Sweet Tooth; The Bittersweet History of Candy

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  • 8/2/2019 Sweet Tooth; The Bittersweet History of Candy


  • 8/2/2019 Sweet Tooth; The Bittersweet History of Candy


    . Copyright 2012 by Kate Hopkins. All rights reserved. Printed inthe United States of America. For information, address St. Martins Press, 175

    Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.


    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Hopkins, Kate.

    Sweet tooth : the bittersweet history of candy / Kate Hopkins.1st ed. p. cm.

    Includes bibliographical references.

    ISBN 978-0-312-66810-5 (hbk.)

    ISBN 978-1-250-01119-0 (e-book)

    1. CandyHistory. 2. Candy industryHistory. I. Title.

    TX784.H67 2012



    First Edition: May 2012

    10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  • 8/2/2019 Sweet Tooth; The Bittersweet History of Candy


    Its odd, the memories that stay with you. I can recall beingabout four years old, and my parents had taken the family to a

    diner that was tucked back in a strip mall in the blue-collar

    town of Butler, Pennsylvania. I can remember one of my four

    siblings creating a bit of a fuss over the lack of hot dogs on the

    menu. I can remember the cup of coffee that my dad ordered,and the plain ceramic mug in which it was served. I can even

    remember the pattern of the Formica that surfaced the table.

    But the event that makes the day most memorable was that

    this was the day I rst spit out a piece of candy.

    The candy itself was a Brachs jelly nougat, a smallish piece

    of candy that the waitress gave to each of us children while our

    parents drank coffee and checked the validity of the bill.

    The candy perplexed me. The texture of the nougat was soft

    and gritty, and the jelly pieces stuck in the candy felt oddly out of

    Chapter 1

    The Innocence of Candy

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    2 Sweet Tooth

    place. The colors were new to me as well, with the pieces retain-

    ing either a matted pink or a dull orange after surviving what-

    ever process the folks at Brachs had inflicted upon them. Whatfruits they were supposed to represent is likely unknown to all

    except the people who made these candies.

    It was not as if I disliked the piece of candy. It was chock-full

    of sugar, and thus had an appeal that would raise the eyebrows

    of most preschoolers and test the patience of the majority of par-

    ents out there. But it wasnt chocolate. Nor was it a Life Saver, a

    marshmallow, or even a candy cane. It was something else.I spat it out into my hand and looked at it. I reflected for a

    moment on whether it tasted good, setting aside for the time

    being the fact that it tasted weird. It did pass the sweetness test,

    so how bad could it be?

    My father, of course, solved the situation, demanding that I

    stop playing with my food, not recognizing the moment for

    what it was. I was tasting nougat for the rst time, and I wasdetermining whether it was worth the effort.

    It was.

    What makes this scene so important in my development

    was that it was the rst time I can remember having a surpris-

    ing moment with a piece of candy. This was the rst time that

    candy had left me intrigued.

    This is what makes that moment so memorable. It wasntthat I mindlessly liked candy. It was the rst time that I had

    formed an educated opinion about food, based on experience

    and introspection. Not only did I like the nougat, I liked the

    process that allowed me to reach that conclusion. I vowed right

    then and there to repeat it as often as possible. I have since had

    ample opportunity to accomplish this goal.

    For the rst dozen or so years of my life, candy was the pana-

    cea for every trial and tribulation that came my way. If I scraped

    my knee, my mom would be there with a Tootsie Pop. When I

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    The Innocence of Candy 3

    learned I needed glasses, my dad stopped to buy me some Bubs

    Daddy bubble gum.* After the rst day of kindergarten, Mom

    marked the occasion with Smarties. (These would be the com-pressed sugar Smarties known in the United States, not the

    candy-covered chocolates known to Canadians and Brits, which

    were closer in design to M&Ms.) Candy was something that less-

    ened pain and made life a little more tolerable.

    But it was more than just that. Candy also made appear-

    ances when life was to be celebrated. Easter, Christmas, and

    Halloween all came with copious amounts of sugary treats.Birthday parties held in the neighborhood ensured that each

    young guest received a bag of goodies. Trips to the grandpar-

    ents on my mothers side promised, at the very least, rock candy,

    but usually something more. My paternal grandmother was not

    a fan of candy, and trips to her house meant little chance of a

    candy high, though she did have a way with cakes, cookies, and

    pies, so those of us who equated sugar with love were able towelcome visits to her house without fear.

    In short, candy was available in good times and bad. It was

    the initial mixed message that was fed to my siblings and me.

    This environment set the table for the rst few years of my life.

    Candy was our ambrosia. We tolerated the healthy meals of sh

    sticks and broccoli but counted the days to the next holiday or

    birthday party. Mrs. Paul could take a flying leap for all wecared, but Peter Paul was looked upon with an admiration that

    left him just behind Jesus and Santa Claus. Along with Dolly

    Madison, Peter Paul sponsored the several Charlie Brown car-

    toon specials that were shown throughout the year. Only later

    * For those who dont remember, Bubs Daddy bubble gum was thebubble gum to have

    before Bubble Yum hit the market a few years later. Coming in flavors that included

    grape, apple, as well as the classic bubble gum, it was sold in a twelve- inch long tubular

    shape that was not only delicious but the perfect shape to whip trouble-seeking brothers

    and sisters who wanted to swipe the gum when they thought you werent looking.

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    4 Sweet Tooth

    did I learn that Peter Paul was not a person, but a company, and

    that the wife of President James Madison had precious little to

    do with Zingers and Donut Gems.Then, when I was seven, an amazing thing happened. My

    father instituted a practice that changed my candy life forever.

    He offered every one of his children an allowance. Into our

    greedy, grimy little hands, he placed money, with a promise of

    more each week. In theory, Im sure he felt he was teaching us

    scal responsibility. In practice, what we learned was thrift shop-

    ping. Why buy a twenty-ve-cent Milky Way bar, when for thesame price we could buy Lemonheads, Boston Baked Beans,

    and a three-pack of Lik-m-Aid? Making a big purchase such as a

    Snickers bar was deemed nancially irresponsible.

    Economics seemed to lter throughout our familys candy

    universe. At Halloween, each of us children would go off with

    our circle of friends, the older children dressed in costumes of

    their own creations, while we younger kids wore those prepack-aged costumes that smelled of polyvinyl and included cheap

    plastic masks that chafed the face. Not that the masks mattered,

    because they would fall off when the cheap rubber band broke

    fteen minutes after we set off on our routes. After all ve of us

    had completed our neighborhood rounds, we would compare

    stashes while a parent looked on.

    A currency system was soon created, and trades occurred ingreat haste. Our living room looked like an elementary school

    version of the New York Stock Exchange as our entire evenings

    haul littered the floor. Soon, a hierarchy of candy developed. In

    the middle of the value range sat the York Peppermint Pattie.

    Those above the York Peppermint Pattie were highly valued:

    Snickers and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups at the top, with 3 Mus-

    keteers and $100,000 bars close behind. Those below the pattie

    line were trade bait, valued more for the quantity one could col-

    lect than for the short-term indulgence of the quality candy

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    The Innocence of Candy 5

    bars that one experienced. These included Chuckles, Good &

    Plenty, and the worst thing one could get during the Halloween

    excursionsthe dreaded popcorn ball.

    We were sure it was no coincidence that those who gave

    away these lame treats were childless. When popcorn ball givers

    walked the streets of our neighborhood, children would look

    upon them as if they were extras from Village of the Damned.

    These miscreants wouldnt escape our suspicion until the next


    A mint fondant thats encased in dark chocolate, the York

    Peppermint Pattie was created in York, Pennsylvania

    (hence, its name), where it was purchased by the Peter

    Paul company in 1972, which became the property of Cad-

    bury in 1978, which sold the confection and recipe to Her-shey in 1988. The York Peppermint Pattie was known

    primarily for two things: coincidentally having the same

    name as a character in Charles Schulzs comic strip Pea-

    nuts; and commercials that compared the sensation of eat-

    ing a York Peppermint Pattie to skiing in the alps or being

    trapped on a glacier. This I thought strange, for when I bit

    into a York Peppermint Pattie, I got the sensation of eating

    chocolate right after brushing my teeth.

    Candy Exchange Rate:

    1 York Peppermint Pattie =1 York Peppermint Pattie

    9 9

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    6 Sweet Tooth

    Halloween, when inevitably they changed from popcorn balls to

    chocolates or their porch lights were no longer lit.

    But really, it was the trading for candy that I remembermost. With four siblings in the house, I had to develop strate-

    gies in trading. Those of us who traded quickly for Milky Ways

    and Clark bars often found ourselves without candy a mere three

    days later. Those of us who traded for the multitudes of Bazooka

    Joes, Sugar Babies, and the odd bags of candy corn soon found

    ourselves holding a monopoly over the family candy supply by

    election day.Easter was the second most anticipated candy holiday on the

    calendar. Various Sunday school lessons instructed us that Easter

    Sunday was the day we celebrated Jesus Christs resurrection.

    What my pack of friends and I believed was that Easter was the

    day that Jesus, in the form of a bunny, showed up at our houses in

    the middle of the night, tossed hard-boiled eggs all over the place,

    and then apologized for the mess wed have to clean up by leavinga basket full of candy. We started the morning by recovering all

    the eggs that Jesus had haphazardly thrown around the house. By

    the end of the day, we were stuffed full of marshmallow Peeps,

    jelly beans, and loads of chocolate.

    It was the chocolate that resulted in the rst upgrade in the

    quality of the candy we were given. When we were younger we

    received chocolate rabbits, which we thought a tad cruel, andwe questioned whether we would go to hell for biting off the

    rabbit ears rst. Over the course of the next few years, this

    evolved into us children imitating the rabbits as their horrible

    child overlords chomped into their chocolate flesh. The last

    year we had chocolate rabbits, our father noticed us screaming

    in sadistic glee while doing our best bunny impersonations of

    these confections, pleading, Oh my god, no! No! No! Dont eat

    my . . . ! and then immediately devouring the rabbits head.

    The next year, each of us received a softball-sized chocolate

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    The Innocence of Candy 7

    creamlled egg, with fondant decorations. While he clearly

    paid more money for these treats, the cost was likely offset by

    enabling him to survive Easter Sunday without once thinkingwe would end up being a family of serial killers. In that light, it

    seems like money well spent.

    When I was a kid, my favorite days of the year could be

    ranked this way:

    1. Christmas

    2. Halloween 3. My birthday

    4. Any day that I was able to receive/discover/consume


    5. Easter

    Two of those days are up there because of the abundance of

    gifts. Four of them involved candy or sweets. When I was achild, life was merely the time that happened in between these

    days. The truly memorable moments were the ones when

    candy and presents abounded. When youre a child, nothing is

    better than a day when people give you stuff and you are al-

    lowed to eat as much candy as you want.

    Thirty-odd years later, those types of days seem long gone. I

    now see Christmas as a cynical marketing enterprise that usesreligion as a rationalization for maxing out ones credit card.

    Halloween has evolved from a night when I dressed in costume

    in order to beg for candy from neighbors, to a night when I

    dressed in costume in order to share whiskey, vodka, and kegs of

    beer with like-minded college friends, to a night I have to re-

    mind myself that the holiday still exists. Nowadays, I end up

    forgetting about Halloween until the last possible moment, at

    which point my only options are to either make a dash to the

    drugstore to buy a bag or two of Hersheys Miniatures or make

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    8 Sweet Tooth

    sure I leave my porch light off. Im not sure theres anything

    more pathetic than a woman in her forties trying to avoid seven-

    year-olds dressed as hobos and princesses.As for my birthday, the less said about it the better.

    And Easter? Easter went by the wayside when I could not nd

    anything in the Bible about chocolate rabbits and jelly beans. If

    Christianity wanted to retain my interest in the day celebrating

    the resurrection of Christ, it could have at least explained how

    marshmallow Peeps entered into the equation. If they had found

    a stain mark on the shroud of Turin that came from the llingof a Cadbury Creme Egg, its possible that I would still be cele-

    brating Christs ascension with ham and spiced gumdrops.

    In other words, I grew up into a cynical adult. No longer

    does bliss seem like an attainable goal. Instead I have settled for

    comfort. Ive compromised the joys of my childhood in order

    to have a better understanding of the world around me.

    Candy falls squarely into this worldview. No longer is it repre-sentative of the happiness that life can bring you. Now it

    represents the unhealthy, the immature, and the gluttonous. So

    I have set candy aside in order to pursue the American dream

    a two-and-a-half-bedroom house with a white picket fence, a

    thirty-year mortgage, and ready access to the local grocery store.

    But in middle age, with the brute force of a watermelon

    dropped from a fth-floor balcony to the sidewalk below, I hada startling revelation: I was miserable chasing that dream. I

    didnt want my life to be dened by a house that was smack in

    the middle of suburbia. I didnt want to have political discus-

    sions based on whether I could get a better tax rate on my mort-

    gage. I didnt want to be associated with people who defended

    wars that allowed us to have cheaper gas.

    Every day, the media presents me with things that are go-

    ing wrong. My country is ghting two wars. Several banks

    nearly brought down the worlds economy. Institut...