Welcome to Cavity Connoisseur, a new occasional column about refined sugar. It has to be occasional or else it will kill me.
There are just a few things that I love in this blighted and damned world: my family, my friends, my work, and sugar. Gummi candy makes up roughly 50 percent of my diet, if by 50 you mean 70. My increasingly sluggish blood is part Heath bar. If you looked inside my brain, you’d see two panicked squirrels fighting over a bag of Jelly Bellies.
Which is to say: I know more about candy than all of you, and I will until the day I die of sugar-related kidney failure. And that’s why I feel it is my solemn duty to offer occasional candy reviews in this space, and, moreover, to rain down some righteous truth in a world too often filled with sugar-coated bullshit.
To that end, some time ago, I began looking around for pumpkin spice latte M&Ms, which allegedly hit supermarket shelves in late August. The media, chiefly women’s media outlets, exploded.
E! went all caps bonkers. Popsugar raved that they tasted “cozy and just like Fall.” Picturebook news outlet Buzzfeed celebrated with a gif explosion. Glamour promised to basically shit their own pants and then die.
Let us let you in on a little secret, two months later: Either someone somewhere is hoarding 8,000 bags of pumpkin spice latte M&Ms or else they were a massive failure, because today they are impossible to find. CVS doesn’t carry them. Supermarkets don’t carry them. The massive and hellish M&M store in Times Square doesn’t carry them.
“Pumpkin spice what?” asked the woman who answered the phone at the M&Ms store.
For that reason, I was forced to order pumpkin spice latte M&Ms off the internet, a painful experience for which I will be filing worker’s compensation. They arrived far too quickly for my liking, and then I had to eat them.
In order to make the experience more palatable, I also purchased a bag of strange fish-shaped salted licorice from Shi Eurasia Market, a wonderful import store on the Lower East Side that carries a bunch of great and weird candy, including British, Icelandic, Dutch, Singaporean and Thai things. I inflicted both candies on my coworkers and gauged their reactions in a variety of categories.
The fish candies came from Holland (I think), hence all that Dutch (I think) on the bag. The PSL M&Ms came from Hell. Hence their hideous “autumn” coloration and their spokes-M&M on the bag, a glasses-wearing brown lady M wearing a grey scarf and a look that suggests the Prozac is not strong enough.
Pumpkin spice latte M&Ms will, at first bite, trick you into thinking they’re chocolate. After several long moments on the tongue, a waxy, spicy sensation descends, what’s probably meant to be a mixture of nutmeg and cloves. It’s like gnawing on a candle. It’s like jumping out of a rickety plane into a field of potpourri bags and being forced to eat your way to freedom. There’s no coffee here. Don’t come in here looking for coffee.
“This is bad,” commented Jezebel managing editor Erin Ryan. “I don’t like this and it’s bad.”
“I’m into them,” responded staff male Bobby Finger. “I don’t love them, but I’ll eat a sample and not be upset.”
“Bobby, what’s the matter with you?” hissed Erin.
Bobby was unable to respond, because the pumpkin had taken hold.
“Something’s happening,” he said, visibly panicked. “The pumpkin. The pumpkin is arriving.” He looked stricken. “Oh, God. I don’t like this anymore.”
“It has like a—” remarked Jezebel features editor Jia Tolentino, clawing at her throat.
I handed them around the office. Several members of the Gawker staff looked sad and said nothing. The art team hunched over like cats do when you turn on the blender too close to them.
Deadspin staff writer Greg Howard ate a single M&M and then shook his head violently. “Why do white people love pumpkin shit so much?” he asked me, looking sincerely distressed. “Why?”
The licorice, meanwhile, tastes like the strongest black licorice you’ve ever tried, plus a mildly salty twinge. It blooms in your mouth, becoming more licorice-y with every passing moment. I thought it was less bad than the PSL M&Ms. I was alone there.
“It tastes like it’s about to kill you,” remarked Jia. “Like it has a secret! It’s literally the worst.”
“It has...layers...as a flavor,” ventured senior editor Kate Dries, a little dubiously. She chewed furiously, her brow furrowed.
“This is the worst food experience I’ve ever had,” Jia replied sweetly. “And I’ve eaten food out of the trash.” [Ed. note: this candy is honestly so bad that the sense memory just made me gag.]
“It’s like nineteenth century poison!” said Pictorial editor Kelly Faircloth, sounding thrilled.
A full day passed, a day where no one could seemingly speak to me or look me in the eye. Eventually, Jia tried another fish.
“There’s like 47 bad flavors in them,” she shouted from across the office. “It’s like a full nine minutes of badness. This is worse than fish.”
Muse editor Julianne Escobedo Shepherd tasted a corner of one fish and glared at me. “What is wrong with you?”
Not long after trying the M&Ms, I developed a vicious and truly novel headache, emanating from somewhere underneath my cheekbones and burrowing into my brain. A few minutes later, my tongue started to itch.
“They’re not that bad,” Kate Dries countered. She paused for a moment. “Wait, yes they are. They are.”
A brief argument raged in our work chatroom:
“I’ve never had poison,” Jia muttered, glaring at me. “But those fish are poison.”
In the end, everyone was unhappy and nobody felt very well. I ate an M&M and a piece of ficorice at the same time and felt my stomach contract violently.
“Did you bring any good candy?” asked Erin Ryan, a little sadly.
Correction: Thousands of angry Dutch people have written to inform me that the salted herring candies are German. Writes one:
I don’t really care if you blame the Dutch for the licorice (after all, we are responsible for a lot of horrible tasting licorice, so we could have easily created these as well), but you might earn some intelligence points for matching the right language to the right country.
True. So true. I promise to do more than five seconds of research next time and I apologize sincerely for defaming the Dutch and their probably delicious candy.
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