By Andrew Blumetti
It all starts with an innocent peanut.
Just an ordinary peanut growing in the sun-drenched fields, not much unlike any of the other millions of potential allergy-ruiners that reside on the fertile farmland soil.
It never hurt anyone, never caused a problem, never made a scene, but hey brotha, sometimes, fate just deals you a crap hand, and the next thing you know, you’re being picked up faster than a tequila-filled college sophomore on spring break by a guy in a non-ironic John Deere cap.
From there, it’s just a quick slide straight down crap mountain as that simple peanut who was just kicking back on the soil soon endures the fate of an unfortunate Jigsaw victim in Saw IV, V or VI, being roasted, toasted, and grinded into a deliciously gooey paste.
Let’s get to seasoning– toss in some salt, a dash of sweetener, jar it, pop a lid on that sucker and this once fresh peanut, full of potential and possibility, is now part of something bigger and something even more tasty: your favorite two words, and mine– peanut butter.
…but with that title comes infinite possibilities or infinite doom:
Meanwhile, somewhere sweeter…
In a secret lab which just has to be run by old ladies in supportive knee-high hose, sugarcane or sugar beets are getting a once-over of their own, refined and turned into sweet, sticky, syrupy mess, more popularly known as molasses.
You know the stuff. It’s got the pitch-black color of the heart of a teacher who gives you homework over Christmas break, it’s sweeter than the last three minutes of an episode of Full House, and moves about as fast as a tired sloth full of NyQuil.
Not an item that typically ends up at the top of your shopping list, molasses is oddly enough, the unheralded star of some of your favorite eats. Without it, certain barbecue sauces, desserts, beers, and rum just wouldn’t have the same taste. Heck, in a pinch, molasses can even help remove the rust from the hood of your old ’93 Pontiac your weird uncle sold you.
…and about a century ago, this marriage is where things went horribly, horribly wrong.
Just two years after the disastrous sinking of the Titanic, the world was met with another horror, this time one of the candy kind. In 1914, The Charles N. Miller Company decided to Frankenstein us all, adding peanut butter and molasses together. And much like the destructive giant green monster, sparks flew, wires had gone berserk, everything went awry and this abominable creation was bestowed upon us:
Ladies and gentlemen, the Mary freakin’ Jane.
Later owned by Stark Candy Company and currently by classic confectionery outfit, Necco, this taffy sugar candy has lasted over 100 years. And with that legacy, comes a timelessness, as that maize and red wrapper signals a generationally-beloved goodie to dispense to adorable, grimey-fingered trick-or-treaters who crowd your doorstep come Halloweentime like packs of salivating wolves waiting to pounce on a raw porterhouse.
OF COURSE THEY’RE NOT, THEY STINK.
Simply put, Mary Janes are the scourge of the Halloween candy world.
If you’ve ever spent weeks picking out that perfect costume and hoofing your tired little feet all over the crunchy leaves of the neighborhood, the sweetest reward is coming back home to dump out your obnoxiously huge bag of hard-earned cavity-makers all over the rug to sort them out like some sort of supreme candy god.
Making piles and separating the goods from the not-so goods, here’s a few of the biggest offenders that will soon find a permanent home in your trashcan or chucked at your sister’s head:
- Good & Plenty: The dreadful licorice candy you can fortunately sell to deadheads as pills.
- Non-descript Black and Orange Wrapped Candies: I’d start gnawing on drywall for survival before I resorted to these.
- Bit-O-Honey: The candy that makes bees enjoy stinging us.
…and in that ill-fated batch of not-so-dandy candy, sits that same lone peanut we started with– mashed, smashed, and forever bound to molasses, with a one-way ticket to the Island of Misfit Candies.
Wow, that’s pretty harsh, right? That paints a cold, cold picture. Maybe even I’ve changed my own mind.
So, this October 31st, when you look in your plastic Halloween pumpkin and are sourly disappointed to see you walked up those steep stairs to a old lady’s mothball-ridden doorstep for a half-squashed Mary Jane instead of a colorful pack of delightful M&M’s, maybe it’s time to do some corn-syruped soul searching…
Perhaps there’s someone out there who will love the sweet journey of that poor peanut. Perhaps there’s a generation who hears “Mary Jane” and instantly doesn’t associate it with potheads sitting in a drum circle. Perhaps this is just a textbook case candy ageism, and we should respect our sugared elders, giving them a second chance. And perhaps come November 1st, an open mind will reward us with our new favorite treat.
And if that’s the case, please send me your address so I can mail all of mine to you, cause those things are gross.
HAPPY SNACKING EVERYONE!