Annoy the Lifestyle Police -- Enjoy Halloween

October 21, 2010

The October 17 edition of Woman’s Day has a cover sure to put a smile on kids’ -- and more than a few adults’ -- faces.

It’s a picture of a candy-corn wreath. (Want to make your own? You’ll need a Styrofoam ring, some duct tape, and a hot-glue gun.)

According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), “George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company, invented the popular confection in the 1880s and Wunderlee became the first to produce the candy. The Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Company) started producing the confection in 1900 and still produces candy corn today.”

If you’ve ever wondered how they make the Halloween-themed treat, the NCA’s website provides a description: “A tray containing depressions is filled with corn starch. Candy corn is made from the bottom to the top and in three-color passes. First, the depression is filled one-quarter full with yellow syrup and allowed to partially set. Next, the orange syrup is added. The mold is then topped off with the white syrup and is cooled. The candy now can gel together. After … it has finished cooling, the trays are emptied and the little candy corns are ready to be eaten.”

Tens of millions of pounds of candy corn are produced every year. “Enough,” the NCA boasts, “to circle the moon nearly 21 times if laid end-to-end.”

A uniquely American product, you’re thinking -- sugary whimsy consumed during a holiday that can be as much fun for grown-ups as kids.

The lifestyle police see it differently. They believe that candy corn is a dire threat to the nation.

Well, no more so than soda pop or potato chips or cupcakes. Consumption of all must be curtailed. (Or is it eliminated?)

There’s no denying that the U.S. is full of fatties. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assessment found that a hefty 33.8 percent of us choose to be obese. Over 9 percent of healthcare spending is generated by the BMI-challenged community.

We’ve been growing roly-polier for decades, but there was a time when lectures about our pudginess were ignored. As chairman of Bush 41’s “President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports,” Arnold Schwarzenegger obsessed over flabbiness. In a 1990 Newsweek piece, the future failed governor of California lectured his adopted country: “In Austria, where I grew up, physical education was a daily requirement, an absolute must. Everyone who went to school had to do one hour a day of exercise. In addition to that, three times a week, we had sports programs for those who wanted to be competitive …. These programs took care of everyone; those who wanted to stay fit and those who wanted to go beyond that. Many other countries, including the Soviet Union, have similar physical-education programs.”

Happily, Arnie’s creepy vision never got much traction in candy corn’s homeland. But in the ensuing decades, health fascists turned from coerced calisthenics to taxation of unhealthful foods.

The guru of waistline nannyism is Yale’s Kelly Brownell. “One day soon,” the New Haven Register gushed last year, “you’ll buy a box of Reese’s Puffs or Cookie Crisp cereal, and it won’t be loaded down with nearly as much sugar as it is now. For that, give a nod to Kelly Brownell.”

A Ph.D. not in medicine or nutrition, but clinical psychology, Brownell’s work, as he describes it, “integrates information from many disciplines and specialties ranging from the basic physiology of body weight regulation to world politics and legislation affecting issues such as agriculture subsidies and international trade policies.”

In other words, there’s no aspect of the human experience that doesn’t attract his cocked-and-ready-to-wag finger. Brownell -- who, it should be noted, no one would mistake for a triathlete -- is playing a pretty, er, big role in the efforts to impose or raise “fat taxes” at the local, state, and federal levels. The insufferable nag’s fiscal crusade never enjoyed much success until the Great Recession drained public-sector coffers. Now much of the political class embraces Brownell’s agenda.

Don’t fall in line. Defy those who refuse to accept the concept of free will. Stand up to the joyless fusspots who obsess over the consequences of others’ choices. Stuff your face with candy corn --and whatever else is available -- this Halloween. And if you’re ever tempted to concede a point to Brownell and his ilk, remember the homespun wisdom of Hank Williams: “Mindin’ other people’s business seems to be high-toned / I got all that I can do just to mind my own.”

D. Dowd Muska ( writes about government, economics, and technology. He lives in Broad Brook, Connecticut.

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