I lived in the US until I was seven, and Halloween was an occasion we celebrated with gusto. My mum once came second in a neighbourhood pumpkin carving contest (by using a pair of Minnie Mouse ears) and one year we turned our garage into a haunted house. We spent months thinking about our costumes and decorations, and I trick-or-treated with the best of them.
Trick-or-treating quickly makes you an expert on sweets, and candy corn was the good s--t. Little lumps of orange and yellow goodness, doled out into our treat buckets by the handful. I wasn’t interested in your Minties or lollypops; they took too long to get through. Candy corn is small, soft, easy to chew, and basically made for kids who want to eat their own bodyweight in Halloween-themed sweets in the shortest possible amount of time. It was my absolute favourite. Accept no substitutes.
We moved to Australia just after my seventh birthday, and that’s when my love affair with Halloween ended. Twenty years ago supermarkets did not stock special Halloween lollies and decorations, nobody went trick-or-treating (I tried one year and I got nothing but fruit, old Easter eggs, and a lot of telling off), and none of my new friends had even heard of candy corn.
Fourteen years would pass before I had the chance to taste it again, and in that time I told countless people what a tragedy it was that candy corn wasn’t available in Australia. I told them it was my favourite sweet of all time, the best thing I’d ever tasted, and made sure they knew they’d never eaten “proper” candy.
And then, at the age of 21, I was in the US again for Halloween. Finally. I bought myself an enormous bag of candy corn, a huge, enough-to-feed-the-whole-neighbourhood bag of the stuff. I didn’t even make it home—I opened it up in the front seat of my car, put a little piece into my mouth and started chewing. I was just so happy I could hardly stand it.
And then I realised it was awful.
Not just a little bit awful, but really awful. Like chewing on dried plaster or old Play-doh. I tried another piece to be sure, because maybe I’d just gotten a bad bit. But no, they were all identically horrible. It didn’t even have a flavour—it was just a solid mass of high-fructose corn syrup and wax died vaguely autumnal colours. Like eating a candle, but less delicious. I felt like my entire childhood was a lie.
Now that American candy is more readily available in Australia, people who knew me growing up will quite often buy me some candy corn. They remember me banging on about it, and so they see some and they think of me. It’s so nice and so thoughtful that I’ve been too embarrassed to admit that the thing I raved about for so long is actually completely vile. I’ve been pretending to still love candy corn for years. But now is the time to admit it, to come clean. Candy corn is disgusting.
JOSIE STEELE, MELBOURNE