candy corn by liz west

Candy Corn: Your Friend and Mine

by Marjorie Ingall

Shut up, it is not disgusting. It is appalling and addictive and seductive, the rock cocaine of the confectionery world. Teenagers and adults may turn up their noses in favor of the Hershey’s Fun Size chocolates (which, you’ll excuse me, would be infinitely funner if they had more mass), but the little children know. Candy corn rules.

Candy corn lends itself to both nibbling and snarfing. You can delicately work your way down the triangular niblet shaft, daintily devouring each color tier in precise librarianesque succession. Or you can throw great corn-syrupy handfuls into your yawning maw, quivering in sugar shock like a Beavis on a bender. Which method is more “you”?

For those who want the candy corn experience in a more upscale form, visit Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco. This the best ice cream parlor in the city, no lie, been around for generations. The best flavors are Mexican chocolate (dark and bittersweet, with cinammon) and mango, but for our purposes, taste the maize y queso (uh-huh, corn and cheese). It’s strangely reminiscent of the most rarified of Halloween treats.

What’s the proper order of colors in standard, normative candy corn, from tip to fat part?

Answer: orange, white, yellow

Candy-corn-consumption-method is a fine window onto the eater’s personality. Are you mindful or mindless in your experience of the world? The kind of carefree person who plunges in and grabs life with both hands, sucking down all it has to offer while ignoring subtleties and quiet beauty, or the careful kind of person who is attuned to life’s tiny pleasures while missing out on big fun through his own anal-retentive control-freakitude? Just asking. (Don’t ever fall in love with someone whose candy corn habits are different from yours. It’s better to fall in love with someone who hates or is indifferent to candy corn than one who eats it differently from you. It’s a recipe for heartache.)

Candy corn, on the vile candy scale, is nowhere near as gross as Marshmallow Peeps, wax lips, or those bright orange pumpkins that are made of candy corn substance but are rendered putrid by their oversized, mutant, chewy density.It’s akin to the Oreo conundrum — the balance of cookie and creme is perfect, so futzing with Dubble-Stuf (or however they spell it) made it sinister and WRONG. An abomination unto the Lord.

Editor’s Note: While I share Ms. Ingall’s enthusiasm for candy corn, I must interject here and say that her dim view of candy-corn-pumpkins AND Double Stuf Oreos is completely insane. They are both delish, and illustrate Cuisinenet’s philosophy that more is ALWAYS better.

But I digress. According to the National Confectioner’s Association, 20 million pounds of candy corn will be sold for Halloween this year. That works out to about 8.3 billion kernels. So if all you fancy grownups with your “disposible income” hate it so much, who’s buying all that stuff, huh? (By the way, if there’s any left over after Halloween, you could take the advice of the children surveyed by the St. Petersburg Times in 1994. They picked candy corn as the number four Alternative Turkey Stuffing, after Pez, Nickelodeon Gak, and Spaghetti-Os.)

In addition to not being vile, candy corn has a venerable history. The Goelitz Confectionery Company has been making candy corn nonstop since 1898, making it our nation’s oldest candy corn concern. The candymaking process has changed very little over the last century. Rob Muller, Goelitz’s marketing manager, says, “We take a wooden tray and fill it with corn starch. Then a wedge-shaped metal form gets impressed into the starch, so it’s molded into that shape like a footprint in the sand. Then you fill it up, one squirt of color at a time. It’s carefully aged for a day or two, then the candy is separated from the corn starch.” Before packaging, factory workers remove the misshapen reject kernels as they pass by, Lucy-like, on conveyor belts. (You can see this process yourself and watch how Candy Corn is made.)

Since a product this delicious should not shunted aside like a filthy old clown costume after Halloween, Goelitz pushes the year-round candy-corn envelope. You’ve got your lesser-known but still-delightful Cupid Corn (white/pink/red, for V-Day), Reindeer Corn (white/green/red) and Bunny Corn (white/various pastels). Does the bunny corn contain actual bunnies? “Ah, kids put them out to feed the Easter Bunny,” Muller explains. Oh.

Candy corn language is wine-like in its specificity. The finest candy corn has “a clean, sweet taste, with no corn syrup aftertaste. It’s nice and clean on the palate, but with that sweet, almost-vanilla flavor. One thing that’s very important is it has to be a tender bite.” Freshness is paramount. Avoid corn that may have been mouldering on a supermarket or drugstore shelf since last Halloween, drying out and losing its texture. Instead, patronize candy stores, which take care of the product and turn it around quickly. You can also buy on the Web. Isn’t it nice how just about anything, even Candy Corn can be bought on the Internet?