The sophisticated candy counter

WHILE shopping in the supermarket the other day, I stopped at the candy section. I don't do this often, because I don't easily recognize candy anymore. For one thing, children no longer gathered around the candy display. Candy has become an adult commodity. The packaging, the size, the price, as well as the advertising slant on television, are for a grown-up market. Candy is for the tired housewife or the construction worker who needs a hearty chunk of something to tide him over on the job.

Once upon a time children bought candy at the ``candy'' store, or ``school'' store (usually found near the grammar school), where tantalizing sweets could be selected from a display case and acquired for a penny or so. A nickel for candy was nothing less than an orgy.

Unlike the supermarketing techniques of today, candy was unsophisticated. Candymakers were old-fashioned and had the naive idea that candy was for the eight-year-old, appealing to their income bracket as well as their imagination.

Of course this was in simpler times, before people went around poisoning food on the shelves and before the Food and Drug Administration saw the sanitary necessity of putting everything in three layers of plastic. Candy was enticingly unwrapped. For 1 cent a kid could buy long strips of paper with little candy pellets pasted on it, which were bitten off one by one. There were little wax bottles with syrup inside. One could bite off the top and drink the syrup, or one could chew the whole mess together.

In addition there were sour balls, ``red hots'' (jawbreakers with a hot center), snowballs, 1 cent Tootsie Rolls, and a gelatinous chewy candy made in the shape of coins or ``babies.'' Licorice ``whips'' were also a cent, as well as a sugary confection in a teeny-weeny tin pie plate which was eaten with a teeny-weeny tin spoon. One can still buy those little multicolored hearts with ``Oh you baby'' or ``Be my Valentine'' printed on them, but not in the penny-a-scoop category. The selection went on endlessly.

As I said, I stopped in front of the candy counter recently and hardly recognized it. I did get a package of beautifully wrapped candy bars for $1.40. The package had listed all the calories and daily requirements of thiamine, niacin, iron, etc., as well as about 15 ingredients. I eat only sophisticated candy now.

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