The creators of LOST got it all wrong: If you’re an inherently good person and you die, you don’t wind up in a bright, peaceful church in the sky, surrounded by all the wonderful people who have helped you along the way. You end up at the Sweets & Snacks 2011 Expo in Chicago. It’s a magical place, really, bursting with hundreds of booths devoted to showering you with every candy and snack product known to man. Giant bins of gummi bears and candy corn. Tables covered with massive slabs of fudge. Peanut butter-stuffed, chocolate-covered pretzels emptied into your awaiting palms via supersized metal scoops. Those hot, candy-and crack-coated nuts they sell on the street in NYC. Jelly Belly’s new earwax-flavored jelly beans. (I kid you not.) Beef jerkey packaged in chewing tobacco pouches. Vanilla caramels sprinkled with sea salt. Italian Ice Mike and Ikes. Chocolate crosses (for all those sweet-toothed Catholics out there.) WONKA Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bars.
This is a place where you mingle with six-foot-tall dancing M&Ms, where Hello Kitty hawks her Pez candy and Campfire Marshmallows come in a new size – softball. Last year, I ran around the Expo like a wild, screaming banshee, stuffing my bags full of every manner of solidified sugar imaginable. By then end, I was so strung out I could barely speak. This year, I arrived prepared: I ate a big breakfast of oatmeal, peanut butter, hardboiled eggs and fruit prior to entering the sweet pearly gates of Candy Land. As a result, I was able to resist stuffing every candy-coated, nougat-y morsel in my face – instead, I stuffed every candy-coated, nougat-y morsel in a giant Sweets & Snacks canvas messenger bag, to be judiciously parceled out over the next year, save for the fourth Tuesday of every month, when all bets will be off.
In addition to my favorites, including something called Salted Peanut Roll Fudge, and Sweet Riots – itty-bitty pieces of cacao coated in dark chocolate. (Hey, if they’re good enough for Sarah Jessica Parker and Eva Longoria – and People magazine assures me they are – then they’re good enough for me), I was also confronted with some candy and snack monstrosities, the likes of which I wouldn’t sic on my worst enemy’s hyperactive child. Mixed in among the whimsical Wonka chocolates and the massive Dove chocolate fountain were some of the craziest, nastiest, or most bizarre examples of gastro-invention I’ve stumbled upon. Among the horrors:
Grillz Sour Candy
Why should rappers have all the shiny fun? Stick one of these faux tooth covers in your mouth – a sour hard candy is attached for you to bite on – and impress friends with your new rhinestone-enhanced chompers. Until they rot away because, you know, you’re mashing a giant ball of pure sugar against your front teeth.
Pickle in a Pouch
Who needs an apple for a quick pre-workout energy boost when you can toss a dill pickle in your duffle bag? They’re low-cal and fat-free, but for some reason, the idea of tearing open a warm bag of pickle juice (no refrigeration required) weirds me out.
Hard Cracklins Fried Out Pork Chips with Skin Attached
Honestly, I don’t even want to know what these onion ring-looking things are, nor am I interested in noshing on a snack with the words, “With Skin Attached” in the title.
And remember…only freaks like black licorice. (Consider that a challenge.)