This morning, Chow published a hierarchy of commonly-distributed Halloween goodies. I was thankful to read an article that wasn’t about how to avoid overindulging during Prime Candy Season (“Take your children’s candy, place individual pieces in sandwich baggies, fill the baggies with water, and throw them in the freezer. If you want a fun-size Twix, you’ll have to defrost it! Plus, no one likes candy with freezerburn!). But, I have a bone to pick with Mr. Norton. A few bones, actually.
I think we’re all in agreement that full-size candy bars were the Ultimate Halloween Jackpot. My sister and I knew which houses annually gave full-size bars, and we’d hit those residences first before we began our rounds proper. Why plan your visits sequentially and take the chance that the stash of big bars might be depleted? Norton hit the nail on the head with this observation.
Norton’s logic breaks down almost immediately thereafter; he claims that fun-size Snickers bars are the next most coveted item. Reading this, I was flabbergasted. My only thought? Oh, heeeeellllll no! I realize that Mr. Norton’s so-called “evidence” is largely anecdotal and that his sample size is probably no greater than ten, but his assertion that fun-size Snickers reigns supreme is ass-wrong. Begrudgingly I admit that Snicker’s is “America’s favorite candy bar,” though god knows why; the combination of nougat, runny caramel, and peanuts (the lowliest of the nuts, and not even nuts, at that!) always nauseated my childhood self. Really, I chalk Snickers’ popularity up to America’s bad taste. Harumph!
But I digress: in my neighborhood (and family, and mind), other candy bars were far more popular than Snickers. Milky Way and Milky Way Midnight, for example, were more coveted simply because they were rarer. Kit-Kats were good because they could be eaten in two perfectly equal bites (one stick at a time), and Mounds and Almond Joy won us over because their “fun-size” versions seemed larger than the other fun-size bars.
I’m wary, too, of Norton’s snub of fruit-flavored candies of all varieties: “[they] sort of miss the point: the mass accumulation of pounds upon pounds of cheap, mass-marketed chocolate products.” Is that the point — the sole point? For me, Halloween was about the accumulation not only of huge quantities of candy, but of a great assortment of candy. How boring it would have been to have a pillowcase filled with nothing but Crunch bars! Necessarily, I liked some candies more than others. As most kids do, I spent hours sorting my haul, piling candies based on their classification (chocolate or non-chocolate) and appeal (favorites, pretty good, so-so, or won’t eat). (Note: There was very little in the “won’t eat” pile.) I’d work my way through the favorites; once those were gone, I’d move on down the line until I had nothing left but those oft-demonized, black & orange-wrapped peanut butter taffy. My dad ate those.
So, Mr. Norton, while I applaud your revisiting of Childhood Candy Hierarchies, you could have done better. Much better. Halloween candy collection is much more nuanced than your article leads the reader to believe, the classification of and sorting of and obsessing over the candy a ritual that deserves much greater study than what you’ve provided. Next year, give me a call — I’ll shed some light on what lies inside the pumpkin pail.