Circus Peanuts
What follows is an abbreviated version of my college application essay: Can I tell you about circus peanuts? It only takes a moment, and it’ll change your life. Circus peanuts are a paradox: they are colored like an orange, shaped like a peanut, and taste like something not quite like anything you’ve ever had before. Certainly not citrus—more like banana, or metal. Most people hate circus peanuts, unable to stomach the pillowy texture that fades to granulated sugar. If one is eating circus peanuts and a friend asks to try, it is almost not worth it to share. Inevitably, the friend will spit it out, and you will be out one of your peanuts. Rarely are they sought out for purchase; they lack the glamour of the high-profile brand candies, and pale in comparison to sweets bearing recognizable flavors. (Also, they look disgusting.) They are not peanuts, nor have they ever existed at any circus that I’ve been to. They lie in wait for someone’s idle curiosity to get the best of them. They will never go home. Go to CVS. Rush, rush to the circus peanuts. Grasp the package in your hands. Hold these soft, gelatinous vessels in your palm and contemplate the abyss. (I got into Wesleyan early admission!) —Lola

Sour Brite Crawlers (Trolli)
Unless I am in the mood for chocolate (AMIRITE LADIES), Trolli’s sour gummy worms are my first choice at 7-Eleven. I have lived on the same block with the same 7-Eleven my entire life, so I have Trolli worms a LOT. I literally got them today, just hours before writing this, totally forgetting that I would later be writing this. It’s fate! I am basically a character from Amélie! Anyway, when you make your own trip to your nearest convenience store to buy these worms because someone on the internet told you to, you might be tempted by the 99-cent store brand. DO NOT TRUST THEM. I’ve made that mistake more than once, and I’ve been disappointed every time. They taste like the sad, beige, half-melted version of Trolli worms. Like the Bon Iver of Trolli worms. (DISCLAIMER: I am not anti-Bon Iver, and his first album makes me cry very real tears.) When I think about all the neon sugar-creatures—sorry, SOUR BRITE CRAWLERS—that have gone through my body over the years, I feel as though each one has helped shape who I am today. —Tavi

Bat Dots (Tootsie Roll Industries)
Much as I love chocolate (and believe me, I love it A LOT), sometimes nothing hits the spot like chewy, fruit-flavored candy. This is why Dots have always been my go-to road trip/movie theater candy. They’re sweet but not heavy, and so perfectly bite-size. Last week, my mom, who knows my love of Dots as well as my deep passion for spooky, Halloween-y things, came over to feed my cat and left me a note saying there was a treat in the pantry. When I saw the familiar Dots logo on an unfamiliar black-and-orange package with a big bat on it, my world was rocked. BAT DOTS!!! They are the same shape and texture as regular Dots, but they are blood-orange-flavored (my favorite kind of orange!), and all of them are as black as Dracula’s hair. They’re soooo good, and they turn my tongue blue! I think I’m going to get a case of them so I can pretend it is Halloween forever. —Stephanie

Strawberry Pocky (Glico)
The picture on the box makes you think that there are going to be exquisite, tiny flakes of dried-up strawberries on this li’l stick of delish, so here is my question to Glico, the mysterious manufacturer of Pocky: WHERE ARE THEY? But who cares! I’ll eat anything sweet and artificial if it comes in the form of a stick. When I was a kid, one of my dream jobs was to be the person who gets to dip these little pretzel sticks into a vat of vomit-pink candy-coating. Dream big, kids. —Jenny

Men’s Pocky (Glico)
OK, this so-called “men’s Pocky” was kind of my ticket to dating in college. (Men’s Pocky is just regular Pocky, but instead of milk chocolate, you get dark chocolate.) Every time a cute boy came by my dorm room, I would whip out a packet of it, and my crush would inevitably be like, “Men’s Pocky? That’s hilarious!” And I’d be like, “I know!” And then my crush would be like, “What makes this Pocky so manly?” and I’d be like, “Who knows! Men are dark! Women make milk! HA HA HA!” and then passionate making out, etc. —Jenny

Halloween Orange and Chocolate Creams (See’s Candies)
Whenever I go to my friend Shaun’s house for dinner, I do this weird thing where I lean back on his couch, dangling my pointer finger to my mouth, and say, “Do you have anything sweet for MUH-REE?” He told our friend Aaron about this, so the last couple of times we all got together, Aaron brought me SUMTHIN SWEET. Most recently, he gave me these. I’m not an orange-flavor person by any means, but DAMN DIS STUFF IS GOOD! It’s super cute, too. Hello little ghosts and pumpkinies, come to my mouf. My only beef with these is that there are only TWO orange candies, and the other three are chocolate. —Marie

Lemonhead (Ferrara Pan)
This is a candy so intense that when you find someone else who can eat them without wincing, you basically adopt each other and form a new family. I survived on this tart little candy throughout my 20s, and I’m pretty sure I singlehandedly financed quite a few lavish vacations for my dentist as a result. (Brush your teeth a lot if you eat these, because the sugar literally lodges itself in every possible hard-to-reach space.) This is the perfect candy to bring to the movie theater—it’s both sweet and tart, and you can still get tiny boxes for 25 cents (these you should immediately jam in your pockets so the ticket-rippers are none the wiser). And not that you SHOULD, but you COULD also use them as little pellet-size weapons—the inside is chewy, but the outside is as hard as a jawbreaker. (You know how, in cartoons, people spill marbles so the bad guys will slip and fall? This is like the candy version of those marbles.) If you want to see how sausage is made, check out the Lemonhead site, which is another topic entirely. —Danielle

Pretzel M&M’s (Mars)
Can’t M&M’s leave well enough alone? Apparently not. The makers of the greatest candy on earth—the Peanut M&M—keep trying to make new sorts of M&M’s, almond and coconut and dark chocolate. Why? After Muhammad Ali clinched the Thrilla in Manila, he didn’t go on to kickboxing and wrestling and jousting and all other forms of hitting people in the face. No. He knew he was the greatest, and had the strength of character to believe that was good enough. Do M&M’s think we’re getting bored with the greatest candy ever and they need a new haircut and a cute new outfit? That is beneath M&M’s. Or, it should be. For all these reasons, I was prepared to despise Pretzel M&M’s on principle. But when I tried them today I was surprised to discover that they’re actually not so bad! Most important fact about Pretzel M&M’s: they do not taste much like pretzel. Second-most-important fact: they are not salty, as advertised on the package. The package is a lie. But they’re satisfyingly crunchy, and very close in taste to a completely different and wonderful candy: a malted milk ball. I’d eat these again. I would. But only if there were no Peanut M&M’s available. —Ira Glass

Whoppers (Hershey’s)
What the heck is malt anyway? I found myself asking this question recently, while popping Whoppers out of a milk-carton-like box and dreaming of my favorite soda-fountain concoction: ice cream, chocolate, and malt powder. Why is this chalky, tangy dust, made from the same ingredient as the cheapest alcohol available at the corner store, so satisfying? Why do I love to eat small orbs of it ensconced in a shell of crappy chocolate? Apparently, the flavor of the malt shops of my fantasy mid-century childhood comes from a combination of malted barley, wheat flour, and milk, which is evaporated into a powder. Roll that in a ball, coat it in chocolate, and then it’s a Whopper. I feel weird about this knowledge. Evaporated milk and wheat granules? Ew. I’ll never know why Whoppers are so good, but hopefully we can all forget about what we just learned together and continue enjoying these classic malted milk balls, wistful for the soda-fountain childhood we never had. —Dylan

Sun Cups (Seth Ellis Chocolatier)
There ain’t a wetter blanket than a talk about food allergies…so most of us who’ve been dealing with them for a while shut up, and then secretly rejoice when an edible version of something delicious and beloved that was previously off-limits shows up in the weird-food section. And only a select few of us know how good they are—everyone else thinks “gluten” is a flavor, so they leave our special discoveries alone. Probably my most treasured, commercially available treat is Sun Cups. Not only are they made of chocolate and sunflower dreams (aka sunflower butter), they also learned from Reese’s’ cupping mistakes: they dialed down the sugar, added a bit more salt, and there are no annoying side effects like going to the hospital because you’re dying from eating a peanut. —Liz Armstrong

Chocolate Eyeballs
Chocolate eyeballs are great in SO many different ways. Before you even eat them you can play “Would this eyeball fit in my socket?,” “Can I get the foil wrapping off all in one piece?,” and many other games. I happen to find them just the right size for my mouth, and candies that are a perfect circle always make me happy for some reason. Last year, I grabbed a handful and just flung them round my room. They roll a lot, so throughout November I kept finding them in the oddest of places, and it was nice to find all these little eyes that doubled as a snack. They just kind of melt in your mouth, like how I imagine A REAL EYE WOULD MWAHAHAHA. —Caitlin

Tootsie Flavor Rolls (Tootsie Roll Industries)
There are only three things in life that are certain: death, taxes, and a sad smattering of flavored Tootsie Rolls in your Halloween candy haul. No one talks about the humble Flavor Rolls, but they inevitably appear at Halloween and then vanish overnight, as if they had never been. Where do they come from? Why do only old ladies hand them out? What the hell is up with the horrible, horrible vanilla flavor? Flavor Rolls are the shape and consistency of regular Tootsie Rolls, but that’s where the similarity ends. They come in really random flavors, from (awesome!!!) orange to (surprisingly good!) lemon to totally mediocre cherry, and they taste like very bland pieces of Laffy Taffy. Adding to their weirdness, there’s something—don’t gag here—milky about them. Also, they make you drool. I don’t know why. —Krista

Chocolate Marshmallow Pumpkin (Russell Stover)
My parents have lived in the same house for more than 30 years, and their next-door neighbor is a lovely woman who has, over these three decades, become a member of our family. Ever since I can remember, she has ushered in each holiday season by presenting my sisters and me with a Russell Stover marshmallow something-or-other. My favorite would have to be the delicious milk-chocolate marshmallow pumpkin, a giant wad of marshmallow coated in a crackly shell of choco-goodness. It is the type of treat that you can only eat a few times a year, because it’s basically a sugar bomb. They are best if you put them in the refrigerator and let them get slightly cold. It looks and, in my imagination, tastes like something you could buy from the sweets cart on the Hogwarts Express. They are only available for a limited time, but if you do happen to fall in love with them, don’t despair—a shipment of chocolate marshmallow Santas and snowmen is most likely already on its way to a store near you. —Pixie

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate (Hershey’s)
I’ve always associated Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars with the smell of smoke, the sound of a campfire, the crunch of graham crackers, and the molten gooeyness of charred marshmallows. (Why can I never figure out how to roast marshmallows in a campfire without burning them?) It was only recently that I realized that I’d NEVER EATEN ONE outside the context of camping. I was in a grocery store, wandering through the aisles, and I came across that familiar silvery label. Why not? I thought. I tossed one in the basket. I ate it in the car. I was shocked by how delicious it was—even without the rest of the s’more. Sweet and mild and a little smoky. Although maybe that smokiness was conjured, somehow, by my imagination? —Pauls Toutonghi

Pet Crocodile (Jelly Belly)
Oh, you like gummy bears, eh? You like Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids and all things gummy??? Neat. Did you know you can get GUMMIES THE SIZE OF YOUR FOREARM? Yes! There are super-size gummies out there, and one of my particular favorites is the Jelly Belly Pet Crocodile, which is over a foot long and about as heavy as a juice box. These used to be my treat when I would spend a Saturday running errands with my mom, and ohhhmigod, getting one of these giant gummy crocodiles is bliss. You spend forever choosing the crocodile with the best marbling of colors and flavors (not too much lime, lots of translucent red and yellow, thank you), and then you sit in the car and poke its wonderful squishiness, putting off the sweet, sweet moment when you’ll tear open the package and slide your heavy, strangely greasy, pristine crocodile out of it. There is always an odd sugar dust coating the surface of the croc, and you hesitate as it droops over your palm. Do you eat the snout first? Chomp off the leg? Slowly suck the tail until it glistens with your sugary spit? You nibble off a piece of your croc’s arm. Heaven. You get about one third of the way through the crocodile, and then…you can’t eat any more. You can’t even look at it. You slide it back into its package, vowing to eat some later, but guess what? You never will. You’ll find it under your bed three months later, a gummy croc-rock. —Krista ♦