As I rounded the corner at Yonge and Queen today I saw the chapped hands of men on ladders, hanging garland above the windows of the Hudson Bay Company. ‘Tis the season. I even heard talk of the much-anticipated Toronto Santa Claus parade today. But can we enjoy the magic of Hallowe’en first?
I have yet to carve my pumpkin and roast my famous blackened pumpkin seeds. The blackened-ness isn’t a Southern take on the seeds, it’s my lack of patience for the slow roast turned up to an impatient broil. I jack up the oven temp and turn on the light as a reminder, but, the smoke alarm seems to be what alerts me first. Does anyone toast those silly seeds successfully? The work is intricate to begin with, separating the seeds from the cold guts of the disembowelled pumpkin. The wet, pulpy insides stick like cellophane to anything within a three foot radius and make me itch like the saltwater that runs to my elbows when shucking oysters.
But a yearly pumpkin must be carved, it is as critical as egg nog and rum 100 days before (and right up until) Christmas. Other timeless Hallowe’en must-haves are at least one candy apple, Kraft caramels (by the dozen, preferably) and Thrills gum.
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Vancouver makes caramel apples so sticky that you lose all your orthodontic work and silver fillings in one bite. The Granny Smith’s are rolled in fantasy toppings like M&M’s, pecans, Snickers bits and marshmallows. The “Cheesecake Apple” is dipped in a sweet white confection and rolled in crushed graham crackers. The “Apple Pie Apple” is dipped in the same love potion substitute (sweet white confection) then rocked and rolled in brown sugar and cinnamon. And the Rocky Road? Eat your heart out—walnuts, marshmallows and chocolate making the apple as big as a football.
The traditional candy apples of the past that turned your teeth and surrounding lips an alarming red for at least 12 hours showcase the simplicity of Hallowe’en: sugar, corn syrup and food colouring. However, my issue with the candy apple is how the whole casing can crack and slide off into your lap on the second bite. Much like a slice of pizza when all the toppings and mozzarella cheese landslide onto your chin. If the offending candy apple didn’t slide off and stain your clothes from your lap to your ankles where it rolled to the ground, the apple shell would splinter and become the candy equivalent of eating stained glass.
Some dear mother on Mt. Pleasant Road (our coveted childhood Hallowe’en domain)always went to the effort of making dozens of candy apples for us greedy trick-or-treaters with sleeping bags as loot bags. Next to Mrs. Kellam’s buttery as a Butterball turkey Nuts & Bolt, that Candy Apple House was our highlight. (And the lowlight was definitely the dorky dentist who handed out toothbrushes and floss. Boo! Hiss!)
Contrary to the dentist’s popular belief, I think I used to sleep with a wad of Thrills gum in my cheek Hallowe’en night. And I was recently thrilled to learn that Thrills is an all-Canadian product. The critics that said it tasted like soap eventually led to the Concord Confection Company deciding “if we can’t beat ‘em, we better join ‘em.” The current packaging boasts, “It still tastes like soap!”
Really, the intended flavour is rosewater, which is essentially like chewing on your grandmother’s bath oil beads. The gum has such a legion of fans that it is actually featured on CanadaOnly.ca, an online corner store for our indigenous candy. Wrigley’s Hubba Bubba Max and Doublemint stick gum are also available in addition to our hinterland Neilson Macaroons and Laura Secord bars.
On the site AmericansGuide.ca, Thrills gum is referenced for Americans visiting Canada who are stumped by such terms as “Thrills” and others like “Canadian Tire money” and the poppies associated with Remembrance Day.
Candy corn has proven to be more universal with our neighbours, with October 30th being designated as National Candy Corn Day. According to Brach’s Confections Inc. , Americans eat enough candy corn per year that if the kernels were laid out, they would circle the Earth four times. Which is not a good visual for me. I never won the jellybean counting contest, but I imagine that is enough candy corn to keep the dental profession alive and well.
Sugar, corn syrup and honey are the not-so-secret ingredients to candy corn. And the beauty of it? It’s fat-free. Classified as a “mellow-cream,” candy corn has a special designation because it’s a candy made from corn syrup and sugar that has a marshmallow-like flavour. The niche market has expanded its Hallowe’en domination to monopolize other holidays like Christmas with a red, green and white “Reindeer Corn,” pink, red and white “Cupid Corn” and pastel-coloured Bunny Corn for Easter.
Allegiance divides when it comes to the Candy Corn vs. Hallowe’en Kisses debate. Kisses were reliable in mimicking lockjaw if you had more than one in your mouth. Molars would be uprooted by several millimetres in frantic jaw-prying-open recovery tactics. The blend of molasses and sugar, and wrapper (because the wrapper always remained stuck to the candy) was always satisfying for breakfast.
Perfumer Cristophe Raynaud even created a “fruity oriental gourmand” in his “Halloween Kiss” fragrance. I think he would have fared better had he made the scent evoke the Hallowe’en Kisses of our past—who wouldn’t be seduced by a dab of molasses behind someone’s ear? Raynaud’s take is a combination of orange, pear, red fruits, peach, orchid, freesia, peony, violet, teak wood, tonka bean (?)and patchouli (doesn’t patchouli always smell like a root cellar?). Seems like a lot of flowers and wood in one sniff. My Thrills & Kisses fragrance would boast notes of caramel, glucose, food colouring, icing sugar and corny syrup.
Rockets, another claim to fame for Canada, were the last things to remain in my sacred cache well into December. They are a 60-year classic with six assorted pastel colours and jaw-cramping sour flavours. Curiously, these same Rockets are called “Smarties” in the United States. And, like Cadbury and Guinness, Rockets produced in Newmarket, Ontario are claimed to taste different than the Smarties counterparts of Ce De Candy in Union County, New Jersey.
A Wikipedia Pop Culture post under the American version of Smarties claims 2009 as the year youth began to “smoke Smarties.” Crazy youths looking for a new high ground up the Smarties into a dust, and inhaled it like a cigar. The candy dust was also blown out the nostrils. Doctors have stepped in though and warned against Smartie smoking infections. It’s all fun and games until one has a candy dust infection.
But worse than the dust infection? Peel and eat gummy scabs and scars marketed as “Scab-a-roni’s.” J.C. Reid’s list of the Top 5 Creepiest Hallowe’en Candy also paid tribute to “Zit Poppers.” The Zits are liquid filled gummies that have stiff (sticky?)competition with the “Box of Boogers” that’s touted to be “Snnnnnot your regular gummy.”
If you are bored by the eyeball gumballs and mini chocolate bars and foil-wrapped chocolate pumpkins—visit Chowhound for recipes on how to make your very own pretentious Peanut Butta Cups, Twixt and Snickles with downloadable wrappers to boot. For the Twixt, the recipe includes a shortbread cookie base, and for Snickles, the fluffy peanut nougat. For a self-sufficient Hallowe’en, visit Chow at http://www.chow.com/stories/10746.
The site also offers suggested wine pairings for caramels, candy corn, Smarties and Starburst. Tawny Port proves to be the winner as the general rule is that the wine should be sweeter than the dessert (http://www.chow.com/stories/11923). You can also learn how to make dry ice for a punch and fake blood that tastes delicious too at Chow Tips.
By now you must be craving something. And I bet it’s not the stupid box of SunMaid Raisins or the Eat More bar that only makes me want to Eat Less. I bet if we were six again it would be the “Hose Nose” that dispenses liquid candy slime from a nose that you strap on your face. Or how about the Ear Wax candy that you dig out with a plastic swab?
Check out the 10 Grossest Candy List at http://candyaddict.com/blog/top-10-grossest-candies/
What are you craving? The chocolate covered maggots or earthworm and rotten egg jellybeans? Remember that we are the dying era of cheap Thrills and Hallowe’en Kisses. Let’s keep the true spirit of Hallowe’en alive.
For my Hallowe’en musings from Uganda last year, check out: https://julestorti.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/boo-hoo-im-gonna-miss-halloween/