THE GROCERY STORE – It’s got to be here somewhere. It was here last week. I spot a clerk. “Excuse me, but where is the candy?” He looks at me curiously. I continue: “You know, Baby Ruth, Hershey’s, M&Ms. (I didn’t actually say “M ampersand M.”), those common, ordinary, vanilla, or maybe chocolate, candies.”
He gestures towards an aisle. “We’ve got shelves, aisles, an entire section for candy.”
I peer down the aisle. There are, indeed, loads of candies, all festooned in orange and black. Tricks and treats sweets. Cheap junk to create cavities in small mouths. Stuff that their mothers won’t let them eat, so it ends up the garbage. That kind of candy.
“It’s October,” he says. “You know what that means?”
“Sure, every October 31 is Halloween to celebrate the night before All Hallows Day, thus Hallowed Eve which became Halloween. It began as a religious holiday but was overtaken by costume manufacturers, horror-movie makers and the sugar lobby.”
He holds up his hand to stop me. “There’s a food fight in the produce section. I’ve got a clean up on Aisle 4.” (He didn’t actually say “4.” He said “four.”)
Have you tried to buy just plain candy lately? Unless you hit a Godiva shop during its annual hedge fund managers’ sale, right now all you can buy are Indian Corn, Autumn Mix, Spooky-Spicy, Ghost Host, Witches Brew and Sweet Sweat. They are dolled up in Halloween attire. Here’s something called Brach’s Mellowcreme Pumpkins. Mellowcreme? There’s no such word. What with LOL, Numb3rs, CitiBank and Toys R Us, no wonder our kids can’t spell.
The orange and black bag lists “Nutrition Facts,” i.e., the ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze, gelatin, artificial flavor, along with yellow 6, red 3, yellow 5 and blue 1. This is nutrition? Besides not being able to spell, we have a generation of obese children because all they eat are gelatin and yellow 6.
Halloween is a holiday devoted strictly to candy, but it is not alone. As soon as the ghosts and goblins put their costumes back in the closet, stores will clean their shelves of candy and store it all in a warehouse till next fall. Quickly the aisles will be filled with chocolate turkeys, Plymouth Rock candies and orange pumpkins with artificially flavored orange. On Thanksgiving Day we recall the suffering of the Pilgrims by stuffing ourselves silly.
The Friday after the Turkey Day games, out go the autumnal sugar-coated celebrations to make way for Christmas candies. Honey dipped mistletoe, saccharine Santas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Tootsie Roll and Brach’s Mellowcreme reindeer. Candy canes stick out of candy-filled stockings. Tree ornaments are edible. Wreaths taste great. That’s not a jolly old elf, that’s a Jell-Old elf.
Hurry and put away those Christmas goodies for New Year’s is on the way. Champagne, hats and horns, and, of course, January Canduary. Finish up because Valentine’s Day is here. Forget what I said earlier about Halloween being the only holiday strictly for candy. Valentine’s Day, named for the patron saint of diabetes, is all about candy. How many Whitman’s Samplers are sold?
Quick, get those heart-shaped red candy boxes off the shelves because Easter is on the way. It only takes an instant for the quick-change artists at my grocery store to swap cupids for crosses as somehow yet another religious holiday has been converted into a confectionary convulsion. Easter eggs come in many colors and flavors. So do cute little candy ducks and rabbits. No doubt Australian children hunt for hidden mint-filled platypuses because they lay eggs, too.
By now our eyes are confectioner’s glazed-over with holiday after holiday, each one requiring that we buy sweets. It never ends: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretary’s Day, (Oops, now it’s Administrative Assistant’s Day. Is Hillary Clinton the Administrative Assistant of State?) Memorial Day is not much of a candygram but July 4th has its own red, white and blueberry sweets. Labor Day is hot and humid, which means lots of lemonade.
Grandparents Day never caught on, mainly because our grandparents had been eating so much candy they died of sugar shock. This brings us to sugar-free sweets. A whole lot of Americans can’t consume sugar, but that makes no difference. With a little hunting, we can find sugar-free Easter turkeys and Valentine’s Day witches.
I go next door to the drug store, although just why it is here isn’t clear since the Super Sack ‘n’ Save Grocery Store has a drug store, too, along with photo shop, dry cleaning and blacksmith’s forge. Just as grocery stores today are about half groceries and half motor oil and deodorants, drug stores have banned the section that actually sells drugs to an obscure corner. The rest of the place is for toys, birthday and bar mitzvah cards, mops, over-the-counter pills and — what else? — candy. Here in the Drug Lord I can tell which holiday is up next by which Hallmark card display covers most of the aisles. There is Christmas candy, Easter candy, Guy Fawkes Day candy, cavity-creating treats for the Chinese New Year, MLK Day and Presidents Day.
Texas state employees celebrate Texas Independence Day, San Jacinto Day and Emancipation Day, the latter best known as June Teenth. The state bureaucrats also mark Confederate Heroes Day, Cesar Chavez Day and LBJ’s birthday. Grocery and drug stores in Austin (“Live Music Capital of the World”) probably reflect these taxpayer-paid vacations with the appropriate cards, music and candy rappers. For all practical purposes, Cinco de Mayo is a state holiday, too.
So it is that I am not able to buy a simple Milky Way or Hershey bar. Not unless I want it all gussied up in some holiday wrapping. I tell the clerk, “I just want to buy a plain candy bar, not a holiday parade float. Not Almond Joy to the World or Life Saviors. The Three Musketeers are sucrose, lactose, and fructose.”
“You mean 3 Musketeers.”
Ashby is sweet at firstname.lastname@example.org