Candy Corn, Gatorade, and the Poor
A seasonally-appropriate deep thought from today's New York Times:
"When the moneyed classes indulge in sugar, it's part of an acceptable leisure activity," [candy researcher Dr. Samira Kawash] said, chewing over the significance of high-end candy destinations like Dylan's Candy Bar.
"But when poor people do the same thing, it's considered pathological," she added, citing the current debate over using food stamps to buy soda, candy and other "bad" foods.
Kawash is right: The New York debate over the use of food stamps to purchase soda couldn't be a more perfect illustration of our mystical feelings about the badness of certain foods. As she notes in the article, "a serving of Gatorade contains about the same amount of sugar as a dozen pieces of candy corn." In New York, Gatorade might get caught in the net of forbidden sugar-added beverages if Bloomberg had his way, but milk, soy milk, and pure juice remain legit food stamp purchases, even though they are as calorific as soda.
Yet I'd wager most Times subscribers shudder at the thought of chowing down on a handful of the tricolor treats while feeling vaguely virtuous as they gulp their sports drinks—even in decidedly non-athletic contexts. And, as Kawash's research suggests, many who do eat candy corn feel disproportionately guilty about their nutritional negligence or perhaps secretly enjoy slumming with the corn syrup–consuming masses.
As fascinating as Kawash's Candy Professor blog is, I fear that we have moved on from the vilification of candy. The bleeding edge of "bad food" magical thinking is in the soda aisle these days. After all, you can buy candy corn with food stamps, too.
For more on the imagined unique evils of soda, go here.