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The Real Halloween Horror: Candy

Candy spooks parents at Halloween

Candy spooks parents at Halloween, and all year long.

While kids shiver to scary tales of ghosts and goblins on Halloween, parents are shuddering at an all-too real horror: the giant bags of candy that will soon invade their houses.

Is candy evil, or just misunderstood? That’s the question posed by the Candy Professor in her blog on the history of sugary sweets in America.

As the New York Times puts it:

“The big idea behind Candy Professor is that candy carries so much moral and ethical baggage that people view it as fundamentally different — in a bad way — from other kinds of food.”
I kind of love this. Is candy that different from, say, juice or cookies? Not from a nutritional standpoint. But culturally it’s a world of difference. There’s something indulgent about candy. It’s the vice of childhood, gradually replaced as we age by cocktails.

It’s not that candy is secretly healthy: it’s a tasty treat that will rot your teeth, ruin your diet and create sweet cravings for more. There’s nothing morally righteous about eating it.

There’s nothing particularly healthy about apple juice or granola bars, either, yet we see those items as healthier.

Candy Professor tracks cultural fears about candy throughout history: in the 1920s, for example, doctors wrongly believed that candy caused polio. A generation later, kids were warned off it because of tooth decay. My mother was most likely to take candy away from me because of the now-debunked link to hyperactivity. I keep the candy on a high shelf away from my kids because of modern cultural fears about empty calories and childhood obesity.

This is fascinating stuff to a geeky history buff, but should the good professor’s work change anything about how we feed our kids?

Maybe. Reading it makes me feel a little more inclined to let them have a lollipop once in awhile, but also more sure than ever that watering down their juice is the right thing to do.

How about you? Does candy seem evil to you, or is it a sweet delight?

Photo: Virginia

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