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The candy corn debate

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As COVID-19 rages on, uncertainty hangs in the air like steam from the season’s first pumpkin spiced latte. During these perilous times, we must look to the constants in life for stability: the leaves will still change, the days will still shorten, and people will still trash talk candy corn. 

Ariana Grande once tweeted that she would rather jump rope with her own intestines than eat candy corn, and comedian Lewis Black called it a “legacy of shit.” Now, I agree that candy corn glazed buffalo wings are a horrifying abomination, but Buzzfeed listing it as tasting worse than a “cigarette butt mixed with fresh vomit” seems a little extreme.

I’ve never had candy corn, but it’s hard to believe that a candy inspiring everything from Oreos to adult toys could be that bad. Like Guy Fieri, has its colourful exterior and pop-culture clout made it an easy target for haters?  

Whimsical Cake Studio in Edmonton has been making their own version of the treat every fall for the last five years. Surely, they would come to candy corn’s defence. 

“We think candy corn is gross,” said Darcy Scott, owner of Whimsical Cake Studio. “That’s why we make it from scratch.” In fact, Scott says it was her hatred of candy corn that led her on a “mission to make it edible” using real butter and skipping the wax. 

No wax? Isn’t that blasphemy? Would candy corn be candy corn without the signature texture that Gordon Ramsay once referred to as “ear wax formed in the shape of a rotten tooth.”

Hate it or love it, one could argue the waxy treat needs no improvement. Like a shark, it has remained unchanged over time. Jelly Belly (then the Goelitz Confectionery company) has been making it with the same recipe since 1889. What is this, if not proof of perfection? 

“It never changes. It’s always the same,” said Carol Logan, owner and namesake of Carol’s Quality Sweets in downtown Edmonton, who has been selling candy corn for almost 30 years. “And that’s what makes a good product.”

Logan says that, while she offers seasonal varieties like cupid’s corn and reindeer corn, demand for the iconic corn-coloured version is enough to keep it stocked year-round — selling around 250 pounds every year. 

“There are traditionalists that want the orange, yellow, and white because they are convinced the others don’t taste the same,” said Logan with a soft chuckle. “And that’s okay.”

If only we could all be as understanding.

I leave Carol’s Quality sweets with a small bag of candy corn in hand. Biting into one of the soft crumbly candies for the first time, I can see both sides of the debate. The creamy buttery richness is accompanied by a stabbing sweetness that leaves me wincing. And yet, I find myself contemplating another piece even as I curse its very existence.

Perhaps candy corn really is, as Edmonton chef Kyle Blomquist puts it, “all that is evil and unholy on a doomed planet.” Or, maybe it is an apex candy perfected over centuries. All I know is that it’s nothing in between. 

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