Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins

Illustration of Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins.

“It makes you feel so OLD, doesn’t it?”

If you call Reese’s (and you should) someone will answer the phone and tell you anything you want to know about peanut butter cups. Maybe there’s a limit to what you can ask them, but I kinda doubt it. 

I called to verify a date, because Wikipedia claims that Peanut Butter Pumpkins were introduced in 1993, which couldn’t possibly be true. Peanut Butter Pumpkins are younger than Selena Gomez? It can’t be! Anyway, the rep informed me that the Pumpkins were, in fact, introduced in 1993. She listened to my protestations of shock and gently interjected “It makes you feel so OLD doesn’t it?” I hung up the phone and all of my illusions of youth. 

Anyway, original peanut butter cups were invented in 1928 in the basement of Hershey candy company employee H.B. Reese. The name of the product was “Penny Cups” because that’s what they cost at the time. (Now we can all feel young again!) They sold so well that Reese discontinued his other candies and put all of his eggs in the Peanut Butter Cup basket. I know we’re supposed to be talking about Halloween, but speaking of eggs and baskets, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs were introduced as the first seasonal variation in 1967. Then came Pumpkins and Christmas Trees in 1993, and Hearts in 1997.

The seasonal shapes of Reese’s treats are arguably the best, because the peanut butter to chocolate ratio is higher. Also, original peanut butter cups have those ridges at the edge, and while they’re adorable, they’re the “crust” of the candy and throw off the whole texture/balance of the experience. Some folks may disagree with me here, so I’ll add that seasonal Reese’s are bigger than regular cups and therefore superior. I rest my case. 

In the hierarchy of Halloween Reese’s, Pumpkin is best, then full sized cup, then Reese’s Pieces, then mini cup. The Reese’s candy cars are their own thing and should be classified among other candy bars (Fast Break>Mr. Goodbar, etc.)

Whatever your favorite candy, I hope you get some for Halloween. Or maybe the day after, when it will certainly be on sale.

PEZ

A triptych of Halloween Pez: Skull, Pumpkin and Witch.

“An easier way to eat candy.”

PEZ are a year-round treat, but there is something VERY “Halloween” about snapping someone’s neck back and eating candy from their throat, so we may as well talk about them.

There are a handful of candies that are elevated by their method of delivery. Fun Dip is, for instance, just loose Pixy Stick dust that you lick off that weird white bar. And who would eat the beads of a candy necklace if they didn’t come on an elastic string? Even a lollipop is just a hard candy on a stick. But there is NO candy that comes with as many exciting accessories as PEZ. 

The dispenser was originally invented to make PEZ more convenient to eat. Before that, you had to open a tin, take one out, manually put it in your mouth, and close the tin. That’s a ton of work for a 3 calorie snack. What’s worse? They were marketing this to people trying to quit smoking! I’m pretty sure people who are trying to quit smoking don’t need more aggravation. There had to be a better way!

Anyway, they invented the dispenser in 1949, and it looked just like a cigarette lighter. You know, so your smoking friends wouldn’t think you were uncool for trying to quit. However, Americans DID think it was uncool to quit smoking, so PEZ swung its marketing around to focus on small children, most of whom did not smoke. The first character-head PEZ dispenser was a witch, which brings us full circle on that whole Halloween theme. 

To date, there have been over 1500 Pez dispenser designs, which means that this year, you can probably find one to match your costume. 

PS: An early ad campaign for the dispensers really went hard on the idea of eating this candy with ONE HAND. Which immediately made me think about eating candy with BOTH HANDS: grasping a king-size Butterfinger and nibbling it lengthwise like a corncob. If you have further thoughts about two-handed candy eating, I’d love to hear ‘em.

Peeps Ghosts

A black and white illustration of marshmallow peeps.

“The year there were no Peeps.”

Last year, a great tragedy befell candy fans: the complete absence of Halloween Peeps. Just Born (the company that produces these cuties) suspended production due to the pandemic, and everyone took a moment to mark the NO PEEPS square on their 2020 disasters bingo card.  

Granted, you could still get Peeps chicks during the Easter season, but for those of us who wait each year to eat an entire sheet of marshmallow ghosts, it was cold comfort. 

This year, we’re rewarded for our patience with 5 great Halloween Peeps varieties: Mild-Mannered Pumpkin, Sneaky-as-Hell Cat, Empathetic Frankenstein’s Monster, Enthusiastic Ghost, and Blankly-Staring Candy Skull. (Descriptors are mine, but swipe for a pic and see if you disagree.)

They’re all great, because they’re all marshmallow snacks coated with granulated sugar. I just found out that their facial features are made of carnauba wax, and that made me like them even more. 

Some folks like their Peeps soft and fresh, and some like them on the crunchy side, but I can’t choose, so I’ll continue to buy trays of them, loving the soft ones at the beginning just as much as I love the crunchy ones I get to a few days later.

Wax Fangs

A pair of wax fangs. on a spooky stage with bats and things.

“There’s nothing you cannot do with paraffin.”

The best thing about getting wax fangs for trick-or-treat is that they’re an instant costume game-changer. Are you a witch? Now you’re a vampire witch! A Ninja Turtle? Vampire Ninja Turtle! A slice of pizza?…You get my drift. 

We owe the existence of this superior treat to the petroleum industry. See, Americans are at their best when they are trying to make money out of what would otherwise be trash. Paraffin wax is the byproduct left over from refining oil, and inventive folks used it to create some of my favorite things: crayons, petroleum jelly, and wax fangs. 

Now, paraffin is a food-grade wax, but you are SUPPOSED to chew it like gum, not eat it like candy. Actually eating your wax fangs may cause digestive upset, which really puts a damper on Halloween.

This year, I hope your costume starts off great, and is then improved by a pair of wax fangs. Happy chewing!

Necco Wafers

Black and white Illustration of Necco Wafers in an ornate frame.

“There are no bad candies.”

Every year, a bunch of smart alecks make lists of the worst Halloween candy, and every year, Necco Wafers are right at the top.

Invented in Boston in 1847, these sugar wafers really haven’t changed much. They are brittle and powdery, and if you shatter one, it’s capable of inflicting a painful wound. (Ask me how I know.)

The Necco Wafer may not be the sexiest Halloween candy, but it’s the perfect candy for New England, because if you’ve ever been here, you know that we love to have something to complain about. Mild suffering is a recognized hobby. We’ll even complain about free candy!

In this household, we remembered that Necco Wafers were sort of flavorless, so we bought some and did a tasting. WE WERE WRONG. Orange, Lime, Cinnamon, Wintergreen, and Chocolate are all distinct. Lemon is a little mild, but you can get it if you concentrate. Clove and Licorice are…pretty overwhelming. I wanted to spit them out, but I held on, and I’m stronger for it. Maybe we got a fresh batch, but I’ll certainly never call Necco Wafers flavorless again. 

In closing: There are no bad candies. Candy is a good thing. There are candies you eat first, and candies you eat later. Then there are candies you discover when you swore you were out of candy.