Candy & Liquor: Kindred Spirits?

“Candy is dandy. But liquor is quicker.” -Ogden Nash

With Halloween just days away, many of us are thinking about candy–oh, the joy of candy corn!–(though I’m also thinking about the glass of red wine that accompanies the steaming bowl of chili I eat while waiting for the trick-or-treaters to arrive).

The other day, I read a great article in the New York Times about candy, titled “Is Candy Evil or Just Misunderstood?” In the article, Julia Moskin recounts how when a woman offered her daughter’s 3-year-old friend some jellybeans, the girl’s mother froze.  The father said she might as well have offered the little girl crack.

The “offender,” Dr. Samira Kawash, was so stunned by the experience that she started a blog called Candy Professor, diving deep into the American relationship with candy. The idea behind the blog is that “candy carries so much moral and ethical baggage that people view it as fundamentally different — in a bad way — from other kinds of food.”

Sound familiar?

Candy and liquor have a lot in common–both can be sweet and sticky, tempting and delicious. Both can leave you feeling buzzed. Just the right amount, and you’re giggling and high-fiving. Too much, and  you feel dizzy and sick.

Like candy, drinking is often misunderstood and reviled. For some, drinking is one of life’s pleasures, right up there with sex and chocolate. For others, liquor is an evil to be avoided at all costs–the devil’s brew. Of course, recovered and recovering alcoholics have a reason to fear alcohol, just as overeaters might fear candy, but that’s another story entirely.

Turns out the link between candy and liquor is not so far-fetched. On the Candy Professor blog, Dr. Kawash writes: “Scientists had an interesting theory about the relation between candy eating and alcohol. Having discovered that the sugars in candy fermented in the stomach in a manner that seemed similar to the fermentation of alcohol, candy seemed awfully close to liquor. For candy alarmists, this meant candy eating was tantamount to alcoholic dissipation. But for candy lovers, this explained why candy eating and “tippling” didn’t mix, and why eating more candy would lead to drinking less liquor.”

According to Dr. Kawash, scientists felt your body needed the sugar in both alcohol and candy, and that “this was a good reason to let children eat candy: deprived, they risked a future of alcoholism and misery. ”

The history of candy is inextricably linked with that of alcohol. The candy industry experienced a boom during Prohibition. When saloons closed down and bootleg liquors couldn’t be found, people flocked to soda and ice cream shops for their fix.

It’s that combination of pleasure and danger that give candy and liquor the same elicit thrill, that sublime feel. Happy Halloween! Candy or liquor–which do you prefer?

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