Get Stuffed 

How sweet it is

Candy, the seductive dandy

Every Saturday in late summer, as apples grew ripe for the picking, my friend’s home turned into a candy apple factory. In the morning his dad lugged in bushels of apples. All day, mom, dad and the kids washed apples, jabbed them with sticks and dipped them into big pots of syrup boiling and broiling like devilish red lava. They still have quirky white marks on their hands and wrists from sugar burns.

By day’s end, 2,000 luminous red candy apples would line every counter and table top in their home until swarms of kids converged on the place, buying up dozens of the treats for 4 cents apiece, then re-selling them in their neighbourhoods for a nickel. Pretty amazing they could unload so many, but few could resist a candy apple – except for my pal and his brothers, who’d be sick of the smell and the sight of the things. They haven’t touched one since.

Candy apples, salt licorice, English toffees, chocolate-covered coffee beans – everybody, every culture has their own candy fetish, loaded with memories and all sorts of emotional baggage, mostly good but sometimes bad (as in the above candy apple saga). Kennedy Ryan, owner of the Great Glass Elevator, knows how deeply nostalgia is intertwined with candy, as every day she watches adults flock in for treats from their childhood –candy necklaces or Pop Rocks or that gaudy pink Lucky Elephant popcorn with the prize inside.

Never mind the nostalgia factor. Candy is seductive. In tandem with the obvious good taste comes the good energy hit. Toffees and candies average 50 to 90 per cent sugar; sugar itself accounts for something like 20 per cent of the energy intake of people in privileged countries like ours, it’s so cheap and easy to get. (By contrast, when M&Ms were introduced to the People’s Republic of China in the early 1990s, it took the average Chinese worker a day’s wages to purchase a package.)

We crave sweets for all sorts of reasons. Dr. Earl Mindell, known as Dr. Vitamin to some for his advocacy of vitamin supplements, says it’s because we were initiated to them as kids as rewards for good behaviour and for winning our favour. Who hasn’t put up with a weird uncle or a crabby neighbour with an agenda who negotiated our goodwill with a dip into the candy jar?

Other doctors think that we’re so fond of candy and other treats because breast milk is so sweet. The craving is compounded by the fact that as babies we develop the ability to taste "sweet" long before "salty," "sour" or "bitter" – and, tell the truth, who would crave "bitter"?

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