When I was in sixth grade, my best friend was a Jehovah’s Witness. Whenever we had holiday festivities or birthday parties, Travis couldn’t participate and always missed out on the sweets. One day around Easter, a kid named Greg was eating some candy at snack time. Travis asked for a piece. “It’s Christmas candy, so…” Greg replied, in a cautionary tone that implied, “Are you sure you really want it?” I still don’t know if Greg was being considerate of Travis’s faith or just warning him that the candy was nearly four months old.
I thought of this recently after seeing that you can buy Cadbury Eggs at Halloween. Which is weird.
I love Halloween. Or at least I think I do. Now that I’m a parent, I’m not crazy about my kid eating a ton of sweets; it’s hard enough getting Stella to go to bed as is without the extra energy provided by high fructose corn syrup. But, she’s nicer to me when I let her have candy, so there’s that. Also, making Jack ‘O Lanterns is fun, and people really get into decorating for Halloween in a way that makes me excited for Christmas.
I also love the idea of kids, and even adults, going nuts over dressing up, even though it’s not something that I’m really dying to do personally. My last Halloween costume involved a pair of white socks with hastily drawn faces that I wore on my hands. My costume was A Guy Who Has Ghosts For Hands. This year, I’m going to wear a stick-on “Hi. My Name Is…” tag with “Dracula” written on it. Ergo, I will be Dracula.
I’m not a big fan of scary movies and such, but I like the Halloween atmosphere. I’ve always been too sensitive for gore, but I like spooky and creepy. I like the idea of a vaguely sinister day of the year where the spirit world is in close contact with the physical world and weird shit happens. Of course, I don’t really believe this, but it still makes for a spine-tingling rush when I find myself in a dark, quiet space this season.
The drug store near my house is not one of these places. It’s brightly lit, and, while not particularly noisy, you still aren’t going to be spooked by ghostly whispers there. Especially when you are on Zoloft and had only intended to breeze in for a refill. Sorry…Sertraline. I had meant to use the generic term. Since I will be referring to a number of products by name in the remainder of this piece, it’s best I steer clear of outright product placement whenever I can. So, I won’t be using the name of the drug store; let’s just call it “Smallgreen’s.”
Distractingly situated en route to the pharmacy counter, the Halloween aisle at Smallgreen’s is a Grand Guignol of plastic and sugar. The first thing I notice is a “Torture Tool Garland,” although the accompanying sticker on the shelf notes that it is a “Bloody Torture Tool Garland.” No thanks, Smallgreen’s. That’s just too much. I would prefer the clean torture tools. The packaging notes, somewhat reassuringly, that, “This is a decoration, not a toy.” Given the opportunity, my four year old would probably beg to differ.
Also available are the “Werewolf Multifang” and the “Vampire Multifang.” One would think that the versatility implied by the portmanteau “multifang” would be enough, but apparently you need different packaging for the same cheap dental prosthetic.
An animatronic figure named Nicky DaKnife seems to be some sort of zombie hobo gangster. I press his button and he thrusts da knife in and out of his head. Nicky talks, too, and at first seems like a bargain at $15, especially for a place like Smallgreen’s, where the mark-up on cheap plastic crap is incredible.
“What kinda guy jabs a knife in his own head?” he asks. “Me, dat’s who!”
I’m not sure who is writing for Nicky, but I think I see where the manufacturer saved money. Also, his hair seems to be peeling away, but that could be intended to be seen as a side-effect of having a knife in one’s head.
For $30, you can get a 400 watt smoke/fog machine. The fire department recently rushed to the strip club nearest my office only to find that the smoke machine had been accidently left on over night, so clearly there are some inherent dangers in owning one. Still, I have no idea what wattage is really appropriate. You probably shouldn’t use it in the tub, though.
But, most of the aisle is, of course, occupied by Halloween candy, from the marginally, seasonally different to the uniquely grotesque.
There is a “Horror Meals” tray of gummy candies in the form of bloody fingers, eyeballs, ears and tongues. Never mind that this candy is made in China, a country whose sketchy foodstuffs I generally try to avoid; gummy candy is gruesome enough in and of itself. It’s made with gelatin, which comes from hooves and bones and even more marginal animal bits. I know a rather smugly self-satisfied vegetarian whom I’ve seen eat Gummy Bears on numerous occasions. I’m waiting with gleeful anticipation for the right moment to break all this to him.
There are over a dozen varieties of Russell Stover chocolate pumpkins with different flavored fillings, none of which are pumpkin. There are giant bags of “Fun Size” candy bars, each individually wrapped and sealed to guarantee against the insertion of razor blades, rat poison, and other hazards renowned in urban legend. The packaging cannot, however, guarantee that the contents never came into contact with peanuts. (Sorry anaphylaxis-prone kids! Better luck at Christmas!) The candy coated Jordan almonds in pastel colors seem either out of place or out of season. But, were it not for the redesigned packaging, most out of season would be the Cadbury Creme Eggs, rechristened for Halloween as Screme Eggs.
For years, the Creme Egg was the only exposure I had to Cadbury chocolate. I grew up in a small town in rural Appalachia, and we didn’t really truck with Eastern exoticism from faraway places, like British chocolate, draught beer, or hot tea.
Eventually, I visited England and tried Flake from a neglected-looking vending machine on a subway platform. Given the machine’s appearance, I assumed that the chocolate’s cruddy, stale-seeming texture was related to its having been there a while. In retrospect, this is probably why the candy is called Flake. Years later, at an international foods place in Atlanta, I tried some manner of Cadbury bar filled with Turkish Delight. Despite the name, you might be surprised to learn that the filling did not consist of Ottoman hashish, but rather, some weird magenta goo I later found out was rosewater gel.
My dad introduced me to the Cadbury Creme Egg growing up, which is strange, because my dad doesn’t like things that are too cloying, and the Creme Egg can be momentarily incapacitating in its sticky sweetness. But, we loved them and still do.
A lot of people don’t; my wife is one of them, and she will make a face and fake (?) gag whenever I mention Cadbury Eggs. Most holiday foods have their fans and detractors. Consider eggnog (quick note to myself: stash away “Consider Eggnog” for future use on tombstone after cholesterol-related death, as name of holiday album, marketing slogan for National Eggnog Council, etc.). No one is so/so on it. It’s either a treat you welcome with the coming of the Yuletide, or the thought of it is nauseating.
I’ve found that opinions of Creme Eggs track like this. And, while my study is far from scientific, I’ve noticed a distinct correlation between people who dig eggnog and Cadbury Eggs. Or don’t.
But, even as a fan, I can’t say I welcome the Halloween incarnation of the Creme Egg. As I’ve gotten older, my preferences have shifted to darker chocolates: the kind with cacao percentages on the packaging. Okay, “preference” might be a stretch. I’ll still gobble milk chocolate like a dog with a death wish, but I’ve come to appreciate the darker stuff. For a few years, I’ve thought that a dark or semi-sweet variation on the Creme Egg would work really well. The fondant goo in the middle doesn’t really need help in the sweetness department, and a subtle bitterness might offset it quite well. The Screme Egg is a real missed opportunity in this regard. While the green “yolk” (rather than the usual yellow) does invoke shades of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien, and Gremlins, a nearly black egg would look so much more sinister.
Even still, repurposing Easter candy for Halloween makes no sense. While we’re at it, let’s just try to get more mileage out of the chocolate crosses I’ve seen alongside the bunnies and eggs each March. I’ve always thought that no matter what you believe, these are more than a little disturbing. Either you’re giving a kid a chocolate representation of an instrument of agonizing, torturous execution, or you’re allowing her to have the symbol of your Lord and Savior for dessert, possibly rendering it blasphemous with the first bite. Honestly, a chocolate cross seems much more appropriate for Halloween than an egg. Just turn them upside-down and kids can incorporate them into their pretend witches’ Sabbaths and black masses. Kids do that, right?
I was interested to see how my own kid would respond to the polarizing effect of the Cadbury egg. There are times when Stella seems like a random kid who has been assigned to me. She’s hot-tempered, passionate and dramatic. I am melancholic, passive and introverted. But, clearly she is my kid, as she has the genetic predisposition to love Cadbury Eggs. She was very impressed.
We thought it would be funny to take a picture of a smashed Screme Egg in a frying pan, and then we disposed of the evidence before Mom got home. Stella did her best to scrape up every last big of green goo from the pan.
Oh right: my review. I’m not going to bullshit you: these taste the same as the Easter ones and either you’ll love them or hate them.
“Guess what,” I told her. “They have these at Easter, too, but the inside is yellow.”
“Wow.” she answered. (She responds to many insignificant facts with, “Wow.”) “Why?”
“It’s marketing,” was the best I could come up with.
“We should get one for Mommy,” she replied.
I look forward to sharing my hard-earned wisdom with Stella over a glass of eggnog.
Walgreen’s Smallgreen’s has Cadbury Screme Eggs 2 for $1.59. Or, just wait until Dia de los Muertes (trans. “Day of Half-Price Candy”) and stock up super-cheap for Easter.