The Demon Candy

NOT long ago a New York paper published a long and illuminating article in which it estimated that the annual expenditure for confectionery in this country would pretty nearly build two Panama Canals — an interesting figure when compared with the statement of certain physicians that the same phenomenon is in a way to impair several million alimentary canals. Doctors, as the typical citizen with a growing family has had occasion to discover, are not altogether in agreement about the results of candy-eating. There are those who maintain that candy is a most desirable addition to diet, and others who claim with equal vehemence that it should be immediately subtracted. Children, in rare but discoverable cases, are being brought up in ignorance of the dangerous fact — or the dangerous theory, according to the way you look at it — that candy is edible. They are taught to regard confectionery as a thing of merely æsthetic beauty — obviously on the theory that when they grow older they will no more think of eating a chocolate-drop than they would of eating the Shaw Memorial.

This theory not only exhibits the sublime self-confidence of parents, but illustrates a notion still widely current despite the multiplicity of confectionery shops, and the estimated yearly expenditure of more money for candy than would build the Panama Canal. Even in America, children cannot consume nearly a million dollars’ worth of candy a day; nor is it believable that the throngs in the confectionery shops are purchasing entirely for their little nephews and nieces; nor that the growth of the confectionery department in luncheon-places devoted exclusively to men means that not even the speedy refreshment of the American business lunch-room can keep the generous-hearted patron from remembering to take home a box of sweets for his family. It might be argued that Bernard Shaw, when he made his practical soldier in Arms and the Man provide himself with chocolates, set an example that the practical soldiers of business have immediately followed. Or, again, there is the theory held in some medical quarters that candy has been discovered as a convenient, but still debatable, substitute for the Demon Rum. Some, indeed, go so far as to deduce the existence of a Demon Candy, and predict that eventually it will be necessary to make the mystic letters W. C. T. U. stand for Women’s Confectionery Temperance Union. And that is undoubtedly what will happen if the increase in the consumption of candy continues to outstrip the increase in the production of population.

For every crusade must of necessity rest upon some kind of intemperance that has reached the point of being debatably visible to a very large number of persons. It is not the existence of graft in public office, but the visible existence of it that leads to civic reform movements. Grafting is like love-making; the average citizen admits its place in the scheme of creation, but is immensely indignant if it is carried on in public. Alcoholic intemperance, serious as it still is, received a death-blow when typical ‘gentlemen’ of a hundred years ago insisted upon appearing intoxicated in public. And confectionery is itself distantly threatened when a total national expenditure of millions of dollars is made carelessly public at a time when a considerable part of the population has just been conducting a meat strike to bring down the price of necessities.

But perhaps to some of us candy has already become a necessity — and herein lies the beginning of all organized opposition. If to a large number of users alcohol had not become a necessity, one may fairly question whether there would ever have been a well-organized temperance movement. The vegetarians organize to offset the fact that meat is considered a necessity, and are not organized against for the simple reason that it is so far impossible to conceive of such a thing as an intemperate fondness for vegetables. Until it became evident that a good many women regarded the ballot as a necessity, other women never dreamed of organizing themselves into antisuffrage societies. So, in the present instance, the existence of individual anti-confectionism indicates a belief that confectionery is becoming dangerously, even diabolically, insistent in its appeal to the human palate. We may begin to look forward to a division of our country into the Candiantis and the Candiettes. America, supreme among nations both in the manufacture and in the consumption of candy, must naturally bear the brunt of this battle; and one imagines a time to come when the candy-cane will be made in stricter imitation of the real article, and the sucking thereof must needs be conducted with such skill as will hide any appreciable diminution from the eye of an unfriendly observer.

Statistics show that this consumption of candy is an amazing recent development of the human appetite. In 1850 the manufacturers produced yearly no more than three million dollars’ worth of confectionery. It was probably true that children and females consumed the bulk of it, although secret candy-eating may even at that time have been in its incipiency among the fathers of a generation that still consumes its confectionery with a certain unpleasant reticence. The very secretiveness of a man with a chocolate may be taken as an instinctive admission of the viciousness of his apparently innocent employment. But this secretiveness cannot be successfuly maintained when establishments exclusively for men open departments exclusively for confectionery. It is only a step further for confectionery to enter politics, — as it is already reported to have entered Arctic exploration, — and for the political chocolate-drop to have its place with the political cigar as a means of undermining the political body.

Already ‘candy fiend’ is a recognizable term of reproach in ordinary conversation, and young women, the mothers of our future America, have been frequently heard to admit the impossibility of living without confectionery. That men are more and more openly becoming slaves to candy is visible even to the undiscerning. Candy-eating, in short, has become a visible form of intemperance, with a complete assortment of statistics proving it either good or evil, and a complete disagreement among experts as to what will be the eventual outcome. All that is now needed is a national organization for its immediate suppression. Titles for campaign literature immediately suggest themselves: ‘ The Curse of Candy’; ‘ Confessions of a Moderate Candy Consumer’; ‘Shall I Send Her Five Pounds of Poison ?'