Monday, October 4, 2021

Candy Corn Calamities by Maya Corrigan-Potluck Monday


1950 was a really bad year for candy corn. This iconic Halloween treat with its autumn colors has a scary history. Like chocolate bars, marshmallows, and other familiar sweets, candy corn was a product of the 19th century. The Wunderle Company, where it was first made, called the candy “chicken corn.” In 1898 Wunderle sold the recipe to the Goelitz Confectionery Company, later renamed Jelly Belly. Goelitz mass-produced and marketed the candy as “chicken feed” in boxes with a picture of a rooster and the slogan: “Something worth crowing for." Growing up as a baby boomer, my friends and I called the treat chicken feed. The candy was so popular that other manufacturers made tri-color sweets in the shape of corn kernels with little variation from the original recipe.

The glossy appearance of candy corn is the result of confectioner’s wax as an ingredient. On Sept 9, 1950, a wax-lined kettle caught fire at the Goelitz candy factory in Midland Park, New Jersey. The fire consumed the block-long factory building and burned for days near a residential neighborhood. Because burning candy makes a really hot fire, people had to hose down their houses to keep them cool. The factory workers emerged safely, but 2,000 or so pounds of candy corn perished in the inferno. With the factory destroyed, Goelitz could not fulfill all its candy corn orders in time for Halloween. Its competitors, like Brachs, stepped up their production to meet the demand. Brachs and Jelly Belly remain the leading producers of candy corn today. 

The factory fire wasn’t the only calamity involving candy corn that year.  An article in Slate by Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoners Handbook, describes what happened to those who over-indulged in Halloween sweets in 1950. After eating candy corn, mellow cream pumpkins, and popcorn balls, children across the country exhibited rashes and gastrointestinal problems. Investigators concluded that the problem was with the dye that went into those products. Orange Dye No. 1 had been approved in the early 20th century and used liberally in candy, cakes, soft drinks, and even hot dogs for decades. But after the 1950 Halloween incident, the FDA investigated that dye and other coal-tar dyes, concluded they were toxic, and removed them from the approved list. Safer dyes are now used in candy and other processed food, so you can eat your candy corn with nothing to fear except the calorie count and tooth decay. Not that I want to spoil your Halloween, I say, stirring my cauldron. 

Rather than end on that witchy note, I'll add the good news: You can still enter a raffle for four books by leaving a comment on yesterday's post about the change of seasons. One of the books in the giveaway is my 6th Five-Ingredient Mystery, Crypt Suzette, a Halloween mystery with candy corn on the cover. The other books are by Vicki Delany, Mary Jane Maffini, and Tina Kashian. Be sure to include your e-mail address with your comment on that post so you can be notified if you're the winner.

People seem to either love or hate candy corn. How do you feel about it? 
Yum or Yuck




When a murder masquerades as an accident, Granddad's ghost-busting and Val's foray into a haunted house turn up clues to the killer.

As Val caters a Halloween party at Bayport’s bookshop, a group of would-be writers, the Fictionistas, compete in the costume contest. One of them, the secretive Suzette, rents a spare room from Granddad. When she’s found dead after a hit-and-run, the Fictionistas accuse one other of murder. Did one of them kill her or was her death rooted in the past she’d worked hard to escape? Val and Granddad must pull off a Halloween ruse to rip the mask off a murderer.


"Granddad is a hoot to live with, and his jobs as a food reviewer and part-time detective provide endless possibilities for fun and murder." -- Kirkus Review of Crypt Suzette


🍁🍂🍁

Maya Corrigan writes the Five-Ingredient Mysteries featuring café manger Val and her live-wire grandfather solving murders in a Chesapeake Bay town. Maya lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. Before writing crime fiction, she taught American literature, writing, and detective fiction at Northern Virginia Community College and Georgetown University. When not reading and writing, she enjoys theater, travel, trivia, cooking, and crosswords.

Visit her website to sign up for her newsletter. One subscriber wins a book each time a newsletter goes out. Check out the easy recipes, mystery history and trivia, and a free culinary mystery story on the website.


Book covers of the 7 Five-Ingredient Mysteries by Maya Corrigan


Happy Fall! 🍁🍂🍁

28 comments:

  1. Having eaten half a bag of candy corn while watching Call the Midwife" (it's back!!!) last night, I can only say -- best Halloween candy ever.

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    1. You had a good night! Thanks for commenting, Amy.

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  2. I've always liked harvest corn, the kind of candy corn that has the chocolate part. Last year I bought a special jar to display the harvest corn, and my grandchildren seemed to love it. This year, the first time I gave them candy corn, my daughter-in-law told me they were both coughing in the car afterwards, and both decided they don't like candy corn--too hard to eat. I don't know if they are doing something different with the harvest corn this year, but I am more wary of eating it! mbunting(at)sbcglobal(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for sharing that story about harvest corn this year. Similarly, I wondered if something different had been done to cause the negative reactions to Halloween sweets in 1950.

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  3. What a fascinating story, Maya--thank you!

    I've never been a fan of candy corn--way too sweet for me. It's like eating high fructose corn syrup straight, with no chaser...

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    1. I agree, Leslie. I didn't mind it when I was a kid, but sweet stuff has less appeal now.

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  4. So interesting, Maya! For a nanosecond, though, when I read the post's title, I thought it said Candy Corn Calamites, and I pictured you making replicas of paleozoic plants out of candy corn. Now I think I need to try doing that. :)

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    1. So funny! I had to look up the meaning of calamites. Thanks for adding to my vocabulary, Molly!

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  5. Love it! I look forward to it, and I have a recipe using candy corn to make homemade butterfingers that I want to try.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Alicia. That sounds like an interesting recipe.

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  6. My granddaughter (5) loves candy corn. Her mother does not.
    I'd rather use my calorie allotment for something more interesting like dark chocolate!

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    1. I agree totally about preferring to get my calories from chocolate rather than candy corn. ~Maya

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  7. Love the story, Maya! I like candy corn and pumpkins -- in very small doses, once a year. I buy one small bag, fill the ceramic pumpkin my mother made, and when it's empty, that's the end.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Leslie. We buy one bag of candy corn around Halloween. Fortunately, my husband gobbles it all up within days! I might eat a few for nostalgia's sake, but I have to be quick about it.

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    2. I love candy corn. I am 72 and I have always liked candy. Each holiday has special candy. My granddaughter likes it too.

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  8. I am not a candy corn fan at all. One of the few sweets I avoid at all costs.

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    1. I'm not a fan either, Mark. Thanks for commenting.

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  9. I used to love candy corn, harvest mix, pumpkins, all of it! But somewhere along the way I lost my hankering for all that sugar. Nostalgic for candy corn, but no thanks!

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  10. Interesting history. thanks for sharing. I love candy corn, especially the pumpkins. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

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  11. I liked the classic mix as a child but these days I can only take so much waxy sugary goodness, although I have seen where Brach's makes a mix that includes chocolate covered peanuts that would add a nice bit of crunch, chocolate, and maybe a smidge of salt.

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  12. Nope, I was never a big fan, but did occasionally eat just the chocolate part of Harvest corn. Otherwise,candy corn has always tasted too sweet and waxy to me. I'd rather have real chocolate!

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    1. Hi, Lynn. Thanks for your comment. Chocolate beats candy corn for me too!

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  13. I am totally devoted to your 5-ingredient mysteries! I love them! I like the stories & I like the recipes because they do not overwhelm me. My cooking skills are limited as a result of not really liking to cook! I like candy corn although my mother wasn't keen on letting me have it except at Halloween! As a kid I loved Fall because the coming of Autumn meant Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas were on their way. Today Fall is my favorite season for that same reason. My routine changes a bit when the time changes, causing me to come in from the front porch a bit earlier than I do during Daylight Savings Time but that's a small enough price to pay for cooler temps, Fall foliage & the holiday season. lnchudej@yahoo.com

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  14. Thank you, Linda, for your comment and your kind words about my books. As you can probably guess, I'm a fan of easy recipes too!

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  15. I can eat about 5 pieces and that is my limit. It is too sweet!

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  16. For me, I would say that candy corn is Yum-ish. I don't hate candy corn, but I don't love it. I could eat a few pieces of candy corn or a few pieces of the Thanksgiving mix, but that's enough for me. Really, candy corn and the similar Thanksgiving Mix candies actually look better than they taste. Truly, I'd rather spend my candy related calories on a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup! It was interesting to learn a little bit about the history of candy corn - thank you!

    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

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