Before I go, I have something to say

Make Mine Candy

I cannot live without candy. I know this is lame, especially since some famous guy said the same thing about books, which are much more serious and important. But that’s the thing. Candy is fun, and in these dark days (of winter, recession, underwear bombers – take your pick) we need all the fun we can get.

My father may be to blame for my insatiable sweet tooth. He’s probably the reason my family had a candy drawer in the kitchen, unlocked an within easy reach. That’s where we could always find treasures like chocolate stars and lemon drops. Dad couldn’t go to a movie without a box of jujubes, guaranteed to remove your fillings. He had dentures, perhaps because of all that candy, but it allowed him to consume sugar with no worry of cavities. He even took his whiskey sweet; while my mom drank hers with water, his was mixed with Squirt.

When I was a kid, I would walk a mile to the intersection called Five Points, where we had a choice of drug stores hawking candy. My favorite then was a $100,000 Bar, which I referred to as a “Thousand Dollar Bar,” not understanding numbers then much more than I do now. But I was an equal opportunity eater, sometimes carrying home a Hershey bar with almonds, or the late, lamented 7-Up Bar, which was divided into seven segments, each one with a different filling. Oh, how I wish they would bring them back.

As far as I’m concerned, there are two basic kinds of candy: chocolate, and then all the others. Chocolate is a basic food group, and I’ve written before about my homemade chocolate bars, made of warm, buttered toast wrapped around a generous sprinkling of semi-sweet chocolate chips. As an emergency back-up candy bar, it’s not bad.

For years, I thought of car trips as an excuse to stock up on candy. Rollos, M & Ms, Chuckles, anything that came in discrete pieces was ideal. Even those Necco wafers are good, once in awhile. I would always eat them in order, savoring the dusty brown chocolate ones as I came to them, although with Life Savers, I’d save a red one for last.

I grew up just down the street from a store. It may have sold other things, but to me and my sister, it was The Candy Store. They we handed over our nickels and dimes for old-fashioned treats like candy lips made of red wax filled with a sickly pink liquid, candy buttons you had to bite off the paper, and those fake ice cream cones filled with hard marshmallow, so bad they were good.

Growing up, my sister and I were fit and trim, perhaps because we had a walk some distance to buy our treats. And we were restrained, at least somewhat. A candy bar could be dessert, or a mid-afternoon snack. Like a good social drinker, I don’t think I’ve ever had one before noon, although I do love to eat them alone. (Hi, my name is Pam, and I’m a candyholic.)

For me, candy represents not only fun, but freedom. It’s something you buy for yourself and eat when you darn well please. When I left my first husband, one of my initial acts of independence was buying candy. With two young kids in the back seat, I perfected the art of eating surreptitiously, as I drove. I’m surprised they didn’t smell it. Once, when I picked up my daughter from her nap, she said suspiciously, “I smell Pepsi.” Busted.

I asked ten of my favorite people about their favorite candy. Last names are withheld to protect those with weird appetites:

  • Christy: M&Ms, “love the chocolate in a portable little shell.”
  • Bryce: Dark chocolate almond bark, with a chaser of caramel corn (which might as well be candy) that he knows how to make himself, which is cool.
  • Dan: A mixture of M & Ms and nuts, in the pathetic hope that “the nutritious nuts cancel out the chocolate.” Because he can read while eating this snack, he suggests “it should be the official candy of the Department of Education.”
  • Tim: Sour Patch Kids (“coated in sour sugar!”) or lacking that, Sour Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Shock Tarts. Yes, Tim, you do need a 12-step program.
  • Ann: 3 Musketeers for her, Baby Ruth for husband Tom, York Peppermint Patties for daughter Theresa, because they are low fat. (Sure, Theresa. They’re practically diet food.)
  • Jennee: “Snickers is pure genius. It has everything wonderful in it. If I were a long-distance runner, my power bar would be Snickers.”
  • Allison: “Snickers are perfect when you’re hungry. They’re a little bit of everything: chocolate, caramel, nougat and some peanuts thrown in so you can tell yourself they aren’t entirely junk food. The minis are the best — they’re so tiny that you can eat six at a time. I mean, c’mon, they’re minis.”
  • Jayne: “Addicted to caramel.” As a kid, she would go through candy boxes, biting or squeezing them open to find the caramels. (And putting the others back in the box.)

Me, I could eat almost any kind of candy and be happy. Give me a candy aisle, and I’m like – well, I’m like a kid in a candy store. As Jennee put it, “I think I love candy because it is never a disappointment. I suppose if one actually ate too much of it . . . but I really don’t think that is possible.” Candy season began October 31, and ends on February 14. So bring on the heart-shaped boxes! Just be sure my chocolate-covered cherries are dark chocolate.