My two least favorite foods as a kid were chocolate and peanut butter—which was enough to mark me as a freak in elementary school. But I used it to my advantage come Halloween, when half my haul was chocolate I didn't want—major currency on the post-trick-or-treating candy market. I knew the other kids wanted my Snickers and Reeses, so I'd only part with them on very favorable terms. And that usually ended with me getting a bag full of Airheads.
'Candy a Day' on Serious Eats
I grew up in a heavily sugar-regimented household, where candy was only allowed at special occasions, movie outings, and every kid's favorite holiday, Halloween. Thus, the fleeting sugar highs of my childhood were major occasions, and I still remember the first time I had Whoppers. On a whim, I decided at the movie theater concession stand to cheat on my tried and true favorite, Sour Patch Kids, in favor of the malty miracles that are Whoppers.
The first question that comes up when discussing Swedish Fish is: Large or small? For me, small. Followed by: Assorted or reds? The answer: Reds. Variety is great, but there's something so satisfying about having all the ones you would have picked out already wrangled together in one package. The I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it flavor of the red fish (I've heard rumors that it's lingonberry) is so elusively delicious. Why bother with the more predictable greens, yellows, and oranges?
I'll admit it. I have a Sno-Caps obsession. There was a time when nonpareils were the movie candy choice, but now they're just a nostalgia pick placed at the counter for parents to eat as a reminder of yesteryear. When I was little all the other kids would get gummy bears, Sour Patch Kids, M&Ms—more enticing movie candy thrills. And there I was, the weird girl who always (and I mean always) went for the Sno-Caps. Do I have any fellow Sno-Caps lovers out there?
I'd love to reminisce about the old days when I was a lil' whippersnapper eating all the sour Skittles I could get my sugar-seeking hands on, but that would be a lie. True, Sour Skittles entered the candy market in 2000, but being behind the times I didn't know about their existence until pretty recently. But worry not, because I have since forged enough memories with these sour, chewy little buttons to last a lifetime!
Did anyone else feel especially proud of themselves for surviving the inferno-mouth that came with Atomic Fireballs? Or maybe you're so tough, these were nothing. Ha, you call that hot? Well, yes. Admittedly, these made me cry circa fifth grade, when all I wanted was to be able to keep this in my mouth until it dissolved, without my face melting off.
As far as modern chocolate bars go, Nestlé Crunch is rather plain. I've never seen someone at a store choose a Crunch bar over a chocolate hybrid, like Twix, or something with a cutesy presentation, like Hershey's Kisses. But as long as we're talking about what I haven't seen, it's someone being disappointed to eat a mini Crunch.
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a See's Lollypop? Answer me that, Mr. Owl. Because it's not a one.. a two-hoo.. a tha-three.. in this case. Try biting a See's lolly, Mr. Owl. (Hopefully you have dental insurance because you'll need Dr. Owl if you try.) Unlike other lollypops, the See's version is pretty un-bite-able, and it'll take more like two hundred licks to get anywhere near the center stick.
Being allergic to peanuts sucks. Being allergic to peanuts AND chocolate sucks even more. Having a brother with these allergies, however, is awesome. Because that meant I only had to duke it out with my sister for the best candy in the peanut/chocolate family—Goldenberg's Peanut Chews.
Let's talk about Reese's Cups, the most iconic of chocolate/peanut butter combos. I love them with a desperate passion and think I can comfortably say these are one of the most beloved candy bars of all time. Now let's talk about Kit Kats. Everyone loves those crispy, irresistible little bars that you eat layer by layer or crunch away at all at once. And now let's talk about a combination of the two. Add in the enviable 2-bar format of Twix and you have Reese's Sticks, the perfect candy bar.
Life Savers don't necessarily taste better than other fruit-flavored hard candies (I can't judge the minty ones; I rarely eat mint candies), but they're more fun because they have a hole in the middle. Different shape = INSTANT FUN FOR YOUR MOUTH.
As an actual edible treat goes, they are terrible. They taste like watered down corn syrup with a faint soupçon of artificial fruit flavor—that's if you can even manage to get the stuff out of the little bottles to begin with. In order to get at them, you're required to bite the waxy tops off of the containers and spit it out. What other candy in the world requires you to spit before you eat?
Why are Nerds more fun than most other candies? Because there are two flavors in a box! It's like getting twice the candy! And since each piece is tiny, it's like getting twice the amount of a lot of candy.
Ever wonder why Sour Patch Kids don't look anything like kids? It's because they were actually first designed and marketed to be aliens. All through the 70's they were sold under the name Mars Men. Who else loves these sweet and mouth-puckering gummy aliens?
If your sweet tooth leads you to the movie theater concession stand, what do you buy? Sour Patch Kids? Twizzlers? Twix? For me, there's only once answer, and it's Junior Mints.
My favorite part of Kit-Kats is the cookie, my favorite part of Crunch bars is the crunch, and my favorite part of Pretzel M&Ms? The pretzel, of course.
Raisinets are part of the poppable-by-the-handful classification of candy. But you somehow feel more virtuous eating them over M&Ms or Reese's Pieces thanks to the raisin-makes-things-healthier rule.
When you were a kid, did you ever make capes out of the plastic wrappers of your Blow Pops? I'd inevitably get about 30 of these every year for Halloween and try and hoard them, spacing them out over the course of a couple months (I never made it past December). By the last few you sucked down, the wrapper would be so stuck to the candy that it'd peel away in strips, leaving long oblique triangles of plastic still stuck to the pop, which you'd have to spit out.
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?
I never was wild about Peanut M&M's—they were too savory and dry, nut-filled in a way that didn't feel like candy. But Peanut Butter M&M's are as sweet as can be, filled with buttery, creamy peanut-butter that's almost more icing than nut paste. These aren't anemic Reeses Pieces; they're chubby little guys with a generous amount of stuffing.