Janet Sheridan: The treats of trick-or-treating
October 18, 2017
Halloween lost its allure for me about the same time the Ford Edsel suffered its timely death. But, when nights chill, trees tire of their leaves and geese practice flying V's, I remember Halloween and the treats made by busy mothers for classroom parties at Lake Shore Elementary School: slabs of fudge, sticky candied apples, chewy popcorn balls and devil's food cupcakes generously capped with chocolate frosting. I gave such homemade confections a superior ranking on my yummy-scale, far above the commercial candy popular at the time; Atomic Fire Balls, Necco Wafers, Life Savers and Bazooka Bubblegum didn't measure up to writhing snakes made with pulled taffy.
However, in fifth grade, despite my preference for goodies wrapped in waxed paper, I swapped a piece of dyed-red divinity Mrs. Dunn said was petrified bat's blood for one of the candy cigarettes Teddy West smuggled into the class party. I felt wicked and worldly as I pulled a cigarette from the red-and-white Marboro box, but my illicit thrill faded with my first bite; it tasted like sweet chalk.
A few weeks later, during current events, my teacher shared a newspaper article about the growing evidence of a link between lung cancer and cigarettes. That afternoon, at home, my mother gave me a bemused glance when I asked if candy cigarettes contained nicotine.
Homemade treats began to disappear from the Halloween scene in the 70s, when rumors circulated about razor blades, tacks and straight pins being inserted in Halloween fare. Soon, anything not commercially wrapped became suspect, and costumed children could no longer look forward to the caramel corn with peanuts made by Joe's grandmother or the headstones Mrs. Mitchell made from Rice Krispies Treats.
While current trick-or-treat favorites don't tempt me, because I'd rather have a soft, pumpkin-shaped sugar cookie layered with thick orange frosting, I'm in the minority. Various on-line surveys estimate between 42 to 43 million costumed trick-or-treaters will roam neighborhoods or downtown areas in search of candy this year.
But the Power Rangers and Disney princesses of today won't be hoping to add homemade brownies to their plastic jack-o-lanterns. According to influenster.com's 2016 list of favorite candies in the 50 states, Reese's classic peanut butter cups received the highest total vote, followed by Kit Kat and Butterfinger bars. Milky Way bars took first place in Colorado; candy corn came in first in 10 states of dubious taste and Swedish Fish —vwhatever they are — ranked first in Pennsylvania and Louisiana.
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The surveys also show children are not alone in their enjoyment of Halloween candy. Seventy-two percent of the parents responding to a National Confectioners' survey admitted they sneaked candy from their children's trick-or-treat stash. At the same time, 84 percent of those parents limited the amount of candy their children could eat. Some let their offspring enjoy a few pieces per day until the candy was gone; others took the candy away and doled it out when they wished; and a few let their youngsters choose a set amount of candy, then disposed of the rest.
Uh-huh. I'll bet they disposed of their children's candy late at night while watching TV.
But surveys of parental misconduct and my preference for homemade treats aside, this year on Halloween, as they've done over the years, children will shed bedraggled costumes, crawl into bed amidst a flurry of candy wrappers and fall asleep with sugar-crusted lips to dream of Hershey's Kisses, Twizzlers and miniature Mars bars.
And I hope they all have a happy Halloween.
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com on the first and 15th of every month.