Kernel Of Truth

Candy corn - that most maligned of Halloween confections - gets a bad rap

October 29, 2007|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Reporter

"Candy corn is the only candy in the history of America that's never been advertised. And there's a reason. All of the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1911."

- Comedian Lewis Black

Nice try, but that's wrong. Candy corn happened to have been first mass-produced by the Goelitz Candy Co. in 1898. So, technically, all the candy corn ever made dates back to 1898 and not 1911.

Wednesday is Halloween, and the candy corn debate once again has raised its ugly cone head. Tomorrow, by the way, is National Candy Corn Day. Some get chills just thinking about it.

More than ever in its history, candy corn has needed - no, deserved - a proper defense. Tootsie Rolls, Snickers, Milky Ways, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Smarties, Skittles, M&Ms, Almond Joys, Nerds, Kraft Caramels - all get good press. A tribute to candy corn, the weak sister in Halloween's candy patch, is long overdue.

As defenders of this uniquely American confection, we have grown accustomed to the mistruths and dismissive characterizations of candy corn. Stale. Not the "good candy." Marked down. Also, check out these Internet innuendoes and one-liners viciously directed at candy corn:

They look like human canine teeth.

They're made from sterilized cockroaches. (Not true.)

Satan's candy.

"Generic Candy Corn Will Give You AIDS," says The Onion's satirical headline. (Really not true.)

And this recurring complaint, which hurts more than words can put into words:

Tasteless.

Want to taste tasteless? Just munch on some of those mini-Twizzlers, Sno-Caps, Bit-O-Honeys or wax lips. You'll be begging for a bowl of those sweet, tri-colored canine teeth of pure pleasure.

The history of candy corn is nothing short of the history of America. This is in no way true - but it's a catchy way to begin a paragraph on the real history of candy corn.

Gustav Goelitz, a German immigrant, began commercial production of the treat in Cincinnati at the turn of the 20th century. Its tri-color design was nothing short of revolutionary - no one had seen such multicolored candy before. Farmers loved the candy because of its agrarian je ne sais quoi. Once produced seasonally and painstakingly by crafty hand, candy corn eventually became produced by machine year-round. But Halloween time became the right time for candy corn; the holiday accounts for three-quarters of its annual sales.

Today, an estimated 35 million pounds of candy corn - 9 billion pieces - are sold each year, according to the National Confectioners Association. Yet, nonbelievers remain. Neither candy nor corn, they say. A waste of chewing.

Then explain the 35 million pounds every year. Explain Jones Candy Corn-flavored soda. Explain the variety. The best candy corn, of course, is the standard species with its familiar yellow base, orange center and white tip. But there's also "Indian Candy Corn," the second-best design, with its brown bottom, orange middle and white tip; "Reindeer Corn" has red and green bands; "Cupid Corn" features red and pink bands; and, equally questionable, "Bunny Corn" has Easter colors.

And, last but not least, explain why your best friend at work suddenly looks up this time of year and says, out of the spooky blue, that he or she loves candy corn.

Now, in some newspaper features, it has been suggested that candy corn can be melted to make roof tiles or windows for a gingerbread house. According to one Utah tradition (are there others?), people eat candy corn only if it's mixed with peanuts and chocolate chips. Again, this is another way of dissing the C-corn.

There's only one way to eat any kind of candy corn: by its solid self. Some people bite the tip off first; it's like icing, after all. Then they sink their teeth into the kernel's glorious belly before topping off the banquet by devouring the delectable base. Each level has a different taste, which is the magic of candy corn.

One afternoon during a lull in work, we bought a 10-ounce bag of Brach's Indian Corn. The label said, "Made with Real Cocoa. Made in Mexico. No expiration date."

"Did you know? Americans consume enough Brach's Indian Corn that if placed end-to-end would go from California to China and half way back," the package said. But halfway between California and China would be in the ocean, right? Wouldn't the candy corn sink? Ah, let's not overthink this.

We surgically removed a single corn from the Brach's package. Candy corn connoisseurs don't charge into the bag and risk decapitating a kernel. They've all seen headless candy corn and have felt moved to stop for a moment of silence. No, the fragile tips must be protected.

Holding the candy corn in our right hand, we nibbled the top off. It would not be an understatement to say Halloween could end right now. Forget the tricks and treats and costumes and kids. Forget those full-sized candy bars everyone seems to covet.

Now for the soulful belly - orange, plump, omniscient - and then the concocted taste of honey, sugar, corn syrup and cocoa. Never too waxy. We could stop at the Buddha-like center appendage, but we seek enlightenment this Halloween. The base - the corn's very core - should also be savored. We must eat the whole of the candy corn to become whole ourselves.

When finished, we had another piece and then another until the number could only be expressed by a calculator.

Then, the teeth were brushed and hosed down again and again. But the taste of the candy corn never really leaves a body and soul. Those Indian bands of orange and brown. Those icing tips. All made from real cocoa. All made in Mexico.

And no expiration date.

rob.hiaasen@baltsun.com

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