Natawurly, proprietress of the CurlyWurlyGurly blog, has issued a challenge to her regular readers. Come to think of it, I guess it’s open to her irregular readers too, which means that I’m obligated to participate. This from the woman who precociously in grade school informed the teacher that “I [didn't] have my homework because the dog ate my conscience.”  (Fifth grade, I kid you not.)  In a nutshell (preferably a filbert loaded with nutella), the challenge is thus:

“The WORST candy in the history of mankind has to be  ______ .”

courtesy Posteritati

courtesy Posteritati

I won’t lie. I thought about alternate, “clever” ways to subvert the challenge. I thought of the 1968 movie Candy adapted from Terry Southern’s novel; it was a flop even though its pedigree was enviable (inspired by Volatire’s Candide, screenplay by Buck Henry, starring Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, John Astin (Gomez Addams, swoon), John Huston, James Coburn, Ringo Starr, Charles Aznavour, Richard Burton, and, uhm, former Miss Teen Sweden Ewa Aulin). Despite its flopdom, it was nowhere close to being the worst anything in the history of anything. I thought of Dutch smooth-jazz saxophone goddess Candy Dulfer. I thought of Andy-Warhol’s-Factory-Regular Candy Darling. I thought of CNN correspondent Candy Crowley. And many others. Whatever their flaws, none are so horribly afflicted so as to be even remotely considered to be the worst anything in the history of mankind. So I was doomed to play it straight.

Another blogger immediately responded with circus peanuts, which might have been my choice were it not for the fact that circus peanuts are completely inedible and not fit for consumption, human or otherwise. Ha! They are obviously not candy but some bizarre souveneirs that someone decided are supposed to be eaten. The great P.T. Barnum, circusman extraordinaire, did say that “there’s a sucker born every minute.”  My theory is that circus peanuts are designer packing peanuts.

A popular choice (so far) among respondents is licorice. Beg pardon, but licorice is great. Black licorice. Not this Twizzler red/cherry/strawberry/watermelon abomination, but traditional black licorice. We don’t have to go as far as sucking on actual licorice root, but even that isn’t so bad, truth be told. I also like anise and fennel. That said, there is a certain variety of licorice (or liquorice) that I find truly abhorrent: salmiakki.

Salmiakki is also known as “salt licorice” or “double-salt licorice” and is popular in Scandinavian and Baltic countries. Imagine licorice candy with less sugar and an insane amount of salt. But this isn’t even regular salt (NaCl). It’s ammonium chloride, NH4Cl, which still tastes “salty” but nonetheless different than the sodium chloride table salt we’re used to.

Double Salt Licorice

Did I mention that they use something called “carbon black” as a coloring agent? >shudder<

Salt licorice, however is not the worst candy in the history of mankind. Another contender, still not the winner, mind you, is the blue M&M.

“What could be so dreadful about the blue M&M,” you ask?
I’m glad you asked.
“Why,” you ask?
“Because I’ll tell you,” I answer.

Of course, blue M&Ms taste no different from their other-hued siblings, but as documented by me and others elsewhere, the blue M&M by popular vote in 1995 replaced the tan M&M. The only thing that saves the blue M&M from being the WCITHOM is that it was preordained by the Martian powers-that-be that the tan M&M was going to be replaced anyway. It could just as easily have been either of the other candidates, pink or purple. Even though the other potential infractors’ defense is kind of flimsy, I just can’t bring myself to castigate the blue M&M to worst-candy-ever status. It still tastes good, after all. Maybe it can be honorary most evil candy ever.

So, after all this exegesis, what, what is my choice for worst candy in the history of mankind? I humbly offer the Mary Jane candy.

photoograph by Joshuacw@Flickr

photoograph by Joshuacw@Flickr

Where, oh where, to begin? Let’s start at the surface. The wrapper. The Mary Jane wrapper is not a wonderful, nostalgic design artifact from days of yore. It is ugly and has always been ugly, from the color combination to the typeface to the illustration. It’s flat-out piss-poor from stem to stern. That the object tightly wrapped inside is often dinged or otherwise misshapen doesn’t help matters. Originated in 1914, the Mary Jane candy predates the term  “mary jane” as slang for marijuana (1918, from mariguan (1894, in turn from marihuana, origin uncertain)) and, although disgusting, is not hemp-flavored. In fact this particular confection is supposedly “a peanut butter and molasses flavored taffy-type candy with peanut butter in the center.” Right.

As far as I can tell, the Mary Jane candy was created for no other purpose than to keep dentists in business. If you have no cavities, these babies will assuredly oblige you with some chasmic bliss lickety-split. If you do have cavities and they’ve been attended to by a dentist, then it is without a doubt that Mary Janes will extract those fillings faster than you can say “Ow, ow, OWWWW!”