Day 19: Sweet tooth

Mmmm, Frango mints. Image: Cathi Kern Borushek for mutterhood.

“We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” — Buddy the Elf

I have a theory about Christmas candy.

See, when you think about candy holidays, the first one that pops into mind is usually Halloween, because trick-or-treating at its core is nothing more than a candy grab. Sure, people dress in costumes, but candy’s pretty much the whole point for the 8th-grade-and-younger set — collecting it, sorting it, trading it, eating it. Sweets are a commodity, the end in itself.

Christmas candy is much more complicated. While no less abundant than at Halloween, and also pretty much handed out freely, holiday treats are more fraught because they carry more emotional weight.

Every December, folks hunt through cookbooks and recipe boxes looking for the fudge recipe grandma used to make, or something close to mom’s peanut butter buckeyes. There’s a definite nostalgia to the peanut brittle, toffee, divinity, Corn Flakes wreaths with red cinnamon dots, and homemade caramels for which you gather your kids in the kitchen and insist they learn how to prepare.

That Christmas crack you make by pouring hot caramel over saltines and cover in chocolate? Easy production line. Same with the pretzel rings with Rollo candies melted inside. More complicated are the praline pecans, homemade marshmallows, rum balls, truffles, and white-, milk- and dark-chocolate barks with nuts, dried fruit, popcorn and candy cane pieces pressed in, either alone or together in one sugary mess.

Candy thermometers, baking sheets slathered with butter, crushed pecans covering the counter — it’s all worth it in the end for that nod to tradition and a sweet taste of the past.

Which of course can also be purchased ready made at gourmet shops, bakeries and department stores near you. You’ll find no judgment here.


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