Rethinking the Halloween Hierarchy

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.


Don't leave these guys out in the cold -- they need love, too!


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.


7 responses to “Rethinking the Halloween Hierarchy

  1. a) Was that freezing idea really suggested somewhere??

    b) You are dead-wrong about Snickers. It’s America’s favorite candy bar for reasons other than America’s historically bad taste, viz. THEY ARE DELICIOUS. I’m pretty sure they were higher on the hierarchy than Milky Ways when I was a kid.

    c) I haven’t read the article, but do they mention the lame-wads who used to give away spare change on Halloween? Those guys were the worst.

  2. Dear Mr. Hook(!),

    In response to your points:

    a) The freezing idea was not really suggested, but it’s reminiscent of the sort of things that women’s magazines actually recommend. This morning, I read an article (by a dietitian) who recommended freezing individual pieces of candy so that they’re “too hard to eat” right away. The logic is that, if you’re willing to wait for candy to defrost, you won’t totally gorge on it. I just took this logic one step further, with (what I hope is) a comic result.

    b) I know I’m in the unpopular minority here, but hear me out! Dark chocolate is not only marginally better for you than milk, it also has more depth of flavor! Plus, Snickers packaging has a terrible font. Still, I respect your candy choice.

    c) They do not mention those specific lame-wads, but they DO mention the lame-wads who give away apples and toothbrushes!

  3. Matthew Raffety

    Well, I’m entirely neutral on the Snickers debate. Of course, I’m sufficiently old that my earliest Hallowe’ens were around the dawn of the Fun Size Era, but I recall a strong preference for Milky Way (the Midnight variety was still years away) and some of the esoteric historical ones still available back in the 70s: Necco Wafers, in particular, which did still make the Hallowe’en cauldron list (unwrapped, like loose change) in those innocent days.

    I also remember the true terror of Hallowe’en being related to the rising hegemony of the “individually wrapped.” Tales of PCP-laced oranges and apples outfitted with razors left me so terrified that for years I would inspect even the relative safety of the Fun Sizes for needle marks and tampering.

    In fact, I joyed in all the nonchocolates, just for variety’s sake–especially Smarties. Almond Joys and Mounds were evil, both for their heinous use of shameful, inedible shredded coconut, and for their ghastly TV ad campaign “Sometimes you feel like a nut… sometimes you don’t.”)

    Also, and perhaps this is either a reflection of my own greed or the ravages of inflation, but I always liked the “bowls-of-change” houses. I could come home, gorge on chocolate, and indulge my OCD side by organizing the coins my year and which mint produced them.

    As for toothbrushes, that was begging for an egging, unless of course you were actually a dentist, then you got a pass.

    Anyhow, back to lurking.


  4. Bowls of change — why were these not addressed in Norton’s article? (More and more flaws are making themselves apparent.) Having been required to “save up” for “frivolous” items I wanted/thought I needed (i.e., Caboodles makeup cases, sticker books, stuffed toys, etc.), I was also a fan of the change bowl.

    Also, why were the “Help Yourself” bowls of candy not addressed in the Chow article? Those were awesome to whichever kid (or two) got there first. After that, the self-serve method became a bust.

    Also also: Necco wafers were served unwrapped? Weirrrrrd. I love those things, though, old-mannish as they might be.

  5. Oh, gross. I never liked candy all that much, Snickers especially. And Tootsie Rolls? Blech. I’d eat candy corn, chocolates with coconut or caramel in them, peanut butter cups or Reese’s Pieces, Milky Way, and licorice. I hated most everything else.

  6. I am glad that you share in my Snickers hatred! (We’re in the minority, sadly.) And I’m glad you share my love of licorice: a personal mission of mine is to promote US licorice consumption. Why is licorice not more popular?

    This is a question that needs a prompt answer.

  7. Pingback: One Year Old! | I Eat.

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