Pinky Pie

Halloween, Almighty Candy & Me

Posted on: October 31, 2010



Maggie as Big Bird

The Men in Black at a local nursing home.

One day when I picked up Maggie from where she was caring for a preschooler in the home/law office of a couple, I had 3-year-old Michael in tow.

Their son, who was about Michael’s age, had a few jellybeans. When three of the precious sweets were placed in Michael’s hand, he looked at them in adoration.

The colorful trio was still in Michael’s hand when we arrived at the video store. As we searched for a movie to take home, we stopped by a self-service popcorn machine that allowed us to nosh as we got in the film mood.

What a conundrum for Michael who still had those beans in his hand.

“Now Michael,” I told him. “You know you can’t have any popcorn until you finish your candy.”

Another mother shot me a look when she overheard those words come out of my mouth. I couldn’t believe I had said them either. I should have gone straight to remedial parenting education.

The story came to mind this past week when I read about the Candy Professor – a former Rutgers University professor named Samira Kawash, who researches our love/hate relationship with candy. She blogs at

Clearly if I had a professor like her, college would have been oh so sweet. (Like candy, a pun is hard to resist.)

Kawash became interested in our relationship with candy after recognizing parents who would never give their children candy, failed to see the inconsistency in sugar-laden foods like granola bars and fruit juice.

And no time in the year is candy bigger than at Halloween, although Christmas and Easter give it a good run. Halloween wasn’t always the candy holiday that it is today, according to Kawash.  Before the 1950s, a kid might have gone to the neighbors to bob for apples, perhaps tip over an outhouse (OK way before the 1950s in my suburb) and maybe drink some punch.

Matt as Spiderman

“If you go back to the ‘teens and ‘twenties, and look at what the candy companies were making in terms of holidays, Christmas was a big one, Easter was a big one, but Halloween wasn’t even on their radar,” she said in an article on “Cultural History of Candy” on the Smithsonian food website.  “There’s no sign of trick-or-treating at all until the 1930s and it really wasn’t until the late 1940s that it became widespread. Even then, kids might have gotten a homemade cookie, a piece of cake, money, or a toy. There really wasn’t a sense that it was all about candy.”

I loved Halloween as a kid and I loved it again as a parent, and not just because I occasionally swiped candy from their collection.  (I confess.)

It’s also why I found it so upsetting that the holiday lost its innocence in the 1980s when things like razor blades occasionally were discovered in apples or candy bars. And then there was fall1982 when seven people died from poison-laced Tylenol. We were all a bit scared.

While no one handed out bottles of Tylenol in trick or treat bags, parents were urged to have their children’s candy x-rayed before it was eaten. We never did that but we still looked at what the kids brought home before allowing our kids to dive in.

I’m not sure if hospitals still offer the service of imaging Halloween candy. If they do not, I’m sure it’s a matter of insurance companies not paying for exams of Milky Ways and Twix with pre-existing condition.

I do have pride in the candy I give out – never stooping to those black and orange wrapped peanut butter toffees.

No, I’m a believer in the good stuff – chocolate candy bars like. I suppose I could give out the full size and not snack size, but I am a believer in the good stuff – chocolate candy bars like Reese’s peanut butter cups and Butterfinger.

As a parent, you have to be strategic – buying enough to ensure leftovers of the stuff that you really want to eat.

P.S. I eagerly await the book by Samira Kawash on the Cultural History of Candy.


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