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Twix vs. Jolly Rancher: Halloween's Best & Worst

The worst, by far, are the Mary Janes--that miniature brick of paving material that tastes like it's from the original batch made during World War I. The Necco company insists that Mary Janes are made from peanut butter and molasses, but I would happily agree to these rock-hard nasties being used to shore up the leak in my basement wall.

The inevitable flood of feature stories about trick or treating inform us that 93 percent of American children will be out on the streets tonight, scamming grown-ups for free candy. But the range of products that end up in the loot bag has suffered considerably in recent years, the result mainly of the overwhelming success of those huge supermarket and wholesale warehouse bags of Halloween minis, most of which tend to be Snickers, Smarties, and various Mars or Hershey bars. It's the rare family that still goes out of their way to locate and obtain a mess of Goldenberg's Peanut Chews or, for that matter, circus peanuts.

Peanut Chews understandably make many an East Coast Halloween worst-candies list, as do circus peanuts, for which I must admit a strange fondness, even if they are the only edible product featuring a careful blend of Styrofoam and polyester. (The guy in the link above subjected circus peanuts to a microwaving test. Please do try this at home.)

In my house, the annual ritual of checking out the winnings generally results in each child designating a hefty pile of rejects, some of which then get traded to friends with inferior taste. Inevitably, somebody in the house actually likes Tootsie Rolls and 3 Musketeers. The father gets the Twizzlers (oh man, the things we admit to here in blogdom.) And then, when all the negotiations and swapping are done with, the kiddies are left with a small stack of Mary Janes, Jolly Ranchers and Skittles--this is the stuff that goes immediately, on Wednesday morning, to the giveaway table at mom and dad's offices, where, as we know, nothing is ever left uneaten.

The evergreen Halloween hits tend to be fairly stable over the decades, your basic chocolate bars, plus the coconut ones for those who go in for that sort of thing. Twix was the only candy that managed to poke its way into the trick or treat pantheon in the 80s and 90s; the only newer bar that seems poised to make such an impact is Hershey's Take 5.

There does, sadly, seem to be something of a consensus that candy corn ought to be banned by law. I break with my usual purist tendencies here and admire not only the orange, white and yellow originals but also the faux-chocolate kernels with a brown layer. I recognize that some of you will not be able to return to the big blog after having read this fact, and I thank you for your past patronage and wish you well.

For what it's worth, here's the result of our household poll on Halloween's best: (Loathing processed coconut, I take no responsibility for the tastes of those who share my abode.) Mounds. Almond Joy. York Peppermint Patties. Twix. Take 5. Heath. Baby Ruth.

It's important to remember that as awful as some Halloween candies are, there are some things that end up in loot bags that are worse even than Mary Janes or those little bags of microwave popcorn: Raisins. Apples. Pennies.

The non-food items tend to come from people who believe the hype about all those Halloween killers and poisoners who are out there somewhere, knocking off innocent little ones. Except of course that, while I hate to spoil the fun for those who enjoy scaring the kiddies with lovely stories about poisoned children, that particular brand of killers doesn't actually exist. Of course --and this is one of the things I love most about this country-- there's a college professor out there who has made it his life's work to blow up this particular myth.

Come ahead with your bests and worsts, and while we're at it, where do you stand on the morality and efficacy of parents confiscating the whole stash of Halloween candies after a pre-announced period of days?

I'd advise you to be careful out there tonight, but really, I'd rather you weren't. As for me, I'll be encouraging the kids to bang on the door of the darkened house of the old krone who never has any candy. Vote the story, as they say in this biz.

One last thing: If you do confiscate, or if you have extra candy after the last trick or treaters are gone, you can donate it to Treats for the Troops, a project that will send the candy in Christmas stockings to U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This project is coordinated by Mover Moms of Montgomery County.

Collections will take place at Walt Whitman High School on Whittier Boulevard in Bethesda:
Thursday Nov 1 --- 4 PM to 6 PM
Friday Nov 2 --- 4 PM to 6 PM
Sat Nov 3 --- 10 AM to 2 PM

By Marc Fisher |  October 31, 2007; 6:46 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I'm partial to the little boxes of Nerds and Pixy Stix myself, since any candy bought for personal consumption tend to be chocolate.

Posted by: dgc | October 31, 2007 8:36 AM

Yes, please ban the candy corn!! What is that stuff? Does it have lead paint in it?

Posted by: C-dog | October 31, 2007 8:39 AM

Circus peanuts are the scourge of the earth.

Posted by: DJ | October 31, 2007 9:03 AM

C-dog can send me his candy corn (and close relative, the candy pumpkins) as long as they're fresh.

Posted by: WA2CHI | October 31, 2007 9:16 AM

If anyone else has received candy corn and is offended by its presence, please send it to me. WA2CHI and I are just selfless souls trying to help out our fellow humans by jumping on these brightly-colored mellocreme grenades.

Posted by: Lindemann | October 31, 2007 9:18 AM

For me, 3 Musketeers fell into the category of "Candy I'd Have No Interest In Normally, But I'll Eat After All The Better Halloween Candy is Gone." Skittles are great, though.

This is my first Halloween living out of my parents' house, buying the candy for the Trick-or-Treaters. My roommates and I each chose and bought our own candy to add to the bowl; my pick was Milky Way Midnights. Those things are AMAZING, but hopefully the kids won't know that so there'll be a bunch left at the end of the night.

Posted by: Sarah | October 31, 2007 9:22 AM

For me, the season necessitates one bag of yellow-only candy corn and one bag of pumpkins. Once it's gone, my taste buds require that I wait until next year to partake.

Fav Halloween Candy: Milk Duds and Whoppers.

I used to HATE reese's (and peanut butter)...those were the days: picky eater = skinnier figure

Posted by: Anonymous | October 31, 2007 9:25 AM

Favorites as a kid were Smarties and circus peanut. I still like both many years later. Add Heath bars to the favorites now. The ones I disliked and still to were those neapolitan coconut squares (could never get the coconut out of my teeth after trying one - yuck!), and I'll agree with the Mary Janes. Don't ban the candy corn though; they are a kid thing. My youngest loved it, but outgrew it as a teen. So did my brothers and I.

Posted by: FrauRabbit | October 31, 2007 9:38 AM

Naturally agreement is impossible -- if we cannot have our own opinions on the best candy, the terrorists win. But here is the most salient point, at least from the point fo view of aging boomers: about 94 percent of the products being dropped into those bags tonight will be familiar to anyone who trick-or-treated in 1959.

Posted by: erorie | October 31, 2007 9:39 AM

I loved the comment about the candy corn. At the advanced age of almost 60, I admit to being part of the "adult candy corn addicts club". We know who we are. We see each other on November 1 in all the local stores that put it on sale at 50% off and buy several bags without making eye contact with any one else in the store!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 31, 2007 9:42 AM

I like Squirrels (the chewy peanut-ish candies, sort of like Mary Janes), though I'm always afriad they'll pull my fillings out. Same with Red Dollars (do you ever see those anymore?).

Also, please don't dis Jolly Ranchers.

And I LOVE the candy corn pumpkins!

Posted by: PQ | October 31, 2007 9:44 AM

I love snickers, even if the rest of the world considers my tastes plebian.

Posted by: Snickers | October 31, 2007 9:51 AM

I'm with you on the Mary Janes, but Skittles? They're definitely in my top 10. And anyone passing out toothbrushes gets a good tp-ing.

Posted by: ChrisH | October 31, 2007 10:02 AM

What's wrong with Mary Janes? They're great to chew on in little bits over about 30 minutes. They're certianly sweet. And for that matter, Skittles and 3 Muskateres are great to. You're way too picky Marc. I agree about the candy corn though. Love that sugar/wax goop.

Posted by: EricS | October 31, 2007 10:09 AM

I personally have always loved Reese's peanut butter cups, specially the pumpkin shaped ones.
What annoys me about Halloween is the picky kids that complain about what you hand out. My husband and I tend to buy a large variety and hand out a small handful from the bowl, but there will be a few kids that will rudely pull the bowl down from your grip, and want to exchange candy. Its rude and ungrateful. That is why you sit down with your friends the next day and exchange with them. If you don't like it, go buy your own candy. That's my 2 cents.

Posted by: OSpatz | October 31, 2007 10:10 AM

"Confiscating" candy is understandable, but perhaps a bit strong.

Several years ago, an opportunity came up to send some small gifts to some children we know in a, well, less economically-developed country, and it was our oldest child (then only four) who came up with the idea of sending her Halloween candy (it was mid-November). The gift was greatly appreciated by the recipients, who shared the candy with every kid they know, and a new tradition was thus born at our house. Now, even though the destination varies (we've participated in a number of programs, including "Treats for Troops"-type ones), all of our kids regularly set aside a good portion of the candy they get on Halloween for donation.

What's really fascinating is that we have never required our kids to do this -- it is strictly voluntary. We have never told them how much they should give away -- or even that they have to give any of it away -- yet all three of them will regularly hand over as much as two-thirds of their haul, completely on their own. I think this is because we have always emphasized the positive side of giving, and never the negatives like "so much candy is bad for you" or "you'll get fat and lose your teeth" -- in other words, by stressing donation over confiscation.

And as to candy corn -- when we were kids we loved to take them and stick them on our teeth like fangs. I admit that I still do this from time to time, even at the office, and I refuse to stop.

Posted by: Doc | October 31, 2007 10:12 AM

There actually was a case of candy with pins in it not too long ago. It occurred in Uptown Minneapolis. The candy was suspicious and x-rayed as a result and pins were found. No one ate the candy and it was a very small amount. I also think the person who handed it out was arrested, but it has actually happened.

Posted by: SG | October 31, 2007 10:12 AM

Candy pumpkins are the best! And this year, for the first time in probably 20 years, I found the "candy corn" mix that includes the cornstalks, bats, moons, etc. Each with their own flavor, though I can barely tolerate the banana flavored ones...I went back to get another bag, but they were gone.

Skittles are great, too. Chocolate still wins -- Snickers and Reese's cups for me.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | October 31, 2007 10:21 AM

I like Smarties, too...

Posted by: WDC 21113 | October 31, 2007 10:22 AM

The best candies that I won't eat because I'm on a diet and exercise plan are Kit-Kats, Snickers, Twix and Milky Way. And apple Jolly Ranchers.

Now, let's all be good to ourselves and have baked apples and bottled water instead of candy and Kool-Aid this Halloween.

Posted by: YourStrawberry23 | October 31, 2007 10:24 AM

the only rule in my house about halloween candy is that the kids MUST leave the bags downstairs when they go to bed. They think this rule is to keep them from eating in bed and ruining their teeth. However we all know that it is so Mom and Dad can have their share. We encourage the kids to go to the community with lots of houses really close together, to increase the size of their take. Now, the only thing I have to figure out is how to keep the candy gravy train going after they are too old to trick-or-treat...

Posted by: wishing I was still 10 | October 31, 2007 10:26 AM

Marc, why the hatin' on 3 Musketeers? It's Mars chocolate, basically a Milky Way without the caramel. Admittedly it's kind of bland -- the name comes from its origins as a 3-piece bar, including vanilla and strawberry flavors, which would make it more interesting -- but it's certainly better than a Tootsie Roll, which doesn't taste at all like chocolate and frankly looks like animal poop.

Posted by: Martian | October 31, 2007 10:28 AM

I remember a friend being rather obsessed with the very rarely found Skor bar. For me, it was all good, but particularly Smarties, big Reese's cups, Almond Joy, Hershey bars (big ones being a huge score), and of course, Whatchamacallit.

Posted by: LouisTheRogue | October 31, 2007 10:35 AM

I still give each kid 1/10 of a candy bar. That is all they deserve. In fact I have just taken a break from carving up the candy bars into pieces.

Posted by: Ben | October 31, 2007 10:36 AM

There were two really good houses in my neighborhood -- the house that gave out homemade popcorn balls (we knew the owner so it was safe) and the house that invited people in for doughnuts and apple cider. Ah, the good old days. Favorite candy: Snickers and Reese's. Least favorite: chocolate covered raisins. And my mother confiscated all Heath bars, because they were her favorite.

Posted by: Beth | October 31, 2007 10:40 AM

Milky Way Midnight-- oh, that is SOOOOO good!

Posted by: baby-work | October 31, 2007 10:46 AM

why the hate on mary janes and squirrel nut zippers?
i admit one of those pulled out a loose tooth as a kid, but they're yummy.

Posted by: ami | October 31, 2007 10:47 AM

Mary that takes me back. They were the "reward" candy my high school spanish teacher would always give out for correct answers. Except he called them by their spanish name...Maria can imagine the chuckles that used to get from a bunch of 15 year olds.

Posted by: alexandria, va | October 31, 2007 10:48 AM

There actually was a case of candy with pins in it not too long ago. It occurred in Uptown Minneapolis. The candy was suspicious and x-rayed as a result and pins were found. No one ate the candy and it was a very small amount. I also think the person who handed it out was arrested, but it has actually happened.

Confirm that with Snopes first. No documentation of that ever happening.

I stopped giving out candy and give out packaged snacks instead.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 31, 2007 10:48 AM

Has anyone seen Bug Bites?

They are uber-politically correct, and what we will be handing out this year. Fair-trade, organic chocolate squares in a foil wrapper that also contains a small trading card that features a close-up photo of an endangered species of insect on one side and fun facts about the bug on the other!

They're too friggin' expensive to give out more than one per kid, so that makes me feel better about distributing sweets to our overweight youngsters, and the bug element gives an appropriate yet atypical 'ick' nod to Halloween. (Apologies to all entomologists and others who are offended by the suggestion that bugs carry an element of 'ick.')

I know that some of the trick-or-treaters will be ticked off because we won't be handing out mass quantities of sweets, but I think that once they get the Bug Bites home and open them, they'll be pleased. And if not, oh well! :)

Posted by: pcville | October 31, 2007 11:00 AM

Oh no...the absolute worst candy of all are the Necco Wafers...if I wanted to eat chalk I would just go buy some chalk...the thought of those things still makes me gag about 25 years after I stopped trick-or-treating.

But I do love me some candy corn. I like sticking one on each pointy tooth (technical term for sure) to look like vampire fangs...I'm a huge hit with my nieces and nephews!

Posted by: Adams Morgan | October 31, 2007 11:28 AM

I dunno if this will be taken badly, but we're handing out glow sticks (bracelets, really) this year. No candy.

Almost all of our neighbors are having a non-candy option (some of them will also have a candy choice) because of our 6-year-old neighbor who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes just last week.

Posted by: Neighbor | October 31, 2007 11:44 AM

Have you tried the Mint 3 musketeers? You will never go back! I had one a month ago and can't find them at all. Mint and dark chocolate....delish. So much better than the regular 3M. If you find one please send it my way.

Posted by: awb | October 31, 2007 11:47 AM

Given yesterday's article, I'd say a 9-year old in fishnet stockings sounds good to me...oops...just kidding.

Posted by: Payne | October 31, 2007 12:02 PM

Unlike Adams Morgan, I always liked NECCO wafers--they gave this nice Jewish boy a chance to play Catholic for a day! (My Polish and Italian friends would show me the proper way to eat them)

Posted by: WA2CHI | October 31, 2007 12:10 PM

I moved out to the Midwest, where fewer people seem to delight in having a "scary house". I, however, love doing it, and the kids do seem to appreciate it. (The adults appreciate the small beer cooler ;) )

But I make it worth the kids' while. Those who brave the resounding screams and other sound effects and various scary decorations get full-sized candy bars.

The past few years, it was a general mix of Hershey's products, but this year, it's just Reese's PB Cups. My house is now starting to become a destination...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 31, 2007 12:20 PM

Worst Halloween handout I ever received, no lie, was a ticket to attend the 700 Club/PTL Club (a religious TV show).

Those ended up on the lawn of the giver toot-sweet (pardon the pun)

Posted by: Jack. O. Lantern | October 31, 2007 12:21 PM

And oh - LOVE Take 5. Especially the way they're chunked into two pieces. That way I can eat one and save the other for later...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 31, 2007 12:22 PM

I would always trade my Snickers or Baby Ruths for M&M's(plain only, none of these crunch or dark chocolate imposters) because I can't stand peanuts in any form. Milky Ways take a close second to M&M's and the $100,000 candy bar was a special treat. I always wished Mounds were made with milk chocolate.

Posted by: maura | October 31, 2007 12:42 PM

No one has mentioned an increasing trend: passing out prepackaged non-candy, such as little bags of cookies or chips.

Personally, I'd take a bagful of Mounds (or, and I know this dates me, the obscure and now -gone Waleeco, a Mounds predecessor). I never liked Almond Joy as a kid because I didn't like nuts, but now I'd love to see a dark chocolate AJ.

Posted by: Loudoun Voter | October 31, 2007 1:22 PM

How dare you insult Peanut Chews!!! I was raised to love those iconic gobs by my grandfather from Harrisburg, PA. What I find wretched are Mary Janes... mmmm.... fermetned sorghum cubes.

Posted by: tap_tap_tap | October 31, 2007 1:27 PM

Hated coconut - my mom got to have those. Anything with chocolate was always ahead of anything else in my kid days. Tonight I'm handing out a variety and plan to let the kids pick what they want from the bowl. Jolly Ranchers were cool in the bar form (sort of shaped like a solid comb) but not so nice in the "bite size" pieces.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 31, 2007 1:36 PM

Oh, and how could I forget the tiny bags of gummy bears - I still love those. They are harder to find than the little packs of other kinds of candies, but gummy bears are the BEST.

Posted by: PQ | October 31, 2007 1:38 PM

Giving out Pixie Stix the last two years has conferred on me the Coolest House On The Block status. It's not easy to rate with TenSomethings, so I bask in it. Now the problem is repeat visitors. After the first hour or so I switch to bags of pretzels. That shuts 'em down.

Posted by: Jan | October 31, 2007 2:02 PM

I think it would be fun to give out miniature bottles of vodka, but I daresay some parent would figure out who did it and would call the cops, so I think I will restrain myself.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 31, 2007 2:13 PM

Worst thing for toddlers to get: "Airheads" or those other really chewy and tart taffy type things. MJs are fine - my kids can't eat them, but I can! They might be the only candy that takes more than 30 seconds to eat! Its possible you burn more calories chewing than you actually ingest. . .

A good alternative to candy is the little Utz baggies of Halloween themed pretzels. Toddlers love those!

Posted by: LBH219 | October 31, 2007 2:18 PM

Milky Way Midnight ROCK!!! And they are even better when chopped up (or halved, if you only have the mini ones), mixed into brownie mix, and baked.

My building gets very few trick-or-treaters, so the jumbo bag of Kit Kat, Whoppers and Milk Duds is really all about me anyway. :) One of my neighbors went all-out this year to decorate and bought stick-on splotches of blood, complete with drag marks, for her front stoop. Very authentic-looking, too - it's a good thing she had other decorations, or I would have worried about her pets...

Posted by: BxNY | October 31, 2007 2:42 PM

Dippin' DOts

Posted by: Arr-Eff-Kay | October 31, 2007 2:53 PM

I love Necco wafers. And Skittles. One year I was giving out food but the mashed potatoes weren't real popular.

Posted by: Stick | October 31, 2007 3:19 PM

Here's the problem with three musketeers: you take a nice snickers, and then you take away the best part (peanuts) and you have a milky way. milky ways are still not bad though. then you take out the caramel and you're left with the one yucky ingredient: nougat. i'm not fond of candies that are missing all the good ingredients.

Posted by: dc | November 2, 2007 8:51 PM

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