Candy A Day: Mary Janes

Editor's note: Every weekday in October, the Serious Eats editors and staff will chat about a candy they loved as kids (or love today). Artificial colors encouraged, no organic chocolate allowed.

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

I know this whole column is meant to feature candies we really love, but all of this talking of candies we like has reminded me of a question I often asked myself in my youth: Does anybody in their right mind actually like Mary Janes?

These candy are pretty horrible, right? They start out in your mouth like the candy equivalent of bathroom caulk, but slightly less edible. Bite down and it creates a hermetic seal between your top and bottom molars, tugging at your fillings and squeezing into the gaps between your teeth. As it slowly dissolves with a vaguely identifiable stale nut flavor, it acquires a texture that when I was a kid, I didn't exactly know how to describe—see, back then recycled cardboard toilet paper tubes hadn't yet been invented so I didn't have the same frame of reference I have today. The only saving grace is the bit of peanut butter in the center, but with so many better peanut-butter-centered candies out there, it just ain't good enough.

Remember the lazy houses on Halloween? The ones who just left a bowl of candy outside their door and asked kids to politely please take only one. I think the people in those houses were wise to the yuck-fest inside the dirty yellow wrapper of a Mary Jane, because they'd always stock their bowls with 'em. Had they put any other candy in there, anything at all—say, a Bit O' Honey, a Tootsie Roll, or perhaps a Crunchy Frog (only the finest baby frog, dew-picked in Iraq)—the first kid to get there would've inevitably emptied the bowl.

Not so with Mary Janes. In fact, you'd catch kids trying to pass the Mary Janes given to them by the mildly sadistic households they stopped at earlier in the night into the bowl, just to get rid of 'em.

That they've been around for nearly a century is an indication to me that at least someone is eating them (unless, of course, we are merely passing the same supply of Mary Janes back and forth and back again, like that Christmas fruitcake). But if any of you, dear readers, are fans of this stuff, please speak up! I'd seriously like to know what the appeal is!

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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