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(Editor’s Note: Today our guest blogger is P, the greatest candy afficienado that any of us knows.
My sincerest apologies but for some reason I couldn’t get my computer to cooperate on the picture front tonight. P sent me two pictures of (a) the candy aisle; and (b) the bulk candy section and they were both kinda great but my computer didn’t think so? Try to imagine them anyway … B.)
[Eds.: Here's one I took especially for P in Barcelona]
So, I suppose I was a natural pick for the blog post on Candy. I am, after all, obsessed. It must be the Caribbean blood in me. Sugar cane (usually distilled into rum) runs in my veins.
At first, I thought it strange that National Candy Day fell on November 4th rather than on October 31, which many people would think is the natural choice. Millions of homes across North America are packed with hundreds of varieties of sweet delights, sitting in bowls waiting to be handed out to the dozens (and dozens and dozens, in some neighbourhoods) of pairs of greedy little hands. Goblins, fairies, superheros and villains, everyone rushes around filling bags with tiny packets of treats… which they will not be allowed to eat that night. They will gorge themselves the next day, and be permitted to bring a small ration to school the next day. It isn’t until a couple of days have passed that the kids start to forget they even HAVE buckets of candy sitting all over the house… and the parents give in to temptation and begin gorging on whatever is in the house. And just as they begin to crash, they realize that every store they enter in the first week of November is filled with bags and bags of candy for sale. And Sugar is like the Borg: resistance is futile. That’s why National Candy Day comes a few days after Halloween. It’s all about the grown ups.
How does one talk about National Candy Day as though it is an homage to a single thing? Candy comes in such wonderful, crazy varieties. Many of us were first introduced to it at the knees of some elderly special person in our lives. I think there is a rule that after your 65th birthday, you are required to install a candy dish in your home. If you don’t, maybe they don’t let you collect CPP or something. Because EVERY old person I knew (and know) had a candy dish. It wasn’t the same kind of candy everywhere, but it was the unifying factor. Clearly, its a subtle bribe to make the kids keep coming back, and an opportunity to take vengeance upon the parents by sending them home on a sugar high… but I think it may also be an attempt to start a race to toothlessness. The old people are staring down their dentured future and are out to make sure they aren’t alone.
There may be BILLIONS of different kinds of candy in this world. Individually wrapped, shaped like hot dogs, chewy, tacky, crunchy, shaped like male or female body parts… you name it, they make it. It can actually get kind of absurd, really.
Of course, the single unifying factor is the main (almost sole) ingredient: sugar. I am actually about half way through a book that traces the history of Sugar in the world. It’s fascinating how huge a role sugar has played in the development of western society over the past 500 years. In the beginning, it was an art form for the hosts of the richest spreads in France and England. King Louis (pick a number) allegedly served a desert made of life-sized sugar manequins of his entire guest list (how weird is that?). As with anything that began with the super-rich, popularization and democratization of the product drove the industry to unbelievable new heights. The biggest single driver of the slave industry was not King Cotton, but King Cane. It’s a bigger symbol of the profligate waste in western society than Hummers and fast cars, no matter what the greenies tell you. The real enemy of this world isn’t the soccer mom driving next to you applying makeup in her SUV in the middle of rush hour traffic… it’s the kid with the sweet tooth sitting behind you on the loser-cruiser popping skittles like they’re… well, skittles. You really should check out the book – Sugar: A Bittersweet History by Elizabeth Abbott. It’s a real eye-opener (that’s diplo-speak for “downer”).
Big Sugar (not the band) remains a powerful force in this world. Sugar interests remain the defining influence in some of the most beautiful and desperate places in the world. Vast tracts of land are devoted to its production, huge numbers of people remain under its thumb. Yet have you ever heard of the “sugar lobby”? It’s there, it’s speaking, and it has untold economic, social and environmental (sugar producing plants are not the best carbon sinks – certainly not as proficient as the rainforests uprooted for sugar plantations!)impacts on our small blue world… But it never makes the news. Big oil is the new kid on the block. Sugar has been kicking mother earth’s ass for centuries. “The greatest feat the devil ever managed was to convince man that he did not exist.”
Sugar rules the world. We don’t need it, but we WANT it. The industry is happy to deliver, and we are all just happy junkies getting a fix. That delightful white powder (it might as well be cocaine – it’s almost as addictive, for some of us) in the form of candy, still holds a very very powerful sway in our society. Think the criminal organizations rule the world? Nope. Next to big oil, big sugar is tops. Think about it – every grocery store has almost an entire aisle devoted to candy, in addition to the racks at every register. There are entire stores devoted to candy. And before you say “yeah, but there are liquor stores, and bakeries, each devoted to their own wares…” please note that each of those frequently HAS A CANDY SECTION.
So, this wasn’t really the hedonistic orgy of sugar-laden praise I expected (and was expected) to write. It’s a sober second thought about the most prevalent addiction in our society. Decided to go all sunday school preachy on you… Sorry, I will get out of your hair. But if you are still listening: Next time you want to do some small step to better mankind and mother earth, but you really need to drive somewhere, I suggest the following: take the buck or two you were about to add to your grocery bill for that sweet treat, and donate it to your local food bank. That’s my commitment for the rest of this year.