Sour Balls and Soul Cakes 

Is there a sweeter holiday than Halloween?

Next Tuesday, the children of Missoula will take to the streets in full regalia to beg from house to house. This custom has a hundred different origins, ranging from ancient Druidic sacrifices to the gods, to ninth-century European beggars soliciting “soul cakes” in exchange for prayers.

I like the idea of soul cakes myself. Rows and rows of specialty candy somehow resemble bags of soul cakes: peanut-butter-and-Welch’s-jelly cups, Rice Krispies Treats, popcorn balls, caramel apple chews.

Every local grocery or discount store has its soul-cake display front and center this time of year. The predictable standbys—Milky Way, Three Musketeers, M&Ms, Snickers, Junior Mints—are available in ridiculous bulk. Some of the old and detested candies continue to appear year after year, too: the peanut butter kisses that everyone is always left with after the late-night trade, and the dreaded Necco Wafers.

New treats are available each year, with the candy producers going out of their way to create such grotesque and bewitching confections as Creepy Peepers, delectably described as “chocolaty coated soft caramel eyeballs.”

Also newly available this year are Stones and Bones, fudge-filled skeletons and tombstones, as well as another optically inspired treat, red-veined Eyes of Terror bubble gum.

There was always the urban legend of the razorblade in the apple, or the poisoned popcorn ball. This was good. It kept the neighborhood busybodies out of their kitchens where they might have emerged with something as disgusting as corn-flake haystacks in place of harmless handfuls of Pixie Stix.

The Good Food Store does have candy in bulk for those in trusting neighborhoods: carob raisins and peanuts, peanut butter malt balls, milk chocolate cherries and organic Jolly Beans made with fruit juice. Good Food also carries prepackaged Vitamin C lollipops but those wouldn’t be very valuable to a kid in a heavy candy trade. What they need to get are the Kit Kats, the Twix, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—the big fat candies that carry weight with siblings and neighbors who might have gotten better supplies.

Remember this when the little beggars come, a-souling, next Tuesday, and prepare for their needs accordingly. Gift them with a hefty soul cake and they might put you in their prayers Halloween night.

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