Following up on an earlier tweetstream…
Hi. It’s halloween, one of my favorite holidays because you can earnestly debate and discuss various candies. As any of my friends, dentists and my mom will tell you, I am an expert in this subject.
My qualifications: the far too many cavities I have had filled over the years (including a root canal or two that slipped in), the fact that most of my friends know what a Kazoozle is (see below), and the fact that my favorite thing to do on road trips is stop at remote gas stations and buy the weirdest-looking candy they carry.
I would also submit an additional, important qualification that sets me apart from many of the so-called experts out there: I love all kinds of sweets, without bias. I have my favorites, but they’re all over the map. I don’t automatically rank chocolatey things higher than fruity things or minty things or plain sugary things. I don’t categorically dislike any candy, except Sour Skittles, which ought to be outlawed because they are not candy, they’re powdered acid spheres designed to bore holes in your tongue.
Today, my friend and converted Kazoozler Drake Baer sent me this Candy Hierarchy from Boing Boing. If I understand it correctly, it’s a list mostly made up from a survey of their readers. So, rather than debate the list itself (and there is much to debate), I figured it would be a better use of everyone’s time to offer a few tips that I’ve learned over my years of consuming almost every type of candy there is. I’ve also included a few candies that are rare or missing from most lists.
Many American candies, especially of the chocolate variety, include too much coating and not enough filling, leading to a disappointing, fairly one-note experience. These candies can be dramatically improved if you eat away much of the surrounding coating first, and then consume the rest. For example: a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is much better if you eat the hard chocolate edge around the peanut butter, take a swig of water, and then eat the peanut butter puck with a thin layer of chocolate on the top and bottom that remains. This also applies to things like Kit Kat, Twix, filled M&Ms, and Brookside chocolate-covered berries, if you count that as a candy. Oddly enough, American Smarties are also better if you eat the “lip” of the candy first — you almost have to scrape it off with your top and bottom teeth — and then eat the rest. I have no idea why, but it’s true.
There will come a time when you will be at a cute store in some college town in the Midwest that offers a fancy version of a popular candy bar, usually a Snickers, for four times the price. Said store will promise you that you have not truly experienced a candy bar until you have paid four times the price of a Snickers for one. It will use words like “ganache,” “fondant,” and “gianduja” to describe its contents. You will pay four times the price of a Snickers for one, and you will be very excited to experience a “true” candy bar. You will open the sturdy cardboard box it comes in, bite off a third of the surprisingly small bar and chew. It will taste like…huh, a Snickers. I have fallen for this more than once, at more than one cute shop, and I have regretted it each time. In truth, these bars are often marginally better than their vending machine counterparts. But not four times better. Not even close. You will regret your purchase. Do not make my mistake.
I am sorry if you feel a little gaslighted by this “tip” but I swear it is true and you — no, the world — needs to know about this. Nobody knows why (they’re researching it but studies have been inconclusive), but for some reason, candy corn and peanuts make an amazing combination. I know it sounds crazy and maybe even a little unappetizing, but it’s true. The crunch of the peanuts against chewiness of the candy corn creates a delightful textural contrast. And something about the toasty saltiness of the peanuts perfectly balances out the otherwise overwhelming sweetness of the candy corn, creating the purest sweet/salty mixed food known to exist. It’s right up there with kettle corn. Get over yourself, go and buy some discounted post-Halloween candy corn and give it a try. You’re welcome in advance.
Truly a hidden gem, I can’t believe more people haven’t come around to the joy that is the Kazoozle. It’s a package of several hollow tubes of flavored licorice filled with tangy paste. They’re made by Wonka, and taste as though no natural ingredient was ever involved in making them. Weird and glorious.
It’s a big red flag that Boing Boing’s writers don’t know what a Chick-o-Stick is. It’s basically the middle of a Butterfinger coated with toasted coconut. It’s impossible to eat without making a huge mess, but it tastes great and has the added benefit of getting stuck in your teeth for days, so you can enjoy it for a while.
Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll
It’s almost inaccurate to call this candy, since it’s mostly peanuts. But somehow, like, ahem, candy corn and peanuts, it just works.
Jolly Rancher Soft Chews
Okay, these aren’t exactly uncommon anymore. But I feel like they suffer from the association with the unwieldily original Jolly Rancher. Rest assured, these Kazoozle cousins are unbelievably addicting and deserving of their own place in the pantheon of great sweets.
CVS Canada Wintergreens
The best flavored chalk you’ll ever eat. I swear they’re not as bad as they sound/look/are described by me. If you crave a satisfying chocolate-free mint experience (gum doesn’t count because it is not satisfying), these are the best you’re going to find now that Brach’s has ruined Valentine’s Day (see below). Don’t tell me you like candy canes — candy canes?! — better, and don’t give up on them until you get a good package with soft mints. They can be, uh, rather stale.
England: Licorice Allsorts
Apparently there’s a lot of hatred for these among Brits. But as usual, they’re dead wrong, because this mix is amazing. The combination of not-too-sweet but not-too-strong licorice and weird coconut bits in multiple varieties is unusually satisfying. Even though our neighbors across the pond are making a colossal mistake by leaving the European Union, they can enter their long years of decline knowing they contributed a standout to the world of cheap confections. The Marks and Spencer-branded allsort is the best version.
France: Lutti Fili-Tubs
These small sour-on-the-outside, sweet-on-the-inside tubes appear to be available solely in France and Belgium. And even then, I’ve found them only at select G20 grocery stores and occasionally at Monoprix. Most French people I’ve talked to don’t know about them. But if you do come across a package of Fili-Tubs, buy as many bags as you can. These unassuming gems are one of the best candies on the planet. Don’t bother with the multi-flavored XL version, go straight for the small, pink strawberries and cream variety.
Valentine’s Day used to be a holiday I looked forward to for one reason: large Brach’s Conversation Hearts, sold exclusively at CVS (as far as I know). Unlike the often stale, flavorless Necco version, Brach’s hearts were always delightfully soft and bursting with a variety of pleasant mint flavors. For what it’s worth, they also included more interesting messages (“Fax me?” go home, Necco, you’re old). Then, out of nowhere, a year or two ago Brach’s decided to change every single flavor from a perfectly good mint variety to a horrible fake fruit concoction that even I couldn’t manage to eat more than a few of — and I’ve consumed hundreds of bags of CVS Canada Wintergreens in my life. I still cannot believe these flavors made it out of R&D. If I had been in charge, I would have burnt the entire lab down rather than allow any part of this shameful, twisted experiment to survive. These flavors are so obviously bad that the only even somewhat positive review I could find online calls them “good enough” and compares them to children’s Advil. They’re so bad that they make banana Runts taste good by comparison. Banana. Fucking. Runts. A flavor that so bad that someone once accused me of being “charitable” for describing it as “basically inedible.” And these new hearts are worse. So yeah, fuck you, Brach’s. I’m not a violent person and I even try to avoid violent language when I can. But as you can tell, your desecration of one of my favorite candies really struck a nerve here. I truly hope that everyone who had a part in the decision to turn a great candy into something so awful suffers in some small way. Not, like, a major way. But, maybe you all get a paper cut every day for a year, or something. I don’t know, I’ll think about it and get back to you. Anyhow, I’ve heard rumors that you’re bringing back the mint flavors this year because you’ve realized the truly destructive error of your ways, and yeah, I’ll probably buy a bag just to see if that’s true, but I’m still hugely disappointed. Fuck.
Exported from Medium on October 22, 2020.