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Halloween is over. Now all is quiet in candy land.
I think about candy all year long. It’s my job. One of the big questions that I’m always working on is: what is the relation between candy and food (see, for example, Defining Candy: the Candy Tax)?
I’ve noticed that in the world of food journalism, there is a very simple answer. Candy is not food if it is any month other than October. Then suddenly, in October, as Halloween approaches, every food magazine, blog, web site, and newspaper section runs something about candy.
I’m being a little facetious, of course. But it is striking how absent candy usually is from “serious” discussions about food. After all, we do eat it.
It’s not like Halloween has a lock on candy. There is the candy debauch of trick-or-treat, of course, and huge quantities of candy sold and bought. But Halloween candy sales, as significant as they are, are nevertheless a fraction of total candy industry revenues. Although there is special packaging for Halloween, most of the varieties of candy sold are the same candies we eat the rest of the year.
So why can we only talk about candy at Halloween? Here’s my theory: on Halloween, food and candy trade places.
Historians have noted that festivals like Halloween serve an important social function, like a pressure valve. On Halloween, all kinds of normal relationships are reversed. Kids who normally have to sit still and keep quiet get to take over the streets. Costumes let you dress up like the president or a monster. In the old days, communities tolerated pranks and mischief. Like Carnival or New Years, Halloween is a day to blow off a little steam, to misbehave, to defy authority or break the rules without suffering the consequences.
The absence of candy from the food discussion keeps our categories clear: candy isn’t really food. And then once a year, we reverse the place of candy and food, and candy takes center stage. But it’s only for Halloween. So we get the fun and release of candy craziness for a month. Then candy is once again exiled to the not-food fringe, where we don’t have to think about it too much for another year.
Here at Candy Professor, we believe that if everybody else thinks it’s not important, it probably is. Shove candy off-stage for eleven months a year, and then gorge on it the twelfth. Something is going on there.
Eleven months of food. One month of candy. So the “food” of those eleven months, it’s not candy. Right?
Or is it just the fact that it is “not candy” that makes it look like it’s not candy? Why are candy and food so opposite? Or are they?
Well, that is the question of the day, candy friends.