Ode to Candy Corn

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Halloween is upon us, and so are copious amounts of candy. Weekend Edition food commentator Bonny Wolf discusses the history and virtues of one of her favorite treats: candy corn.


Every year, Americans eat about 26 pounds of candy per capita. A lot of it is consumed around Halloween, which is coming right up. And it's not just the kids. Parents have been known to sneak candy out of their children's stash. Not you, of course. But you might have a guilty pleasure or two when it comes to those Halloween treats.

WEEKEND EDITION food commentator Bonny Wolf does.

BONNY WOLF: I have no excuses. I love candy corn. I know. It's like admitting you watch "America's Next Top Model" or read trashy novels. I've done both.

I'm not alone in flouting social acceptability. More than 35 million pounds of candy corn is made every year. That's about nine billion kernels. So somebody is eating this stuff no matter how many people refuse to own up.

It's even gone beyond Halloween. Candy corn now comes in orange, white and brown for Thanksgiving. That's called Indian corn. Green, white and red reindeer corn is for Christmas. Cupid corn for Valentine's Day is pink, red and white. And Easter brings us pastel-colored bunny corn. There's even gourmet candy corn in flavors such as sour apple. But somehow, going up market seems wrong for a candy some people prefer stale.

But the classic is the orange, yellow and white. And this is its season. In fact, Tuesday, the day before Halloween, is National Candy Corn Day. This is not some candy-come-lately. This is a confection with history.

Candy corn was invented in the 1800s by a guy who worked for the Wonderly(ph) Candy Company in Philadelphia. In the early days, making candy corn was hard work. It was done by hand. The ingredients were cooked in huge kettles. Then, the hot candy was poured into buckets. Men poured the liquid candy corn from the buckets into kernel-shaped trays. The workers had to make three passes to create the white, yellow and orange layers. Production was so labor-intensive the candy corn was made only from March to November.

The machine age has made candy corn available year round. But I've never eaten it except around Halloween. That seems like its proper time.

And there can be too much of a good thing. It's hard to eat one piece of candy corn. If you eat one, you have to eat the whole bag - however big it is. This usually makes you sick. Although, the new spin is that candy corn is kind of a health food. It has no fat. It contains less sugar than raisins. And candy corn has only 3.57 calories per kernel. But I don't need excuses.

HANSEN: No way. Candy Corn Day?

Bonny Wolf is author of "Talking With My Mouth Full" and host of KITCHEN WINDOW NPR's food podcast.

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