.

    I guess, when I think chocolate, I think a chocolate bar. 60-80% cocoa. Eaten on its own. (Not Hershey's. Don't care for the taste.) That's why I don't see it as candy.

    And when I see chocolate-covered products, make further distinctions. Chocolate-covered candy. Chocolate-covered fruit. All that falls under a category of sweets for me.

    But, as I said earlier, it's a question of cultural paradigms, how they are reflected in language, and how they structure my perception of the sugary and chocolaty goodness.

    One thing can't be denied--chocolate is goood.

  5. *cough*nerds

    It's the Jiffy Treet Menu Debacle of '09 all over again. Here's an idea: less ontology, more candy.

  6. um, hello... jiffy treat was not a debacle, but rather a necessary examination of a cultural object. that is what we do. duh.

    also, the unexamined candy is not worth eating. recognize.