It’s Halloween, and candy corn is everywhere. It’s the best candy you ever hated.
To me, candy corn signals the advent of autumn. When I see it at the drugstore or supermarket in Oakdale each September, I buy a bag. As I sneak handfuls, my mother’s voice comes back to me: “It’s pure sugar . . . It’s the worst thing you could eat!”
It’s not just candy, it’s Halloween candy, out of place on any other holiday. Candy corn is supposed to mimic kernels of corn, thus, October. I know there is now green, white and red “reindeer corn” for Christmas; and pink, red and white “cupid corn” for Valentine’s Day; and pastel “bunny corn” for Easter. And don’t forget Starburst fruit-flavored candy corn, caramel apple candy corn, candy corn lollipops, and that sneaky chocolate candy corn that replaces the yellow base with brown. It’s all blasphemous and fake. Don’t accept substitutes.
I say candy corn can be only yellow, orange and white. You cannot change its color or shape. These are the rules, and I didn’t make ’em. Most important, watch out for the great imposter, fake of all fakes, Mellowcreme (usually in a pumpkin shape). This candy might taste about the same, but you can’t eat it in bits of three, neatly disassembling the colors and talking yourself into believing that each part has a different flavor.
The funny thing about candy corn is that hardly anyone ever admits to liking it or eating it. I mean, the sugar content is beyond outrageous. Candy corn could cause a healthy pituitary to panic and quit.
In the old days, when it was made by hand, it contained fondant, corn syrup, water and marshmallow. It was practically a health food. Today, it’s made with cornstarch, sweet white syrup with artificial coloring, orange and yellow syrups, and carnauba wax, which comes from palm trees in Brazil. (It’s interesting that carnauba wax is also sold by Turtle Wax. Sorry, you can’t quite use your leftover candy corn to polish a dirty car.)
Candy corn has few rivals. A case could be argued for circus peanuts, that other diabetic coma-inducing snack. They have basically the same ingredients except for gelatin and that sickening artificial banana flavor. But the beauty of candy corn is the reason and the season. Circus peanuts (somebody out there likes them) make me think of menacing clowns and elephant manure.
When I was a kid, I hoarded all the candy corn, and it didn’t matter because no one else wanted it, anyway. They all rooted around in my Halloween stash for the chocolate — Milky Way and Snickers bars.
I conclude with this thought: George Renninger. He’s right up there with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Well, maybe not as famous, but certainly sweeter. He is said to have created candy corn in the 1880s for the Wunderle Candy Co. in Philadelphia. The product was briefly called “chicken feed,” but thank God someone came to his senses.
It’s candy corn.
Reader Cathy Mayrides lives in Oakdale.