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Candy Corn Doesn't Care if You Hate It

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Candy corn is trash. Say it all you want; post it on every platform. Candy corn doesn't give a giant gummy rat's ass.

For one thing, it's been around and isn't going anywhere. Candy corn was first manufactured in the 1880s, the same decade that brought us its wax-wrapped cousin from Atlantic City, saltwater taffy. Wild times. Go ahead and hate these vintage sugar bombs — they've survived wartime sugar rationing and two separate decades of low-carb diet trends. They cannot be killed by conventional means.

Oh, you think it's too sweet? Suck it up, Milk Dud. So are cotton candy, jellybeans and s'mores, the core team of seasonal American sweets. Too much is the point. To our contemporary obsession with thinness and LED-bright teeth, candy corn extends its blunt, triangular middle finger.

The tri-colored fusion of fondant and marshmallow does not need an actual flavor, only the binding magic of carnuba wax and, like, six different dyes. With the exception of a regrettable foray into Thanksgiving dinner flavors, candy corn has always had the popcorn balls not to pretend and to be only itself: frosting you can eat while driving or typing. Is it my favorite candy? Not by a longshot. But I have had a lot of sugar and I would like to fight.

Unlike, say, a Look Bar or Good & Plentys, candy corn refuses to be shamed into the shelves of misfit candy only your uncle asks you to pick up. Instead, it waits. Candy corn bides its time until the school supply shelves have been laid to waste. Then, overnight, it crowds the shelves of supermarkets and drugstores, a wave of neon candy announcing the season since long before pumpkin spice was a twinkle in that Starbuck's barista's eye. Do you want some? Doesn't matter. Look, there's a bag in your cart now.

Seasonal though it may be, candy corn isn't out here trying to blend into a Martha Stewart arrangement of cream-colored pumpkins and reclaimed barn wood. No, candy corn is taking down the fall industrial complex from the inside, reminding us that somewhere behind the façade of carefully arranged leaf piles, a sticky toddler is pawing the bins at WinCo or tearing at a bag of Brach's that will inevitably explode and scatter the little orange, yellow and white tablets way behind the fridge.

Candy corn shows up to your tasteful Thanksgiving in over-the-top harvest vegetable drag, its garish stripes mocking the earnest, whitewashed ceramic pilgrims on your table. Go ahead and try to gentrify this cheap-ass confection, Martha. Because you can take the candy out of the drugstore but you can't take the drugstore out of the candy. And some of us remember you're from Jersey.

Oh, you've always hated candy corn because it's so artificial? Cool story, fun size. Enjoy your fruit-sweetened gummies and know that candy corn is blowing bubblegum cigarette powder in your direction. Because unlike Frankenstein's monster, candy corn neither craves the love and acceptance of humanity nor rages at its rejection. In fact, as the annual dragging of candy corn has become its own tradition, the iconic sweet you love to hate has only grown stronger, morphing into pumpkin shapes and Easter pastels. Candy corn does not retreat.

There are, incidentally, only three acceptable ways to eat candy corn: one by one, biting off one color layer at a time, imagining an ultimately imperceptible difference between them and with full mental focus and attention to the candy's transformation into an almost buttery slurry; mindlessly and by the handful as you pass an uncovered candy dish, only realizing how many you've consumed when your fingers graze the bottom and your stomach roils with regret; and by jamming one on each canine tooth, transforming yourself into a candy vampire.

Still, I tip my Halloween witch hat to the Pinterest nihilists making candy-corn fudge, cakes, layered puddings and party snack mixes. In that lawless confectionary dark web, candy corn finds strange new forms, including the alarmingly realistic formation of an ear of corn, made by jamming the pieces into a cookie dough cob.

If you can work up the sugar tolerance and accept candy corn on its own terms, you'll know the smug joy of loving a candy everyone hates. (I see you, black jellybean gang.) Do it or don't. Candy corn does not care.

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or jennifer@northcoastjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

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