I have a preoccupation with nostalgia because I’m convinced that once I master time travel I’ll know more about the 80’s than the people in the 80’s when I get there, and I’ll have an iPhone, so I’ll be elected King and get tons of 80’s tang. But that’s really only tangentially related to this article. This is mostly about awesome candy.
Once I hit adulthood, which is to say the legal department at Break has assured me I have no stories about underaged drinking and even if I did it would not be prudent to really get into them, my love of candy really faded away. But as a kid I had quite the palate for hyperactivity-inducing shit. Do they still make all this stuff? I don’t know but I haven’t seen them in years. And I miss them. Because they were awesome.
Lik-m-Aid Fun Dip
This was one of those ideas that was so simple it was almost mind boggling. It was a paper envelope filled with sugar and citric acid and some flavoring. You slobbered on a candy stick and jammed it into said sugar, and then sucked the sugar off the candy stick. Repeat. F*ck, that’s brilliant.
Like the geniuses behind Pixie Stix, you have to admire the ingenuity of simply putting sugar in a package and selling it to kids as a treat. Did you ever try to eat a spoonful of sugar at home? My mom smacked my head with a wooden spoon for that, and it was before wooden spoon smacks were considered child abuse so it was OK. The Lik-m-Aid people took it one step further by actually creating a piece of low budget candy in the form of a pink tongue depressor that you had to use, in conjunction with your own spit, to actually eat the rest of the product. So it was spit and sugar and, despite that sounding like a recipe for both hobo wine and hobo lube, it was delicious and fantastic.
Big League Chew
I’m fairly certain this gum was either lauded for convincing kids to stay away from chewing tobacco or condemned for being a gateway to it. In any event it parodied the sacks of chewing tobacco all our favorite ball players used to gnaw on back in the 50’s. Seriously, do you remember seeing dudes do this? We’re talking Yastremski-era ball players here.
Big League Chew, like delicious tobacco, came in a sack, in strips. Unlike tobacco, it caused very little tongue cancer, and was gum. So it was just a big mass of gum strips you jammed in your hole and, to a kid, that’s pretty fantastic. As an adult, I still have a respect for sticky things you jam in your hole. God, what a crappy joke.
I find it hard to believe this isn’t made still but none of the ghetto stores in my budget neighborhood carry it, probably because the reason I remember it being awesome was because if you peeled the tiny ropes of licorice apart in your hand, you made yourself a really rudimentary cat-o-nine tails. And that, of course, lead to many a whipping amongst friends. Did it taste good? I don’t know, but it was grade-school level S&M training. That’s impressive.
Another from the cancerous candy set, these were both awesome and terrible at the same time. They came in tiny packages like fancy boy cigarettes and featured images of faraway lands like Paris, Egypt or the home of someone who cares for you. Inside was about a dozen chocolate cigarettes individually wrapped in white paper that you could never, ever peel off. For some reason stores only stocked them about 3 times a year, and when they showed up I was forced to buy them, even though I never managed to eat a single one without consuming a small amount of the nefarious Chinese paper wrapped around them. I figured it’d get soggy and I could spit it out, but usually I ended up swallowing it. I probably have the better part of an entire newspaper lodged in some area of my colon to this day.
This candy upped the Pop Rocks ante by jamming fizzy candy inside hard candy that would otherwise be the shit you throw away on Halloween to make room for literally anything else. Plus it came in strips that were a good 5 feet long. Half the appeal of candy is really the marketing, and the best way to market candy is by making it look huge. People like big things, ask a dildo maker. Or my mom.
Astropop exploited the lucrative phallus appeal of candy by giving you a “rocket” shaped candy on a stick. The thing about symbolism is that you can pretty much pretend anything that’s longer than it is wide is a phallus, just got into a feminist film criticism class and you’ll learn people are basically phallic symbols, it’s great. Except for fatties. They’re vaginas.
Astropop came in three flavors best identified as green, red and yellow. They may have been inspired by a fruit at some point but sugar cane was the winner in the flavor throwdown. At the bottom a wax plug stopped you from gagging yourself on the stick, so they were concerned for your safety, which is nice. Despite these apparent drawbacks, you need to keep in mind it was like a candy lance and it came in three colors. When you’re , that’s as awesome as a flat screen that shoots out chicken wings and boobs.
To this day I don’t understand the appeal of food that hurts you but nonetheless people enjoy hot sauce that melts your anus upon exit and candy that basically causes a mild chemical burn in your mouth.
Sour candies get their delightful sour quality from citric acid. Acid. Sure it’s very common and even exists in your favorite citrus fruits, hence the name, but in an orange it isn’t in a concentrated powdered form that makes you cry. Also, and this is a fun side note, most citric acid used in food production is cultivated from black mold, also known as the stuff that grows around the base of toilets and such in low rent apartments. Delicious.
I knew none of that when I was 10 and tried to fit as many tearjerkers in my mouth as I could. I did, however, end up losing a layer of skin in my mouth. It was awesome.