By Mordechai Schmutter
Purim is the holiday of candy. Ask any kid.
Okay, so there are lots of deeper meanings. But we’re too hopped up on candy to care. The mitzvah of mishloach manos is to give each other foods that are ready to eat, so the general minhag is to give candy. Candy doesn’t go bad, it doesn’t need refrigeration, and it comes in lots of pretty colors that aren’t found anywhere else in the “natural” world. It also comes in lots of fun shapes to go with your “theme.” Even if your theme is “We accidentally bought the BIG mishloach manos bags, and now we have to fill them.”
So maybe you’re in the store, shopping for candies to give out, or maybe you’ve come home from delivering mishloach manos to find 18 bags on your doorstep, none of which has any label to tell you who they’re from, and some of which have candies that you’ve never seen before. Hence this field guide.
I. A Note About Names
It’s important to note that not everyone uses the same names to describe their candies. For example, some people say “Winkies,” some say “Fizzers,” and hypochondriacs say “aspirin candy.”
One should also realize that most candies are basically different combinations of essentially the same ingredients, so it’s very hard to come up with new names in the first place. Sometimes it’s very obvious that the manufacturer just picked words out of a hat and said, “Good enough.” For example, there are:
• “Mike and Ikes,” whose name clearly has absolutely nothing to do with what it is. Best we can tell, the company was started by a guy named Michael and a guy named Dwight. Did they get together because their nicknames rhymed? That’s a sound business strategy. But apparently it worked.
• “Nonpareils,” which are those chocolate discs with sprinkles on top. Yes, they have a name, and this is it, even though no kid is ever going to call it that.
• “Jawbreakers,” which is no doubt the least appetizing candy name. It’s like they said, “Well, we already have Lemon Heads, and Grape Heads, and Cherry Heads, and Apple Heads, and Orange Heads, and something called “Lemon Head and Friends,” like candy hangs out with its friends. And now we have this other candy and we can’t actually figure out what kind of fruit it tastes like. It doesn’t really taste like anything. But Bob tried biting one the other day, and he ended up in the emergency room. How about we put some kind of spin on that?” And these, too, have been around forever. We candy consumers are not a very discriminating crowd.
II. A Note About Flavors
A lot of adults say that all candy tastes the same, but that is really not true. There are actually more flavors than ever. Just a few short years ago, everything came in five flavors. There was Red, which tasted vaguely like cherry; Orange, which tasted like flat orange soda; Yellow, which tasted like furniture polish; Purple, which did not taste or smell like any grapes that anyone has ever eaten; Green, which tasted like limes, we assumed. No one really knew what “limes” were. We only knew they existed because of green candies. Well, that and lemon-lime soda, which tasted exactly like lemon soda, the only difference being that one used artificial lemons, and the other also used artificial limes.
And that’s it. There wasn’t even blue. For some reason, they couldn’t figure out how to make an artificial blue color, although they still somehow managed to create green.
When it came to jelly beans, there was also Black, which tasted like black licorice, and which everyone gave to that one kid in the class who would eat them, and White, which tasted like . . . regular, I guess. Wax? I don’t know.
That was a much simpler time, and everyone liked reds.
But nowadays, there are so many flavors that it’s impossible to keep up. Even if you bite into a red jellybean, you don’t know. Is it going to be cherry? Strawberry? Pomegranate? Passion fruit? Red apple? Cinnamon? A white, meanwhile, could be plain, but it could also be vanilla, coconut, cream soda, or baby wipes. And if it’s white with yellow dots, it’s buttered popcorn, because apparently there’s a popcorn flavor now, and in this field guide’s opinion, once we’re making a nosh that tastes like another nosh, we have officially run out of ideas. There’s also a cola flavor. It’s like they ran out of healthy things to pretend it tastes like, so they said, “Let’s make it taste like something unhealthy. Who are we fooling, anyway?”
III. Basic Species
Sucking candies: This is your basic type of candy, popular with kids who have figured out that their parents will happily give them one whenever they want one, as long as their throat hurts (which is why they’re always using their outside voice for no reason). Apparently, sucking candies are magic.
Lollypops: These were invented by someone who said, “Sucking candies are good, but what’s missing is a big paper stick.”
The function of the stick, apparently, is to keep people from accidentally choking on the candy. But if that’s the case, then explain gum lollies. If the stick is there so the person won’t choke, why put a piece of chewed gum in the middle? What kid is choking on sucking candies, but you’re still willing to let him have gum?
Gum: Gum is useful for people who need to keep their mouths moving at all times. You might think it’s disgusting, but it’s better than having them constantly talking. This field guide loves all candy unequivocally, with the exception of popcorn jelly beans, but when it comes to gum, we draw the line. The issue with gum, in this field guide’s opinion, is that it loses its flavor. The appeal of candy is its flavor, and by the time you spit out a piece of gum, or accidentally shoot it across the room while trying to blow a bubble, your mouth already tastes like rubber. There’s also:
Big gumballs: In general, comically large candies are not all they’re cracked up to be. It’s never the good-tasting candies they make large. It’s just jawbreakers and those lollies on those wooden sticks that take like a week to eat, and you end up with a big sticky line all the way to your ears. It’s like the companies said, “Well, this doesn’t taste good. How do we sell it anyway?” “I don’t know. Let’s make it bigger!”
Taffy: is like gum, for people with shorter attention spans. Also, there’s something called
Taffy pops: which are taffies with lolly sticks in them, so that no one will swallow them, I guess. Because we’ve always felt that the one thing taffy was missing was the big paper stick. But on that topic, there’s also
Fizz lollies: which are basically Winkies with sticks, so you won’t accidentally swallow the Winkies.
Packets of fizz that you eat by dipping a fizz lolly into them: Because the fizz lolly doesn’t taste enough like fizz, so you have to put additional fizz on it.
Just plain fizz: Yes, that’s it. It’s like the companies just gave up, and said, “Look, it’s all sugar anyway. Why bother coming up with candy? The kids are going to eat it anyway.”
Candy necklaces: because we have to wear our candy now, although the rubber bands aren’t quite stretchy enough, and if you try to put them over your head, the band rips, sending candies flying everywhere, four weeks before Pesach.. And speaking of candy jewelry, which is a big market, in case you’re looking to get your wife a little something for your anniversary, there’s also
Ring pops: so you don’t have to hold your lollies. You can be free to drive, or whatever. And if you don’t like holding your candy, there’s also
Candy spray: which is for people who are too lazy to even eat the candy. They’re like, “I’m too tired. Just spray it directly into my mouth.” It’s like Eisav with the lentils. But the worst is
Candy with toys attached: which is what happens when the manufacturers run out of new candy ideas altogether, so they’re like, “We should add a flashlight, or a monkey with cymbals, or a battery powered fan!”
Great. I’m supposed to give this to my kids on Shabbos?
Because apparently, they think that kids are bored while they’re eating candy. They did the research, and they found that kids eating candy tend to climb the walls, so they said, “Obviously, these kids are bored. We should give them something to do! How about a laser!”
Your child is going to bug you to buy it, not because he likes the candy, but because it’s also a toy. Not to mention that he’s going to want to keep this sticky thing floating around your house long after he’s finished the candy.
Jelly shapes: like bears and worms and fish and balls and rings and fruit slices and cherries and teeth that look like healthy teeth, rather than how your teeth are going to look after you eat the jelly shapes. This field guide can’t imagine why it’s necessary to have so many shapes that all taste basically the same. The only reason we can come up with is: mishloach manos. Like if you decide to go with a “bear” theme because you have bear costumes, and so far you’ve come up with honey and teddy grahams and of course beer, and you’re out of ideas.
Though the truth is that it doesn’t actually matter that your theme matches your costumes, because half the people you go to aren’t going to see your costumes anyway. You’re just going to leave the package on their doorstep, because they’re out bringing you your mishloach manos. Which is why you’re not going to see their costumes, or even necessarily realize that their package had a theme in the first place. It’s just one of eighteen packages you’re going to bring inside at once and dump on the table so you can make piles based on which things have to be finished before Pesach. You don’t even know what half the things are, So at least you have this field guide. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.