Spooky candy facts

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re familiar with the current anti-sugar hysteria, which has spiraled so over the top that people use it as an excuse to avoid eating fruit (they probably didn’t want to eat it anyway).  We’re told that sugar is the cause of all our ills, poisonous, toxic and deadly.  It’s amazing we don’t see thousands of people keeling over in the streets everyday from sugar.  Especially, it seems, in early November, right after Halloween.

I came across a pretty interesting interactive map of our Halloween candy preferences, from CandyStore.com.  It seems plenty of people haven’t gotten the anti-sugar message. And in this case it’s particularly surprising, since Halloween candy is typically all about trick-or-treating children.  The hysteria about kids’ sugar intake is especially intense, what with childhood obesity, which is supposedly caused by sugar, and sugar alone.  Not by the sedentary lifestyles facilitated by video games and car culture.

Even I was surprised to see that candy corn shows up as the #1 Halloween treat in 7 states, as well as the #2 or #3 treat in 10 other states.  So it ranks high in 17 out of 50 states in the US.  Seriously, this stuff is pure sugar.   Well, actually it’s some combination of sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze and dextrose, all of which are essentially sugar.  Plus artificial colors and gelatin or wax to hold it together. Horrors!  What would the Food Police say?!

I admit to eating my share of candy corn back in my youth.  I loved it.  Super-sweet, with a delightfully chewy texture.  People gave it out in little Halloween-themed candy bags.  I remember the people at one house in my neighborhood put a giant bowl of candy corn outside the front door — help yourselves!  Saved them from constantly answering the doorbell.  Who would do that now, in the age of fearful parents and suspicious children?  Some anti-sugar zealot would show up and dump the bowl in the gutter.  But I am wondering how people give out candy corn these days, given all the stranger-danger paranoia.  Handing out little hand-made bags probably isn’t an option anymore.

Using the word “nutrition” in the same sentence as candy corn is rather pointless.  Basically it’s colorful calories (sorry, I know I previously said I was done talking about calories but they just keep turning up as subject matter).  One candy corn kernel has about 7 calories; 1/4 cup is about 140 calories.  Does anyone count while eating them?

I’ve actually stopped eating candy corn.  For me, it’s just too sweet, and other than the treacly taste, not that interesting.  But apparently someone is eating it.  The state of Michigan alone consumes over 150,000 pounds each year.  So if you’re a candy corn person, enjoy.  You’ve got a lot of company.

Day of the Dead

I wanted to say something about another seasonal food-oriented celebration: Day of the Dead, which is about honoring those who have passed on, observed with great flair in Mexico, and also in Catholic countries around the world, such as Italy and Spain.  Sugar skulls are a big part of this celebration in Mexico, to the point of serious artistic expression.  According to one account, use of sugar for sculpting came about because Mexico had plentiful sugar available, so why not make use of it.  Despite the sugar skull tradition, the Day of the Dead food traditions are more about special meals, not just about candy.   Pan de Muerto may be the most traditional food associated with this holiday.  It’s a sweet bread, made as an offering to the deceased, in a distinctive shape meant to represent the bones of the dead loved one.  According to most of the recipes I’ve seen, it’s a slightly sweet yeast bread, made with lots of eggs and flavored with orange.

I spoke with someone recently who was thinking about starting a family tradition of celebrating Day of the Dead to honor and remember her deceased relatives.  I thought it sounded like a really nice tradition, and a great reason to experiment with making Pan de Muerto.  Candy corn?  I won’t be eating any, but candy corn might be useful for decorating sugar skulls.

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