From Sandy Land to Candy Land

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Somehow it feels that anything I post today may seem frivolous, knowing full-well that millions of people have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. While I live in Boston, I’m still a New Yorker at heart. I was born there, grew up there, and it breaks my heart to see such extensive damage in New York and the greater tri-state area. My heart goes out to everyone dealing with the devastation.

It's still spooky outside as Sandy remnants finally exit the Northeast...

So maybe, in my own small way, I can entertain you for a few moments.

Today is Halloween.

And Halloween means candy.

I did not grow up in a world where candy was just laying around. If I happened to be lucky, my grandmother would give me a fun-size vintage Peanut Chew candy bar now and then, but that was about it.

I could beg.

I could plead.

I could throw myself onto a grocery story floor in a full-on tantrum.

No candy.

But on Halloween, my world underwent a paradigm shift of epic proportion: Total strangers give me free candy just because I asked them to! (Plus, I got to spend a few blissful hours pretending to be a superhero, so there’s that.) I never felt so rich or so in command of all that I surveyed.

The perfect candy bar.

And for that one night a year, my world was made of Snickers. It’s a scientifically proven fact that a Snickers™ is the perfect candy bar. Mars bars may have a slight edge, but they’re a bit harder to find, so let’s leave them out of this. The best thing I could get dropped into my spooky sack was a Snickers. Of course, the weird dentist down the street would always toss in a toothbrush and travel-size toothpaste. Unfair and totally lame. And some of our neighbors would offer us homemade treats, such as popcorn balls, candied apples, and cider. These were more ephemeral, and usually consumed onsite at that one house in the neighborhood that made a big to-do on Halloween night. Today’s overprotective parents don’t trust the people in our communities anymore, which is a shame. The joy of a good popcorn ball or some cold apple cider mid-way through your Halloween rounds cannot be understated. But that’s another post.

Want to get your house egged?

So back to Snickers. Why are they perfect? Easy. There is a player from all the candymaking teams–chocolate, nuts, nougat, caramel. Individually or paired, each is totally underwhelming. The alchemical unification of these four common–dare I say it, coarse?–candymaking elements into a Snickers is pure bliss because it has the things that all good foods have: balance. Snickers has flavor and texture; it’s salty and sweet, crunchy and chewy.

Yes, I would get other candies, too, ones that were popular at least a half-century ago: Fifth Avenue™, Clark™, O’Henry!™, Baby Ruth™, Bit-O-Honey™, Zagnut™, Chunky™. And while it really was (and still is) all about my Snickers, these candies offer variety, combination, textures, and interesting flavors. The are the antithesis to the scariest part of Halloween:

The Hershey’s™ milk chocolate bar.

Utterly without balance.

Giving a kid a Hershey bar is an selfish move that marks you as a cheap bastard with neither heart nor imagination. You probably give people socks for birthday presents. Do not be this person.

This says "I'm a cheap bastard with no heart or imagination, and I hope to save the left-overs to make S'mores."

On Halloween, be a person who gives a Snickers. Or be a person who gives a kid a vintage candy. Give kids lots of different types of candy! Even the weird sour candy! Because once a kid gets used to trying different kinds of candies that are well balanced, he or she learns something about what makes food truly good.

So although it still seems eerily quiet in the wake of Hurricane Sandy here in Cambridge, I have a bowl full of Snickers™ and Reeses™ peanut butter cups at the ready in case I get a few kids at the door tonight.

I never really liked the sour candies. Bright yellow bags of candy instinctually my nose wrinkle.

Although come to think of it, I might just hand out only the peanut butter cups….they’re pretty well-balanced….sort of.