Peanut M&M’s: Not Fork-Friendly, Try a Spoon

My favorite part of eating Peanut M&Ms is the gambling aspect of the candy. Will I get a good piece, crunchy then creamy? Or will I get a blackened, rotten peanut, and wonder why I am eating this unreliable candy in the first place? I love chocolate covered peanuts, and adding a candy coating to them, or indeed to anything at all, is seldom a bad idea. Candy-coated lettuce being one such bad idea. I do wish they used dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate for the peanut M&Ms. It’s bad enough the chocolate is in a super-thin shell around the nut, giving it a stronger taste by making it darker would only help matters. Yes, I know that dark chocolate peanut M&Ms exist. I guess I’m just wondering why anyone would prefer the original to these good idea in a wrapper. There’s something to be said for familiarity, I suppose. And market saturation.

Peanut M&Ms are another of those candies that I have spent my entire life eating. Unlike Skittles, where the color actually means a difference in taste, in Peanut M&Ms it only serves to add a splash of variety to a candy that hasn’t changed ever. Same ultrathin, crispy candy shell, same tiny padding of chocolate, same softened peanuts in the middle. Biting into the last one in the bag is exactly the same as biting into the first. What I’m trying to convey is how incredibly boring Peanut M&Ms can be. Even eating them in novel ways is discouraged, due to their small size, the hard candy shell making any purchase for the teeth unnecessarily difficult, and the fact that the candy shell crumbles easily, leaving a rainbow of crumbs everywhere in a sweet, melty mess. This is why the roulette aspect becomes so fascinating to me. It’s just enough to shake up the bland predictability. Though I will admit this gamble does not speak well for the candy in question.

In fact, this entire review doesn’t paint this particular candy in a good light. Which isn’t just what I’m trying to convey here. Sure, there are lots of ways that this candy may improve, and numerous issues with it as it currently stands. But it’s still good enough for me to have eaten it for years, long enough to grow bored with it. Despite its many flaws, it’s still a stable, solid candy, which is why it’s still in every single grocery or convenience store I’ve looked for it in. Don’t take this for a recommendation, there are still a lot of finer candies out there. But if you can’t find any of them, you’ll still find Peanut M&Ms. And sometimes, that’s good enough.

Strawberry Bon Bons

Eiffel brand Bon Bons are my attempt to eat something different. I can rave about any candy I’ve been chewing on for as long as I’ve had teeth, but variety breeds a greater understanding of the familiar. Besides, the back of the package proclaims “Enjoyed by students and language groups in the U.S. for over 20 years!” I can respect a company that knows the only people eating their product are language classes desperate to seem more multi-cultural. Well, and me.

I chose the Strawberry flavor for this review because it is a flavor that’s seldom done horrifyingly wrong. Green apple, the other flavor available at the store, can be tripped up much more easily. See Green Apple Fun Dip. The chalky surface doesn’t really come across in the pictures online, but I’d put its surface texture somewhere between Tums and a stale biscuit covered in flour. The interior is soft and more adhesive, and the outer layer is pretty thin, so there aren’t as many crumbly bits as the previous description would imply. It has more give as you bite into it, but never very much, so it does require extensive chewing, which can wear out the jaw before finishing the bag. The strawberry taste is primarily on the surface of the candy, but it’s powerful enough that chewing on the candy doesn’t wear out the flavor before the material. Although it can be tiring to eat, and the sharpness of the strawberry taste can overwhelm, it’s still more enjoyable than I was expecting, and I am definitely willing to give the Green Apple flavor a try. I also suspect that a fresher sample might make it less tough to chew, but c’est la vie.

Lifesavers Gummi Collisions: Next Time, Wear a Helmet

Lifesavers Gummies seemed like the greatest idea ever when I first saw them. Being a fan of the original Lifesavers, my primary complaint against them was that as these hard candies shrunk in the mouth, their edges sharpened. Thus, getting one’s tongue caught in their sugary hole became much more annoying the longer the candy was kept in the mouth, but at the same time, if the inner ring was ignored, it became the primary lump of sweetness left, thus drawing the tongue in. So Lifesavers gummies come along and give us a gentler, more pliable hole. Oh my.

Lifesavers Gummies Collisions, the candy I’m reviewing this week, seems to have taken the fusion idea that’s been making its rounds in the candy market, applying it to their own specific sub-type of candy. I highly doubt that a spinoff candy like Lifesavers Gummies having their own spinoff reflects well on the candy industry’s capacity for novelty, but like all things, more varieties of candy mean more types of shitty candy, with a few grand ones to come out on top. And so capitalism marches on.

Unfortunately, Lifesavers Gummies Collisions will not be the one to grow a forebrain and hop around the monolith. It’s not that surprising though, considering its pedigree. Lifesavers Gummies have never had much of a taste. Sure, they have the texture down pat for a gummy candy, soft but gelatinous, and yet the taste has always been the most ephemeral aspect of this particular candy. Collisions takes after its progenitor perfectly in this aspect, but while the original Gummies had one candy per taste, Collisions instead tries to push two flavors into a single ring. Sadly, two half-tastes does not equal a taste, so the connoisseur is left with a confusing smudge of light flavoring that only hints at the tastes mentioned on the back of the packaging, while never satisfying or even driving one to eat more. Normally, here I would normally suggest leaving such a candy in a bowl, to be eaten throughout the day as sugar needs necessitate, but since these are gummies, and thus will melt if looked at cross-ways, this isn’t a worthwhile or suggested option.

Another nit-pick is that there’s only three flavors within this particular pack. Well, since they’re flavor blends, one could argue that there’s actually six flavors, but as my previous paragraph shows, no, this is not a valid argument, and shame on you for such chicanery. The Cherry Watermelon is probably the strongest flavor of the bunch, and even that just tastes like licking the bottom of a Cherry Limeade cup lid. In short, if you love gummi candy, choose something other than Lifesavers Gummies Collisions.

The End of the Rainbow

Original Skittles seem an odd choice for a starting review. They won’t get me the indie cred of some more obscure candy, but I feel it important to know where we come from before venturing into that vast, semi-sweet unknown. Skittles have just been there all my life, from my earliest sugar cravings to adulthood, when I can buy them by the handfuls. Sadly, the human tongue burns out long before said handfuls may be consumed. Sugary, rainbow-colored regurgitation is also a key limiting factor, as field testing has shown. Really, buying one of the large bags of Skittles is an educational lesson about the limitations of the product all to its own, but I’m afraid I’m jumping the gun here. Before speaking about scarfing them down, I should really lead up to the first bite.

And what better way than to start with the crisp marketing that they come wrapped  in? Honestly, I’ve never understood the focus on the varieties of flavors found within the Original pack. Mars Inc’s “Taste the Rainbow” campaign, combined with the helpful chart on the back of the packages detailing what the flavors mean, gives the impression that they honestly believe, or expect others to believe, that their flavors are somehow enjoyable in their own right. They are not. Anybody who’s ever had a Tootsie Roll Pop can tell you that Skittles are the same sort of flavoring chemicals that everybody uses when trying to replicate real fruit. That strange, uniquely fructose type of taste that makes people call slushies “blue-flavored,” despite the potential accusations of synesthesia. No, the beauty of the Skittle comes not from their flavors, but from their design.

Consider your average Skittle. It’s a thin, slightly crunchy shell, with a coarse, dry, gelatinous mass of almost pure sugar inside of it. The casing itself is not very tasty in its own right, as anybody that’s licked the inside of a Skittles wrapper can tell you. But, when it’s punctured, the sugary center dissolves rapidly in the saliva, causing much of the nearby mouth to be covered in pure sugar. The premolars and canines are particularly good for this, since their position gives an optimal saliva dispersion compared to the rest of the mouth’s interior. Regardless, in this rush of sugary goodness, the flavor gets wrapped up in the sugar itself, which is why the flavor tastes good. The ease of making something taste good by framing it in overwhelming sugar is probably why there are so many successful varieties of Skittles. They’re sugar pills, but the only placebo they offer is the idea that it’s the flavor making them wonderful.

I know I’m going on about this odd flavor vs. sugar thing too much, but it does have implications for the product. For example, when the sugar’s gone from the mouth, the flavor still lingers as a slightly bitter aftertaste on the roof of the mouth and the throat. So buying a pack of Skittles and eating them a few at a time throughout the day is simply not a pleasant option. This means that the most effective way of eating Skittles is to eat them continuously, just before the taste fades and the aftertaste takes over. Yet, doing this regularly results in the sugar burst eliciting less and less of a response each time as the mouth grows accustomed to it. In my experience, this motivates people to eat multiple Skittles at the same time. As someone that has eaten handfuls, up to entire bags, with a single mouthful, I can attest that this is folly. Each additional Skittle adding a different taste quickly turns the mouthful into a bland-tasting goop, at worst impossible to chew because of its size, at best impossible to swallow because of the sharp bits of shell still left inside the amorphous, greenish-brown blob. Even if all the Skittles added are the same flavor, this just also increases the intensity of the aftertaste. The maximum Skittles I would recommend is two. If this is not enough, perhaps cleanse your palate with a glass of water, walk away from the bag of Skittles for a little while, then come back later, after your taste buds have had a chance to calm down.

Since it was a fairly recent phenomenon, I feel a grudging obligation to mention the newer addition of the green apple Skittles to the Original pack. Of course, as a member of the Old Guard, I can only assert that this new flavor is the worst thing ever, which will bring death and doom not only to the international megacorp Mars Inc, but also to several important bits of my nostalgia and probably a few innocent puppies as well. Honestly though, I’m a fan of the green apple. Green apple has always been a favorite artificial flavor of mine, and that little bit of surprise when I bite into one while absentmindedly munching on a bag, and get that crisp burst of green flavor, honestly gave the Original pack the bit of “something new” I needed to start eating them again. After all, when you’ve eaten something your whole life, even the smallest bit of difference can invigorate it.