Candy corn is weird, especially when you think about what it is you’re eating… it really is made with wax, right? Regardless, I love it. I’m not even sure if I like the taste as much as the memories of Halloween evoked when I see or eat it. It’s a bit like wax candy from the “old days.” Were we supposed to chew the wax? swallow it? throw it out? If throw it out, why didn’t we see tons of miniature wax soda bottles, with the tops bitten off and the sugary liquid sucked out, littering the grass lawns and streets? Of course, I could just be rationalizing why I was one of those kids who chewed it up!
The Internet tells us that candy corn has been around since the 1880’s and is made from sugar, corn syrup (a.k.a. more sugar grams), wax – ta! da! it does have edible wax – and artificial coloring and binding agents (hummm, wonder if that translates to seaweed?). Some recipes have marshmallow creme and/or honey in them. Candy pumpkins were created in the 1950s and candy corn variations have been created for holidays other than Halloween, starting with “Indian corn” which substituted chocolate for the yellow layer. Then there are “reindeer corn,” red and green for Christmas, “cupid corn,” red and pink, for Valentine’s Day, and “bunny corn” with pastel colored layers.
An image search revealed even more flavors of candy corn. While they are not yet the next jelly belly, they even have a jelly belly cotton candy flavor and other products have mimicked the candy candy corn scheme and flavors… And last but not least there is a bevy of recipes using candy corn as an ingredient – even adult beverages!
Another nostalgic candy is tootsie rolls created about the same time, 1896, as a chewy alternative to more expensive, difficult to transport without melting, traditional chocolates. It was the first “penny candy” that was individually wrapped. Tootsie pops, a lollipop with a tootsie roll center, were created in 1931 as a low-cost Depression Era candy. Tootsie rolls were distributed as soldiers’ field rations during WWII due to their hardiness in a variety of environmental conditions. Candy corn and tootsie rolls, in all their varieties, have been staples for Halloween candy giving for many years.
But lest we forget, it’s not all about “treats” but there are those few who spoil things for the rest of us by playing “tricks” on others while professing “No harm was intended.” What started apparently as a hoax, now called urban legends, were rumors of razor blades in caramel apples and poisoned candies distributed to Halloween trick-or-treaters. Newspaper columnists Ann Landers and Dear Abby even weighed in on the issue in the 1980s by advising that children not eat candy given to them by strangers… hence “stranger danger,” and de-bunking of the entire idea of going house to house entreating strangers for candy.
The media and mass group think permeated and the collective fear of endangering our children by allowing them to trick-or-treat the neighborhood resulted in “safe” trick-or-treating at local malls. What a ridiculously silly idea this was! Let’s set the kids up in long, long lines and have them go from one store to another getting one tootsie roll, they were now flavored, per store. You might as well take a hint from the Easter Bunny and buy a bag of assorted candy, pretending to be the Great Pumpkin and hide candy throughout the house for the kids instead of even leaving home!
My favorite Halloween tradition failure, though, was changing the date kids would go trick-or-treating. I am serious. In the mid 1990s we lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, and October 31st fell on a Saturday. The then-mayor decided that Saturday night was not a safe night for kids to be out trick-or-treating so “attempted” to convince the citizens of that fair city to change the trick or treating night to Sunday instead. This was the year we also tried trick-or-treating the mall, which was a huge failure… you really can’t trick-or-treat with bright store lights (it’s why we wait for it to become nighttime before venturing out). And going around and around in one direction, not seeing any other kids and their costumes than those directly in front of or behind you, was so boring… even the parents couldn’t stand the monotony! Luckily for us, our 3 boys, all dressed like Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles, looked just like most of the other young boys dressed in the same KMart packaged costume, so after only about 20 minutes we bailed out and they didn’t miss much!
This is about the same time that one of my favorite Halloween movies, Hocus Pocus, came out in theaters and it was soon added to our infamous VHS recorded video collection; and yes, I still own a DVD/VHS player but I don’t recall the last time we put a tape in it!
What a great movie, what a great cast, any other Hocus Pocus fans out there? Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy star as the looney witches… wearing the very best witch costumes (the movie actually won a Saturn award for Best Costumes! A Saturn award? you ask. Yes, Saturn awards honor sci fi, fantasy and horror in film, TV, and vid.) In 1693, three witch sisters are bashed until Halloween night 1993, when little trick-or-treaters accidentally release them from the curse holding them spellbound. The witches start combing the streets looking for children to use in their youth-preserving potion. Seeking help from their parents, siblings, the youngest played by a lovely little Thora Birch, head to the Halloween Dance at Town Hall. The witches follow and cast a spell on the adults during the song “I Put a Spell on You,” causing them to dance until they die. And, in good Disney tradition, the kids save the day incinerating the witches – What fun!. Get yourself a bowl of popcorn, some soda and some “vintage” candy, turn off the lights, cuddle up with your kids or friends or whomever is handy and enjoy!
Being nostalgic about Halloween, I recognize that trick-or-treating will never again be the adventure it was when we were kids: pillow cases for treat bags to haul our candy burdens around in, haunted houses set up in neighbors’ garages with foods to touch and creep you out, such as spaghetti as worms, jello molds with fruit as squishy brains, peeled grapes as eyeballs, dry ice in a cauldron of liquid to portray witches brew, et.al. and costumes we pulled together or made instead of bought at Costume Warehouses for $$$$. Ah… I love Halloween and I miss the days of creativity and imagination.