That the Snickers bar is the best of all candy bars is a point so obvious and unassailable that it needn't be argued here. What's odd and paradoxical-seeming, and thus noteworthy, is that its superiority is the precise reason why the Snickers is not the best candy bar for Halloween. That is to say, its Halloweeniness has been diluted irreparably by its status as the candy bar of choice for non-Halloween indulging—by now, a bite of a Snickers is no more reminiscent of Halloween than it is of watching American Ninja Warrior at two o'clock in the morning in July, swaddled in empty crumpled wrappers, chewing and sobbing at the same time, with chocolate brown spittle dribbling down your chin, mourning for your abortive parkour dreams.
Not so, for example, the Mounds bar. This chocolate-coated coconut log shares a shelf with the Snickers in your supermarket checkout line throughout the year, but who ever actually eats one any time but the week of Oct. 31? Nobody, that's who. Nobody, and probably carnies. This nostalgic association—the fact that nobody ever eats Mounds bars except around Halloween, and everybody eats them around Halloween—makes the Mounds bar more exciting to eat, on Halloween, than the Snickers bar, rather like how Thanksgiving is the only day of the year when roasted turkey is more delicious than a cheeseburger.
This is relevant to you, fully grown-up reader of internet food columns, because however much you might pretend otherwise, you are going to eat some Halloween candy this week, and so you have a responsibility to do it correctly.
* * *
There are three ways to view the informal, but nearly universally observed, upper age limit (13? 14? Thereabouts?) on Halloween trick-or-treating. The first, mildly depressing view holds that it's a sad thing to grow out of the silly fun and simulated danger of schlepping your goodie bag around a darkened, spookily decorated neighborhood with your friends; gauging from the available clues—illuminated porchlights, charmingly fake (as opposed to disconcertingly real) skeletons, and so on—which houses are giving out candy, which houses contain dangerous lunatics, and which houses contain dangerous lunatics who are giving out candy; coming home foot-weary and intoxicated by the suggestive atmosphere of Halloween, ready to watch some atrocious televised horror film and gorge on cheap chocolate-flavored wax.
The second, much more optimistic view, is that it's a great luxury to grow out of having to dress up like friggin' Buzz Lightyear and walk around being cute and saying "Trick or treat!" just to get some goddamn candy, and grow into the privilege of just going to the store and buying some whenever you want.
The third view observes that the second view is a pathetic delusion: We grown-ups, unlike children, are obliged to put on demeaning Self-Motivating Team Player Type costumes and dance for our candy all fucking year; the difference between us and kids is that Halloween is the only day of the year when grown-ups are allowed to give voice to the desire to stuff six pounds of Smarties into our head without someone putting on a sympathetic pity face and asking us if we've been sleeping OK lately.
The Foodspin archives: Chicken thighs | Popeye's biscuits | Salad | Candy corn Oreos | Chili | Red Bull Total Zero | French toast | Sriracha | Emergency food | Nachos | Meatloaf | Thanksgiving side dishes | MacGyver Thanksgiving | Eating strategies | Leftovers | Mac and cheese
In any event, you're an adult now, and the option of putting on a foam rubber mask and knocking on doors on Halloween isn't lost to you so much as the potential rewards have changed, fistfuls of candy being replaced by guest appearances on Cops. This just means that you're obliged to find new ways of getting (or excuses for eating) candy, and that's no challenge at all. Many of you have likely already completed the preparatory step of having children of your own, so that you can move on to using concern for their dental health as an excuse for commandeering an obscene portion of their Halloween hoard. Good work.
For those for whom this is not an option, getting unfettered access to several pounds of Halloween candy is still a fairly uncomplicated affair. All you're required to do is to go to your local supermarket and purchase the following:
Five (5) bags of Halloween candies of your choosing
One (1) large Jack-o'-lantern-styled plastic bucket
One (1) flat glow-in-the-dark skeleton with string for hanging on door
The next steps are pleasingly simple. First, at least 24 hours before sundown on Halloween, place your glow-in-the-dark skeleton on a flat surface near, but inside, your front door, and announce that it is your family's tradition to "wait until Halloween night" to mount it on the door itself.
Second, at least 12 hours before sundown on Halloween, empty the bags of candy into the large plastic bucket and place the bucket on a table within reasonable walking distance of, but still inside of, the door.
You've now completed the preliminary staging of your Halloween candy feast. For the next step, still at least six hours before sundown, "check" a random sampling of your candy "for poison." This will ensure that you are not endangering your neighborhood kids by feeding them strychnine.
The next step is the most crucial. As the sun dips behind the buildings and/or trees in your neighborhood and the first, youngest trick-or-treaters set forth in the early gloaming, forget to mount your skeleton on the door, and also forget to turn on the porchlight, and also turn off all the lights inside your home, and maybe even post a sign on the door that says you are in Belarus.
Finally, at around 9 p.m., as the little ghosts and ghouls are returning to their homes to watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (or more realistically, Miley Fucking Cyrus and the Queasily Sexualized But Disney-Approved Halloween YouTube Lulz or some shit) and get ready for bed, express surprise and dismay that "nobody celebrates Halloween anymore."
You are now ready to eat Halloween candy for a month.
* * *
But how to proceed with this undertaking? Do you dive into your trove mindlessly, like some kind of ravenous lunatic? No! Primordial apes did not clamber down from their treetops so that one day their distant descendants could senselessly cram indiscriminate fistfuls of Halloween treats into their mouths like candy-CHUDs. The upward struggle of mankind has endowed you with intellect so that you may needlessly complicate the unutterably stupid, and by God, so you shall!
The important thing to know is that your goal is to waste nothing but plain fun-sized Hershey bars, which may be set aside for the sole purpose of leaving a fistful of them on the reception desk at your office "for the gang," to be ignored for the rest of human history. There are myriad ways to accomplish this goal; the wisest is to rotate through the various choices in such a way that you are consuming your favorites and your least-favorites at the same pace (because, c'mon, Hershey bars and Weirdo Mystery-Lozenges That Old People Dispense From Their Cardigans® aside, candy is candy, and that boring little packet of Chewy Spree that you scoff at on Oct. 31 will seem awfully tantalizing in the hindsight of the following April 12).
But wise food person! you say, I don't know what my favorites are! Worry not, for I have endeavored upon the mountaintop to select and list your favorites for you, and hereby present for your desperate cleaving ...
The Official Deadspin Halloween Candy Power Rankings
1. The Mounds bar. Like a charmingly cheesy beach town which becomes a seedy, nauseating, post-apocalyptic horrorscape the exact instant the mid-afternoon temperature dips below 80 degrees at the end of each summer, this coconut turd is precisely what you want, but only for one week, and is incomprehensibly awful the entire rest of the calendar year. This is exactly what makes it the best of all Halloween confections. It's best not to question this; such things are beyond mortal comprehension.
2. The regular-sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. This isn't the little one in the gold foil, but rather the big one that evidently requires its own accompanying cardboard tray inside the packaging. Perversely, the only thing that holds back the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup from the top spot is that it is not grotesque enough the rest of the year. The cardboard tray makes for a classy serving platter when you cut the cup into pie slices to serve at your Halloween party.
3. The 3-pack of SweeTarts. Crunchy, acidic, generically fruit-flavored, made entirely of sugar, disconcertingly painful after a while—everything you want in a little paper-wrapped vacation from adulthood. Why, thanks to their little disk shapes and chalky texture, you can even make yourself feel better about eating two-dozen of them by telling yourself that they're little breath mints, and that you have cripplingly disgusting corpse-breath all the time.
4. The Snickers bar. Because, c'mon, it's still the Snickers bar.
5. The cylinder of Smarties. So far as I can tell, the only thing wrong with Smarties is their pastel color scheme, which makes you think of Easter, an unacceptable interseasonal cross-pollination. If you can look at them on Halloween without fainting from confusion, they're delicious.
6. Kit Kat. There's nothing wrong with Kit Kats that couldn't be fixed by an international treaty banning the use in advertising of musical recordings cobbled together from the disgusting sounds of people chewing food.
7. Butterscotch hard candy. These little goldenrod disks are quite possibly the best-tasting thing you'll find in the haul-sack of the child you just mugged. The only reason they're not tops on this list is that you'll often find them in the bowl of assorted breath mints at your local sushi restaurant, and that's not very Halloweeny.
8. Almond Joy. The solitary almond hat that gives Almond Joy its name is the saddest goddamn thing you'll encounter on Halloween, unless you happen across Daniel Snyder putting on platform heels to make his Yoda costume more accurate. Almond Joy looks like a Mounds bar with a goddamn goiter. The almond adds nothing of value. This is what makes it a great Halloween candy.
72. A wadded Party City receipt.
73. The Hershey bar. The plain Hershey bar is the Halloween equivalent of a Hallmark card as a Christmas gift. Wash them down with a nice glass of tepid tapwater.
* * *
Rotating evenly between your favorites and least-favorites enables you to maximize the destruction of your pancreas without the eventual psychic aggravation of staring at the sad dismal dregs of your candy pile and reckoning with the fact that you are not going to stop eating even though you don't like them, even though they are cheap flavored wax intended for undiscriminating 8-year-olds, even though you are drowsy with synthetic sugar intoxication, even though your fellow bus passengers have all shifted, pale-faced and visibly nervous, as far toward the front as possible and are eyeing you warily and clutching their pepper spray canisters as you, dead-eyed and moaning and still wearing a disturbingly undersized Barney the Dinosaur costume, groggily stuff Mentos into a mouth already crammed to overflowing with stale Mr. Goodbars.
No! This is not your fate. Yours is an orderly, systemized candy feast, which ends with the triumph of that last, delicious, (figuratively) bittersweet fistful of M&Ms sprinkled atop your Thanksgiving dinner.
Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home. Peevishly correct his foolishness at firstname.lastname@example.org.