originally published October 5, 2013
When it comes to candy, taste is truly in the tongue of the beholder. There is no Wikipedian compendium of the world’s worst candy, as there is for the worst movies, TV shows and music. My daughter, my own flesh and blood turns up her nose at the coveted Coffee Crisp bar, yet she can make an afternoon out of eating Sour Soothers and watching Nickelodeon. Does that make her wrong and me right? Well, in this case yes, but that’s not my point.
Due to the utter subjectivity of such a list, I understand I must open myself up to criticism and dissent. When I penned a piece about the fetid strip of film celluloid known as From Justin To Kelly, no one disagreed. When I bemoaned the asinine choice to put the Mini-Pops on TV, nary a soul came to its defense. I expect no such kindnesses today.
To be clear, I’m forgoing the obvious choices that I have not tried, like candied cockroaches or Buttered Potato Kit Kat. These are the drippings from my own 39 years of wisdom, collected in a pool of unappetizing dessert. Feel free to shout me down if you feel it’s necessary to do so.
Here’s one so obscure I couldn’t find a decent photo of its packaging online. I remember as a hungry child, immune to metabolic slow-down and tooth decay, every item on the candy bar shelf looked tempting. Except for the Cuban Lunch. Sure, it was an innocuous slab of peanut-laden chocolate, but the only thing I knew about Cuba back then was that they made my dad’s cigars. I didn’t want a treat that tasted like that.
Okay, the Cuban Lunch wasn’t that bad. But it was utterly forgettable, like the ass-end of a store-bought chocolate Easter bunny consumed years earlier. The wrapper was transparent, and the word ‘Lunch’ implied this was something that belonged on my plate before dessert. Who wants such complications in a simple candy bar?
Here’s one I should have enjoyed. The cherry cordial is, along with the butter cream, the apex of any box of assorted chocolates. So what is it about the Cherry Blossom that always made my skivvies scrunch? Was it the yellow cube packaging? The uninspiring Helvetica title? The way the cherry in the photo looked like it was oozing some sort of weird fruit-pus?
This snack is messy, sticky, and ultimately not nearly as satisfying as the Blossom’s cordial little cousins.
Okay, slow down. I don’t personally loathe candy corn as much as some do, but to many this stuff is the fruitcake of Halloween. I’ve heard arguments on both sides. On the one hand, candy corn is over 125 years old and used to be made by hand by the Wunderle Candy Company in Philadelphia; It’s an American tradition. On the other, they are super-sweet with zero taste deviation from bite to bite, almost begging for an interruption by some other flavor, even if it’s a Cuban Lunch.
I’ll probably eat candy corn again in my lifetime, but given the spate of quality Halloween candy on the market now, I’m not sure candy corn can keep up.
Just as I’m sure there are folks out there who would elbow their grandmothers aside en route to the candy corn bowl, I’m sure somebody thinks highly enough of Circus
Peanuts to integrate them into their weekly menu rotation. They’re marshmallow based and sometimes banana-flavored, but chewing your way through a bag of these is like popping little bits of packing foam. Any real enjoyment of the snack will dwindle by the second or third bite, and then you’re simply packing your mouth full of fluffy shame.
I’m not sure what compels a person to enter a retail establishment, spot a bag of Circus Peanuts in the midst of an aisle filled with a veritable landscape of sweet, tasty snacking options, and decide this is the food they need to immediately convert into poo.
Here’s one that should stir up absolutely zero controversy. These might be the most loathed Halloween candies on the surface of the planet, the Kerr’s Molasses Kisses. If you’ve got kids you’ve probably seen these en masse in mid-November, the final bones of a devoured trick-or-treating haul. By then they are tooth-chippingly hard and brittle, offering a flavor that says, “Yes, this is technically candy. So… there you go.”
A kid that eats these is a kid that has decided that shitty candy is better than no candy. Watch out for these kids; they’ll grow up with an insatiable sweet tooth and either find themselves binging on sweets in order to deal with unfaceable emotions or writing a succession of ridiculous articles about candy every day for a week.
I know, it’s not a candy. But fuck Sun-Maid Raisins. No one in my neighborhood had the audacity to hand out full-size fruit on Halloween, but I’d always end up with boxes of these things. More often than not they’d come out of the box in a single sticky clump. Growing up, my only raisin exposure was these things, the kind mixed with bran cereal, the Glossette variety that was cloaked in chocolate, and the ones who inexplicably sang that Marvin Gaye song on the commercials.
When my dad moved to California, I finally sampled a real raisin, the kind that’s juicy and flavorful, like a small fruit. Sun-Maid raisins were at the bottom of the raisin heap: dry, chewy, and leaving you feeling like you just ate the recently-shed withered skin of a much tastier food.
I don’t know what I was thinking. I was eighteen years old, kicking off a night that would no doubt bring with it some quality intoxication and loudly-cranked Pink Floyd records, and I thought, “Yes. Candy in a tube. This will be perfect around 1:30am.”
Squeeze Pop is like eating toothpaste, only with tepid candy fruit flavors instead of harsh mint oozing past your tongue. There is no visceral sensation among the slime that slips between your teeth, and even the flavor is waxy and uninspiring. These things are tubes of sugary regret. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying this garbage – Squeeze Pop must stay in business solely from the sheer power of curiosity.
Cinnamon toothpicks should not be sold to children. Some kids – no doubt those on the lower end of the swift-spectrum – might over-indulge in these toothpicks, leading to an all-mouth canker sore that burns from tongue-base to soft palate and probably seared off enough of my taste buds to keep me from being a supertaster. I’m just saying, maybe these should be tucked behind the counter with the cigarettes and porn.
I’ve never actually sampled the peanut-butter-in-taffy Abba-Zaba bar, though it actually looks quite good. I’m more interested in the product’s 1920’s-era packaging seen above. I’m not sure why racism was seen as a way to promote a candy’s deliciousness back then, but it was a different and complicated era, I suppose.
That’s it. Chime in with your impassioned defense of Circus Peanuts or scold me for not including your least favorite on this list. It’s okay, I can take it. At least until this sugar-high wears off, then I’ve got to take a nap.