In 2009, J.C. Reid (who now handles barbecue coverage for the Houston Chronicle) wrote a memorable post called "Top 5 Creepiest Halloween Candy" in which zit poppers, box of boogers and scab-a-roni were some of the attention-getting highlights.
In referencing the scab-a-roni (do they even make that anymore?), Reid poignantly wrote: "Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of our minds is the memory of that kid -- that one kid -- in junior high school who would quite un-self-consciously pick at the scab on his elbow and then pop it into his mouth."
Ah nostalgia! And in keeping with the spirit of the season we decided to take a stroll along the dark and haunted version of memory lane, peopled by a certain attraction for grossness and occasional lapses into healthiness. Read on.
In 2010, food writer John Seaborn Gray contributed a post about "Top 5 Worst Halloween Candies," in which he decried the practice of handing out hard butterscotch candies, wax bottles, Tootsie Rolls, candy corn or pumpkins and most of all" peanut butter salt water taffy.
Of special interest is his description of wax bottles:
"These atrocities are made of flavorless wax that you have to gnaw through in order to reach the sickening syrup inside. They taste of chemicals and are simply not worth the effort."
In 2011, our then food critic Katharine Shilcutt (now with Houstonia magazine) wrote about
Nik-L-Nip also made her list but others weren't so much gross as just seriously unwanted.
Besides jujubes, she picked out peanut butter bars, anything homemade and Dum Dums:
"Any candy that is given away for free at doctor's offices, bank lobbies and hair salons across the nation is not special, and therefore undeserving of being a Halloween treat. Does anyone really like Dum Dums anyway? Or do they just suck on the bland lollipops they fish out of a dusty bowl on a receptionist's desk just because they're there? It's difficult to imagine someone exclaiming, 'Dum Dums! Awesome! Let me see if they have my favorite flavor,
Also in 2011 another writer, freelance contributor Minh T. Truong gave us some guidance on the best Halloween candy -- for adults with "Treats Aren't Just For Kids: Top Five Halloween Candy for Adults.
Covering everything from pez to "anything shaped like a penis or boobs" to the completely understandable "chocolate liquor bottles," Truong declared that: "Kids don't have a monopoly over Halloween anymore -- it seems like every year adults are putting the kids to bed earlier so they can enjoy a little fun of their own."
A bit too late for Halloween, but because of Halloween, Shilcutt gave us this epically titled one in early November of 2012: "Go to Hell, Milk Duds: The 5 Foods Most Likely to Mess Up Your Mouth." The lead alone spread terror.
"On Halloween night, I sat at home having wine with two of my best friends. No trick-or-treaters ever come through our neighborhood, thanks to its close proximity to the county jail, so we were set for a quiet evening of drinking and cheese-bingeing. Until one friend pulled out the Halloween candy.
"Milk Duds sat atop the pile, beckoning in their tiny yellow box. I hadn't had a Milk Dud in years, but remembered the caramel inside the chocolate coating to be terribly sticky and dense. Yet I couldn't stop myself. I opened the box, and uttered these fateful words as I popped one single Milk Dud in my mouth: "I really shouldn't. These always get stuck in my fillings."
"Two chews later, the Milk Dud had ripped off a crown and taken half the tooth with it. Two days later, my dentist informed me the tooth would have to come out -- as would the molar above it -- requiring significant, expensive dental work. That bastard Milk Dud has now trumped Beluga caviar as the most expensive single bite of food I've ever consumed.
In 2013 food writer Joanna O'Leary gave us options. In a post entitled "Top 10 Best Chocolate Candies To Make Halloween Trick-or-Treaters Happy" O'Leary went for the tried and true with Chunky's, peanut M&Ms, Kit-Kats, and Snickers among others before reaching the crescendo with Hershey's Miniatures.
But then she gave us healthy alternatives, a post not as welcomed among our readers as the first. [Was this why her house was toilet-papered that year?]
In "Tired of Handing Out Candy on Halloween? Here Are Our Top 5 Alternative Treats," O'Leary summoned up memories of popcorn balls, juice boxes, 100 percent natural peanut butter clusters, pretzels and animal crackers.
It should be noted, that she drew the line at carrot sticks and circus peanuts.
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So now it's 2014, with many of the same candy and non-candy players in the game. We'll probably never match the delightful low points of 2009, the vintage that year was just so good.
But here's our declaration for the worst Halloween candy of 2014.
This story continues on the next page.
You can dress it up, but it's still what it is; now in an attempt at elegance, made more lethal than ever.