The Joy of Candy

By Shamus Posted Sunday Apr 30, 2017

Filed under: Personal 96 comments

I mentioned this last week, but not everyone listens to the podcast. So here is the text version:

One of the great delights of parenthood is introducing someone to candy. You get to be the one to put the very first piece of chocolate in the mouth of another human being. You get to see the look on someone’s face when they discover that chocolate is a thing that exists!!! Granted, they haven’t usually mastered language enough to describe the experience, but (judging by most photo albums) toddler facial expressions are worth a thousand pictures.

Things didn’t work out this way with our oldest. When Bay was growing up she couldn’t tolerate candy. Give her some candy, and twenty minutes later she’s gone red in the face, with dark circles under her eyes, and is engaging in uncharacteristic self-stimming behavior. As a parent, it was pretty unsettling. I’m not going to detail all of our efforts to figure out exactly what things were doing this to her, but it was not a precise process. Eventually we discovered that if we kept her away from corn and the usual food dyes, she was fine.

About the same time, we discovered I couldn’t have corn either. My symptoms were different, but the result was the same: Eat corn, feel terrible.

We called this a “food allergy”, but I’m not convinced this has anything to do with the immune system. Then again, I don’t know what it is. When I was growing up, I never heard of anyone who was “allergic” to corn. That’s crazy! That’s like being allergic to water! But then as the 90s rolled around I’d occasionally hear about people having this problem. Then in the 00s the problem afflicted Bay and I. These days it doesn’t seem uncommon at all. I know several people who can’t touch corn without taking a voyage through the Valley of Regret, down the river of Oh God Why Did I Eat That.

The worst is when I go to a party or family gathering.


It’s a sunny day. High summer. There’s a homemade sign reading “SO-AND-SO FAMILY REUNION”. There’s a MURMUR of laughter and conversation from people gathered around. Two picnic tables have been pushed together to form a buffet line. Most of the men are holding plastic cups of beer and telling hunting stories. The women are drinking iced tea and exchanging information about which great-grandchildren are married, dating, or launching careers. It feels like the average age is somewhere north of retirement.

Shamus is standing in the pavilion where the sun can’t reach him. He’s wandering around with a plastic cup full of water so people will stop offering him beer. He looks at the table of food, trying to figure out if there might be anything that doesn’t contain corn. Suddenly he’s AMBUSHED by…

Aunt Ethel:
Oh Shamus! I haven’t seen you since you were a skinny little thing. Are you still into computers?

Yup. I’m really fond of “computers” these days.

Aunt Ethel:
Here, try this cake. Agatha and I spent the whole afternoon on it yesterday and everyone loves it. You should try some before it’s all gone.

Oh I can’t. (Flustered pause.) I’m… allergic.

Aunt Ethel:
Oh don’t worry Shamus, it’s safe for diabetics. Albert is diabetic and so we-

No, I’m not actually diabetic.

Aunt Ethel:
Well this pie is gluten-free. You could try that.

That’s not my problem either.

Aunt Ethel:
Are are you vegan? I think someone brought some-

No no. I just… I can’t have corn.

Uncle Benny:
What the hell is wrong with you, boy?

Actually, my relatives are sweethearts. Uncle Benny might think it, but he wouldn’t say it out loud and he wouldn’t think less of me. My relatives are fond of me and are gracious towards me at gatherings. They just find me (and my family) perplexing. So I’ve had my share of awkward conversations over the years as I discover I’m unable to adequately explain myself to normal people.

Sometimes when I describe the problem people will offer me unsolicited explanations for the rise in food “allergies”:

  1. It’s the pesticides they use on crops. You know that stuff doesn’t totally come off when you harvest it?
  2. Yeah. People are just eating too much corn these days. It’s in everything. After a while your body just decides it’s had enough.
  3. I was reading on Facebook this is caused by antibiotics. People take them too much nowadays and it ends up killing the gut bacteria that helps you digest corn.
  4. That’s not allergies. That’s just gettin’ OLD! Welcome to the club!
  5. I heard these people talking about “corn allergies” and “wheat allergies”. I figure it’s all in their head. We’ve been eating corn and wheat for generations and it’s never been a problem before.
  6. It’s prolly all them GMOs I keep hearing about.
  7. You’ll digest your food better if you get up and move around some! People spend too much time sittin’ on their backside, typing on their phones and whatnot.

Unsurprisingly, none of these conversations has ever reached any sort of scientific conclusion or consensus. I don’t know. Maybe we needed more beer?

Hang on, is this candy or breakfast cereal? And how messed up is American breakfast cereal that it's possible to confuse the two?
Hang on, is this candy or breakfast cereal? And how messed up is American breakfast cereal that it's possible to confuse the two?

While it’s annoying to have food allergies you can’t explain, it’s far worse when your kid is the one with the allergies. Not only do you have to explain to other people why you can’t let them give your kid candy, you also have to explain it to your kid! And they probably won’t understand anyway!

It always made me feel like the World’s Worst Dad. Other kids are munching down on Twix bars and Starburst Fruit Chews, and my kid gets a dye-free all-organic sugar-free vegan ginger chews. Having tried the stuff myself, I promise you it’s not the same. It’s the color of rotting fruit, it has the texture of a dried-out Twizzler, and it doesn’t really smell or taste like proper candy. I mean, there’s a reason they don’t make ginger Nerds or ginger Mike & Ike.

Just to complete the odyssey of disappointment, it also sticks to the wrapper. By the time you manage to eat the damn thing your fingers are sticky and you’ve consumed half the packaging.


Bay is all grown up now, and experimenting with candy on her own. And apparently she’s able to eat some of it! Maybe she’s grown out of it? Maybe she’s just adult-sized and so the occasional Twizzler isn’t such a big deal for her body to absorb? I have no idea. Whatever. I’m just glad she can have it.

She bought a huge bag of popular candies and she’s been sampling them and writing about the experience on her blog. Pictures of facial expressions are included. It’s not as adorable as seeing a toddler go through the same experience, but it’s way funnier.


From The Archives:

96 thoughts on “The Joy of Candy

  1. Tse says:

    Why do so many things in the US have corn in them? Over here, no one would even think of making a cake with corn.

    1. Galad says:

      I think it’s something to do with subsidies for corn, corn being cheap to mass-produce, or more explanations to that effect. Someone else can fill in the gaps

      1. newplan says:

        You can most efficiently turn sunlight into starch by covering midwestern soil with corn.

        You can most efficiently turn sunlight into protein by covering midwestern soil with soybeans.

        Further north, wheat is more efficient.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        Over here in the EU, growing corn yields less than growing wheat. That’s why the biofuel of choice around here is made from rapeseed, not corn (Not saying that that’s a good idea, but it works better here than corn would).
        Also, it’s not as if there weren’t agricultural subsidies in the EU, I mean, the EU was practically funded on acricultural subsidies…

        … and they do make sense, to some extent(!):
        There is a strategical benefit for any country to be able to provide food for its own population rather than being dependent on imported food. And since agriculture always depends on wheather, it makes sense that states will protect their farmers from some of the associated risk, or else a lot of them might just go out of business in a bad year, and the next year you’d have to start buying your stuff from elsewhere. Soon enough “elswhere” realizes you’re dependent on their crops, and jacks up the export fees, because they can. And next time “elsewhere” has a bad year, guess how happy they’ll be to sell you some of theirs… stable food prices are very very important to covernments, and so there’s a good reason to spend some money into it.

        … that’s not to say there weren’t a lot of places where the farming lobby has been milking that argument a lot more than they needed to for the common good (in fact, I think they have!), and also not to say that this wasn’t contributing to problems in other places, where the farming industry is a large part of the economy, but has been mostly priced out of the market by subsidized products from the US or the EU — Not something I’m proud of.

        Just saying, there’s usually some amount of reason to most of those things.

    2. Aanok says:

      If you’re a fellow European, brace yourself. Until now there have been fairly aggressive EU practices in effect to protect local sugar beet growers, which is why regular old sugar is the standard for us. These will expire in September however, so our food industry is about to get access to virtually unending amounts of much cheaper corn syrup. Candy will likely never be the same.

      1. Sartharina says:

        Meanwhile, here in the U.S. there are strong taxes and protectionist policies on Sugar that keep it triple the price it’s supposed to be, forcing greater reliance on HFCS.

      2. Hal says:

        The US produces sugar beets, too, but the entire industry is in a bit of upheaval. The great majority of sugar beets used for creating sugar are GMOs (meant for herbicide resistance), but there’s a lot of pushback on using GMOs, even if it’s entirely meaningless on the end product. This is leading to people moving away from GMO sugar beets, but there just isn’t much of a supply of non-GMO sugar beets, and the total availability, even if people switch away from GMOs, will always be limited due to the added difficulty of growing non-GMO sugar beets.

        NPR had an article about it last year, if you want a better understanding of it.

    3. Shamus says:

      This MAYBE gets too far into politics, but I’ll dare it because I don’t think there’s a strong left vs. right aspect to this:

      Like money for schools and roads, the one place you can always safely spend money is on America’s Farmers. The picture of the American Farmer, riding across his pristine fields in his John Deere, is as American as Norman Rockwell. (The fact that most farms are now owned by mega-corporations and not families is beside the point. Agribusiness is very good at marketing.) If a politician wants to score easy points, they can promise to “Protect America’s Farmers!”

      So we have corn subsidies. Like, HUGE. To the point where the government will pay you to grow corn, let you deduct the cost of growing it, and let you keep the proceeds when you sell it. (This is folk knowledge. I have zero evidence for any of this.) This results in a massive glut in corn. The glut is so enormous that it’s actually cheaper to turn corn into corn syrup than to use plain sugar, even though it takes a LOT of corn to make the syrup. (I’m sure you’ve noticed corn isn’t particularly sweet.)

      So corn syrup is the go-to sweetener for most things. Which means corn winds up in nearly all soft drinks, candy, and cakes. Most breakfast cereals, and in fact most breads.

      It is… not fun being intolerant of corn in this country.

      Sorry for the maybe-politics. If this annoys you, please play it cool and remember I’m just repeating what I’ve heard all my life.

      1. newplan says:

        Corn may be inefficient at replacing sugar but it has the advantage of being able to be cultivated outside the tropics – and where it’s grown is where the most advanced and efficient farms are located.

        1. methermeneus says:

          Re: outside the tropics, the US isn’t the only place that gets most of us sugar from non-cane sources. In Europe, commercial products tend to be made with beet sugar. Also, it’s not so much that it takes a lot of corn as the corn takes a lot of processing: the starch in not-particularly-sweet corn is broken down into glucose. It does take a lot of corn syrup to sweeten things, though, since glucose isn’t as sweet as sucrose, which is why you’ll often see either large amounts of corn syrup or small amounts of ridiculously-sweet high -fructose corn syrup. (After production, corn syrup is about 20% or less corn syrup. It’s often raised to 40% for home use. “High fructose”is anywhere from 60 to 85%) Source: I did some research a few years ago, and this is off the top of my head, so take it with a grain of salt.

          1. newplan says:

            Fructose is about 10% sweeter than sucrose – which is the baseline sugar.

            High fructose corn syrup is either 42% or 55% fructose and overall is about as sweet as sucrose.

      2. Lachlan the Mad says:

        I seem to recall that a lot of these subsidies are basically leftover laws from the World Wars. You pumped a lot of money into agriculture to feed the troops and you’ve never repealed the laws which create that money flow.

        1. guy says:

          The cause is actually from peacetime. Harvests fluctuate with the weather, so good weather can lead to a supply glut and drive prices down, which then can bankrupt farmers who still have the same equipment expenses. and force them out of the business, reducing capacity. Then if the weather goes bad, suddenly there is less land under cultivation and the per-acre yields are worse, causing a price spike and famine. The subsidies were originally meant to mitigate this by buying up overproduction at a base rate, letting farmers stay in business through an extended period of good weather.

          1. Tizzy says:

            Aren’t future contracts, rather than subsidies, supposed to be the tool to smooth out this kind of uncertainty?

            1. FelBlood says:

              Agribusiness seems to have decided that there’s a better return on investment spending their money on legal lobbyists.

              Is it too close to politics if I point out that the invisible hand of the market is using capitalism to subsidize socialism? -because that just seems really funny to me.

      3. Matt Downie says:

        Technical note, since you used the word ‘intolerant’.

        A food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy.

        A food allergy:
        is a reaction from your immune system (your body’s defence against infection) – your immune system mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat.
        can trigger typical allergy symptoms, such as a rash, wheezing and itching, after eating just a small amount of the food (these symptoms usually come on rapidly).
        is often to particular foods ““ common food allergies in adults are to fish and shellfish and nuts, and in children to milk and eggs as well as to peanuts, other nuts and fish.
        can be dangerous.

        A food intolerance:
        doesn’t involve your immune system ““ there is no allergic reaction, and it is never life-threatening.
        causes symptoms that come on more slowly, often many hours after eating the problem food
        only results in symptoms if you eat reasonable amounts of the food (unlike an allergy, where just traces can trigger a reaction).
        can be caused by many different foods.

        1. Richard says:

          And both of these cause utter misery.

          Allergies are worse than intolerances because they can be fatal, and even a trace triggers the reaction.

          Intolerances are worse than allergies because the long reaction time makes it very difficult to work out what caused the reaction.

          Then there are the various digestive diseases that mean you physically cannot digest certain foods – lactose and gluten being two of the most common – and so get very ill if you eat some of them.
          Which isn’t intolerance but often has very similar symptoms.

          1. tengokujin says:

            I’d like to think that the gut bacteria causing flatulence and loose stool from my consumption of lactose qualifies as “intolerance” by the above definition.

      4. The Rocketeer says:

        And to answer the question of why those subsidies exist: Iowa, and the hysterical need to pander to them.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          And to answer why Iowa is so damn important… well, probably read about that somewhere else.

          1. Cybron says:

            I will try to elaborate on this.

            So our political parties have primaries which are used to select which presidential candidate they’re going to run. This is something like a mini-election, but only for members of that party. The states have them at different times, and, being the winner in something resembles nothing so much as a large scale game of Chicken, Iowa is the first primary. This means that Iowa is first state that we see primary results for. Those results further influence later primaries, because people can say “so and so has no chance to win, just look at how bad they did in Iowa!”

            This means doing well in Iowa is important. The easiest way to do well in Iowa is to pander to the locals somehow. There are a lot of corn farmers in Iowa. So you see a lot of candidates with suspiciously pro-corn policies.

      5. Dave B says:

        It’s been my (poorly informed) impression that the corn subsidies have something to do with ethanol production, to make automotive fuel partly renewable. (Most road gasoline contains some percentage of ethanol from corn.)

        1. Viktor says:

          You are a bit mixed up. Ethanol is a non-oil renewable fuel source that makes climate change worse. As such, everyone on both sides of the aisle should hate it. But Iowa is home to a lot of corn farmers. Therefore, every 4 years when every mildly-relevant politician descends on Iowa in January for the caucuses, they all pledge their undying support to ethanol subsidies. Ethanol subsidies is paying people to grow corn to turn into bad fuel. This is separate from the more general corn subsidies, which pay people to grow corn even if it doesn’t get used for anything. Because why the hell not.

          1. Dt3r says:

            Quick clarification: Ethanol itself is carbon neutral, all the carbon in plant growth comes from the atmosphere. The carbon footprint for ethanol comes from growing, processing and transporting.

          2. Thanks for pointing this out. I am aware of the problems with ethanol fuels re: the environment, but I was posting from my phone, so I didn’t go into that. There are plenty of reasons to dislike ethanol as a fuel, including the fact that it is bad for engine parts in a few different ways. (for example, ethanol is hygroscopic — it absorbs moisture from the air)

            I guess I just assumed that the subsidies were primarily about a well-meaning but misguided (in this case) attempt to replace fossil fuels with renewable fuel. I don’t really want to get into the politics of that particular idea, but I want to thank you and Taellosse (in the comment below) for making things clearer for me.

          3. Zak McKracken says:

            “that makes climate change worse”:
            The problem here is not directly with the corn (as Dt3r pointed out) but with using some patch of land to grow corn which is then processed, yielding some small amount of fuel which is then burned. That produces a bit less atmospheric CO2 than extracting crude oil and turning that into fuel to burn it, so it would seem like it’s a good idea. However, the difference a lot smaller than most people think, and of course the CO2 balance is a lot worse than just allowing a forest to grow in place of the corn, especially if you cut down rainforest to make space for more corn fields.

            Another problem is that now food is in competition with fuel. So if fuel prices go up, corn (the food) also becomes more expensive. That’s one hell of a problem in places where people’s first priority is being able to afford food in the first instance.

        2. Dt3r says:

          Gasoline in the US has either 10% or 15% ethanol content (either E10 or E15 should be marked at the pump somewhere). There’s also gas with up to 85% ethanol, but it’s only recommended for use with certain engines.

        3. Tizzy says:

          I think ethanol is merely the most recent incarnation of corn subsidies. They’ve been around for a while.

        4. Taellosse says:

          Ethanol in gas is mostly a byproduct of corn subsidies, not a cause. The subsidies are so dramatic that it becomes cost effective to look for lots of additional products to turn the massive volumes of corn into. Adding ethanol to gas has never made sense from an environmental standpoint, since more non-renewable fuel is burned in making it than is saved in adding it to gasoline. The corn lobby is among the most powerful in the US, though, and is quite good at engineering laws favorable to further expansions of their products.

          1. guy says:

            Corn ethanol is marginally positive; it takes slightly less energy to produce than is released from burning it. It was like 1.03 joules per joule expended when I did a college paper on the subject. This varies by plant and sugarcane gives dramatically better returns, hence why Brazil uses much more ethanol.

            Of course, it should be noted that ethanol production is stationary and therefore can use grid power, which is partially from solar/wind.

      6. J Greely says:

        It is also not fun to live downwind of a corn syrup processing plant. Cargill built one a mile away from my house in the early Seventies, and the world smelled like soggy dog food. When the wind was right, it would reach my school as well, several miles away.


        1. Tizzy says:

          Downwind from a beet sugar plant is no picnic either.

      7. King Marth says:

        I have also heard from geoscience people that under a mass spectrometer, just about any material from any animal in North America pings “corn” off the charts. It’s in everything. It does help that corn and beans together make a complete amino acid profile, though there are nasty nutrient deficiencies that can get you if you try to exclusively subsist on corn (especially without the correct preparation techniques).

        I personally find corn quite sweet, to the point where I wasn’t so confused as to why its syrup is used as a sugar source. Of course, I also don’t douse it with salt and fat when eating corn off the cob.

        1. Alex Broadhead says:

          Sweet corn (which is what you boil or steam and eat with butter and salt) is not the same thing as feed corn (which is used to make ethanol, corn syrup, corn flour, etc.). They’re both varieties of maize, but the former is usually eaten fresh, the latter processed dried.

      8. EBA says:

        It’s a combo of the government protecting the farmers with a climate really suited for corn. If another crop was more viable for the same effects (eg sugar cane, or probably even wheat) we’d have that in literally everything. But corn is great, so corn everywhere.

        To be fair, farming is really fuggin hard in a capitalist economy. Most products can easily adapt to market conditions. You know, more demand for vidya games, make more games. Less demand, make less. Crops have a growing season though, which means they tend to hit the markets all at the same time, which would mean that farmers would have hell of a time running great profits.

        Of course these days a lot of farms, especially for corn, are vertically integrated, so the crops are farmed by the corporation that sticks it right to the processing plant, which means they aren’t nearly so perishable. But laws have trouble keeping up with changes in society or economics

      9. jawlz says:

        So corn syrup is the go-to sweetener for most things. Which means corn winds up in nearly all soft drinks, candy, and cakes. Most breakfast cereals, and in fact most breads.

        Huh. I know corn syrup (especially high fructose corn syrup) is the default sweetener in mass produced sweet goods (sodas, cookies, candies, many baked goods, etc), but outside of Karo-sponsored cookbooks from the 1960s-1980s (Karo is a large manufacturer of corn syrup, for those who don’t know), most cookbooks and recipes I see these days call for sugar and not corn syrup. So much so that I would be a bit surprised to see a home made cake at a family picnic use corn syrup as the sweetener in place of cane sugar. Maybe that’s a regional thing though? As I’m out in California, there’s a good deal of attention placed on diet and ingredients by a sufficient segment of the population that it’s hard to not be cognizant of ingredients.

        1. Lachlan the Mad says:

          It’s more a question of small vs large scale manufacturing. Corn syrup is liquid so it’s easier to work with in an industrial context — it ships more easily, it’s easier to calibrate for mechanical mixers, and moths can’t get at it. These kinds of scales don’t really matter in a domestic kitchen.

        2. Icing has powdered sugar. Powdered sugar has cornstarch

          1. jawlz says:

            [‘the more you know song’ plays in the background] Huh, didn’t realize that. Haven’t actually used powdered sugar in a long time, now that I think about it.

      10. Jordan says:

        If your allergies are specific to corn, have you never considered importing european food/candy made with regular sugar?

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          “regular” to you is probably sugar from sugar beets, as opposed to cane? That’s probably a very not-regular thing in much of the rest of the world.

          A friend of mine has huge problems with that type of sugar, but I’m not sure whether that’s the same as Shamus’ problem or a different one. So, using sugar from beets may or may not help.
          Shamus, does sweet fruit work for you?

          I’ve almost stopped eating candy and replaced it with loads of fruit. Apples, pears, mangos, grapes. Ohhh, grapes are so much better than candy! Lost some weight, too. Apparently refined sugar affects your metabolism in a way that non-refined sugar doesn’t.

          1. LCF says:

            Sugar beets in Europe, the historical reason.

            During Napoleon I, France and its satellites were under a blockade from Great-Britain and friends. It meant no more sugar from the Antilles, where the sugarcane production was located. Replacement was found in the sugar beets, homegrown, able to thrive in colder climate (from northern France to Russia).
            The British blocus was also the reason for Margarine, the oil-based butter substitute.

            +1 for fruit as a replacement for candy. Much better for health. You can always have a piece of candy from time to time, though.

        2. Corn is a huge simplification for clarity sake.

      11. Aitch says:

        And don’t forget : It ends up in most meats too.

        For instance, if you shoot a bear when it’s been grazing on a mountainside of blueberries, the fat of the animal will have a heavy purple tint to it (presumably from all the anthocyanins).

        What, praytell, ends up in the marbling of a steak from a cow that was fattened on corn?

        And I can’t be the only one that’s heard and tasted for myself that grass fed beef is way leaner with a more “minerally” taste, while cornfed beef is much sweeter and more tender.

        Again, though, more anecdotal conjecture. I have no scientific studies to reference for any of this.

        And by the way, the notion that no one either had or (the eternal excuse) never noticed they had an intolerance to corn before the 90’s gives me the hooboo jeebies. Or at least makes me want to look at the idea askance with a slightly furrowed brow until I see some studies about it not funded by Monsanto.

        Quick, Doc. I need a time machine, and a dollar fifteen in pre-1960’s money for a bushel of corn! Actually, make that a dollar thirty – I’ll also need a chocolate malted, a pack of cigarettes, and a new car.

    4. SharpeRifle says:

      As a point no one in the States would bake a cake from scratch with corn either….however most pre-made mixes include corn starch (as a preserving agent I believe but wuddaIknow). Soooo since most people don’t read the side of their boxes it probably led to even MORE confusion on why he couldn’t eat the cake…8-P.

      1. Hal says:

        Corn starch generally acts as a thickening/binding agent in cooking and baking. If it’s in a cake mix, it’s most likely there to keep the batter from getting too loose.

    5. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

      same here. I don’t think I have ever heard anything about using corn as a sugar substitute in anything.

    6. Thomas says:

      Is using Corn as shorthand for corn syrup something I’ve missed or a US only thing? I’ve never heard someone call corn syrup corn before.

      (Also almost all farmers throughout the world have their crops/animals almost entirely subsidised. The average UK farmer _loses_ money for growing and selling food, but makes a loving from the subsidies. New Zealand and Australia are some of the only countries who don’t.

      It goes back all the way to the Roman era when bread was subsidised

      1. Syal says:

        It’s a “can’t eat corn” thing. Not common otherwise.

      2. Corn starch, corn syrup, and so on are all corn based therefore corn allergy reacts.

  2. Da Mage says:

    I have a bunch of allergies, many are inherited from my mother. I been tested for the basic stuff, pollen (bad), grass (bad), cats (super bad), dust (bad), but never had any food tests.

    Last year I was having stomach problems, started cutting a type of food every few days until I found the problem. It was carrot. Everytime I ate carrot I ended up with bad stomach pains the next day. So then carrot got added to the list of vegetables that I just cannot eat, which is a problem since there are few vegetables I can eat already due to these problems. To this day the only way I can eat most vegetables is to mash them together and cover it in sauce, just the taste of most vegetables causes me to gag, I assume a leftover of when I reacted badly as a child.

    It’s a real problem when I attend a function or something. Cause they’ll provide some dish for people to eat, but it always got a bunch of veggies or salads with it that I just cannot eat. Most the time I just eat the meat and leave it.

    I feel your pain, its a really sucky problem to have. Luckily I have no problems with corn potatoes and wheat, as they are in everything nowadays.

    1. Baychel says:

      Hey that is really funny. I have a very similar issue. I have found that my veggie allergy is connected to my grass allergy. According to my doctor a lot of veggies contain this one thing in grass some people can be allergic too. So if you are allergic to that one aspect of grass you’re also minority or severely allergic to many veggies. It differs from person to person but for me as long as veggies are cooked I’m fine. But otherwise I get hives and a swollen throat so I often have to make sure that things are cooked completely and totally. Nothing like explaining that to relatives and waitresses.

      1. Viktor says:

        For some varieties of that allergy putting them in the microwave for ~10 seconds can also make them fine to eat. Not all versions, so do your research and don’t trust me, but it may make things easier on you.

  3. AR+ says:

    This is unrelated, but I’ve just noticed that your site scales down properly now, so I’d like to express my appreciation of that.

    1. Cybron says:

      Seconded, works great now.

  4. methermeneus says:

    You get to be the one tot put the very first piece of chocolate in the mouth of another human being

    Did you mean “too?”

    The way the human body goes in and out of allergies is insane. I had cold contact urticaria in my mid-twenties (literally allergic to cold… at a time when my job required me to stand inside a refrigerator for goes at a time), and a couple of years before that my eye allergies got so bad I couldn’t see for basically a couple months a year. I also used to work for a baker who’d developed a strawberry allergy in his thirties. The subject came up, of course, while making strawberry shortcake.

    1. Phill says:

      I’ll wager he meant “to” rather than “too” or “tot” ;)

      1. Syal says:

        tot’ally’ put’ting’.

    2. tengokujin says:

      I think my LASIK surgery made my very mild eye-watering worse, due to the trauma to my conjunctiva. After that surgery, I’ve been tearing up like mad every spring. Sometimes, I wake up choking because I’ve slept on the wrong side and my sinuses won’t drain.

  5. Cilvre says:

    Hey Shamus, just wanted to let you know this hit home for me. I used to think i just had issues with how stuff might be prepared, but i found out about 8 months ago i actually have a lot of food allergies. None are life threatening but the ones i have suck. Gluten, wheat, peanuts, corn, sesame seeds, and soy are mine with gluten, corn, and soy being the worst. Changing my diet for this has helped a lot and made me less bloated, but i miss bread and fried foods. I basically eat meats, potatoes, rice, and salads now.

  6. Nick says:

    This music video is worth linking here, methinks

  7. Son of Valhalla says:

    The joy of eating candy and chocolate is great. I’m pretty sure I have a detrimental addiction to sugar, but I am also trying to curb this addiction.

  8. I’d blame #6, the corn in modern days is nothing like the corn in the past. I woulds not be surprised if Mon Santos (or whatever thy are called) have a patent on some of the GMOs corn used in a lot of stuff.

    Stray too far from what your body evolved to handle and you get issues eating certain food.

    Nice tidbit. Know how some folks are lactose intolerant and can’t drink milk? That is actually normal (or used to be), being able to drink milk at a adult age is a mutation. Humans used to only drink milk in their early years then grew out of it since as adults they did not need milk as their food source any more.

    AFAIK I’m not lactose intolerant, which makes me a mutant I guess? (Pst! Marvel, call me. I’m thinking “Milksquirt Man”, Ok. we’ll work on the name.)

    1. Viktor says:

      It’s not GMOs. Or rather, all corn has been genetically modified by humans for the last 10,000 years, along with the rest of our food crops. Look up what corn used to look like, or bananas, if you want a shock. Compared to that, pesticide-resistance is not even slightly a big deal.

      (Now, that’s not to say there’s no concerns with GMOs. Loss of biodiversity, EULAs for seeds, patent-squatters, and all sorts of other legal messes are a big deal, but none of the GMO freak out ever seems to worry about that.)

    2. Rodyle says:

      I'd blame #6, the corn in modern days is nothing like the corn in the past. I woulds not be surprised if Mon Santos (or whatever thy are called) have a patent on some of the GMOs corn used in a lot of stuff.

      Monsanto are a bunch of a-holes, but mostly due to their petty tactics (stuff like trying to give competing companies a bad name). However, GM products are not inherently dangerous. Most trans-genes (ie: genes which are crossbred or put into the target plant) are not strange Frankengenes, but often genes from other plants which have some favourable property, such as drought-resistance, or the ability to generate an insect-repelling protein.

      No real effect of GM plants on human health has been found by reputable research.

      Nice tidbit. Know how some folks are lactose intolerant and can't drink milk? That is actually normal (or used to be), being able to drink milk at a adult age is a mutation. Humans used to only drink milk in their early years then grew out of it since as adults they did not need milk as their food source any more.

      AFAIK I'm not lactose intolerant, which makes me a mutant I guess?

      True. However, I don’t think that calling yourself a mutant for having a mutation shared by 30% of the world gives you merit to join Xavier’s academy ;)

      1. baseless_research says:

        However, I don't think that calling yourself a mutant for having a mutation shared by 30% of the world gives you merit to join Xavier's academy ;)

        that’s racist.

      2. Tizzy says:

        Most trans-genes (ie: genes which are crossbred or put into the target plant) are not strange Frankengenes, but often genes from other plants which have some favourable property, such as drought-resistance, or the ability to generate an insect-repelling protein.

        Aren’t some of those genes more along the lines of: “Resists being doused by pesticides / herbicides really well?” Favorable property indeed, but I understand why someone might have mixed feelings over those.

        1. Erik says:

          Oddly, this is the key to a lot of wheat intolerance issues. Before Roundup(tm)-resistant GMO crops, farmers would harvest their wheat then let it dry out in the fields for a week before bringing it in for threshing. This gave Nature a window to destroy the crops with a poorly timed storm.

          But applying Roundup(tm) to wheat desiccates the plant temporarily, so farmers now apply Roundup(tm) then harvest almost immediately. Roundup was developed to be a short-lived herbicide, and normally Roundup(tm) leaves the environment in under a week. But when harvested that quickly, some Roundup(tm) is left in the crop, and some quantity (plus byproducts) is believed to survive processing. A significant part of the growing “gluten-intolerant”/”wheat-sensitive” population is believed to actually be Roundup(tm)-sensitive… but there’s no test for that.

          Not surprisingly, Roundup(tm) has never been tested for effects in this application regimen, only in the traditional application earlier in the growth cycle. And the results of all tests of Roundup(tm) are secret – getting permission from Monsanto to test Roundup(tm) involves signing an NDA that will not let you release any results they don’t approve of. This means that there is very little reputable research done, since most scientists will not sign something that would prevent them from publishing – their careers depend on publish-or-perish evaluation.

          The entire system is quite dysfunctional.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Considering that changing just one base in a single gene can lead to people sneezing when they see they are exposed to sunlight,I dont see why changing a few genes in a plant wouldnt trigger an allergy in some people.

        Sure,gmo food is tested to be safe for human consumption,but allergies are a fiddly thing,and testing if not really something you can easily test for every new breed you make.

        But personally,I dont think thats the problem.To me,the corn allergy seems more like a thing that was always there,but people have only recently started to notice it as something thats not uncommon,because it was usually not life threatening.

        1. Hal says:

          Considering that changing just one base in a single gene can lead to people sneezing when they see they are exposed to sunlight,I dont see why changing a few genes in a plant wouldnt trigger an allergy in some people.

          That’s like saying, “Changing one line of code can cause a cascade of errors, so I can see why adding that one feature ruined everything.” It’s technically true, but is just as likely to be entirely unrelated.

          Of course my only experience with coding is whatever Shamus throws up here, so my use of the analogy is questionable.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “It's technically true, but is just as likely to be entirely unrelated.”Thats the stock answer for any allergy though.We still have no idea why some people are allergic to some things.Its buried somewhere in our genetic code,but where and why is anyones guess.

            1. Mistwraithe says:

              I don’t even think it is entirely buried in the genetic code, it has to be rather more complicated than that to fully explain the upsurge in allergies in the western world. There are almost certainly strong environmental factors at work, but we seem to be struggling to pin them down.

            2. Erik says:

              It’s starting to look more like epigenetics – the cell-level triggers that determine which of your genes actually get expressed and how they are expressed. Epigenetics can be inherited, to a limited extent, but can also be changed by environmental factors.

      4. djw says:

        I have to agree. I am more worried about the corporate shenanigans than I am about the GMO’s, and even if you ban the GMO’s the people in charge will still engage in various and sundry shenanigans.

        As for lactose intolerance… it very much depends upon where your ancestors come from. If your ancestory is Northern European it would be very unusual for you to be lactose intolerant.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Lactose intolerance is present in europeans too.It depends on the country,but it still varies around 20%.

    3. the corn in modern days is nothing like the corn in the past.

      I was going to say the same thing, but about wheat. And it’s not necessarily about GMOs either. Most of the wheat cultivars currently grown in the US now, were introduced to the US during or after the 1940s. Some older varieties are still grown, but only by a few farmers who specialize in organic “heritage” crops (with higher prices to match their niche markets).

  9. Gobberlerra says:

    If corn is the problem, have you/bay ever considered trying candy from places that don’t use corn syrup? (I had a double take when an article about candy started with corn allergies :p and I’ve been living here for ages years now ><) Aussie stuff for instance doesn't (and IMO is soooo much better because of that). I would be more than happy to supply a box of that next time I fly back :D

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      “Have you considered paying 10 times as much for junk food?” is a non-starter I would think.

    2. Matt K says:

      My mom, who as mentioned below has a severe corn allergy, used to make do with sugar free candy. It’s not quite as good (although they’ve gotten better) but it does satisfy the sweet tooth.

    3. Fade2Gray says:

      I used to go to Scottish festivals out here in the States every year with my Dad. One of my favorite parts of going was always the British import shop. I’d buy as much candy as I could afford and try to make it last as long as possible. I don’t have any major food allergies, but I could taste the difference in the kind of sugar they use.

  10. Tvtim says:

    While I’m lucky in that I don’t share that allergy to corn, I do find corn itself quite repulsive. The smell alone makes me gag pretty hard, and if I happen to eat any…well, it come back out pretty fast; I don’t know what it is, but I can wolf down candy, corn syrup or no, with no ill effects.

    On a side note: the voice in my head for Uncle Benny went VERY southern hick when he said that last line of your little ‘so-and-so reunion.’ Up to that point everyone, including him, had a very normal voice while I was reading that, and then he just went full southern, standing on his porch, looking very redneck-ish voice.

  11. default_ex says:

    Perhaps I should start a blog or video series on my baking style. I can’t stand corn, not allergic, it just has this specific taste even when processed into syrups and starches that completely ruins it for me. Most people don’t seem to notice it and call me crazy for it saying I only notice it because I know of it but half the time I try something new that does have a corn product in it I don’t know until I taste it and then look at the box/bag to determine if my taste-buds are right. Have yet to be wrong.

    So I had to learn to bake a lot of things without typical ingredients. It’s a lot longer of a process to bake a cake without the “tried and true” method but definitely worth it. Everyone that tries the stuff I bake is usually blown away by how amazing it taste and points out “it can’t be healthy”. Yet it’s very likely far healthier than anything they’ve ever ate. Aside from my frostings, icings and creams; those are diabetes on a spoon due to how much actual sugar I have to use to overcome the loss of artificial sweeteners you normally find in such things.

  12. Matt K says:

    My Mom is incredibly allergic (like go to the hospital and try not to die allergic) to corn (as well as a few other things and including anything that’s fed corn like most meat) since the early 80’s.

    While people/places have gotten better over the years, when I was growing up it was ridiculous. Sometimes it would be like “oh I didn’t know cornstarch would cause an issue” or “oh you just have some sort of eating disorder” and what I found to be the worst was “when I said I checked to make sure you can have it I actually didn’t”. That said, with the more recent increase in allergy awareness it seems like things have gotten a little better but a lot of places still don’t seem to understand.

    Similarly I have a sensitivity (it sets off my asthma) to MSG and all its none named forms, like yeast extract, and it can be difficult although thankfully it mostly just crops up in snack foods (like doritos have 3-4 types of MSG in them) and fast food so I can definitely relate (although I never did eat much/any fast food and Frito Lays just came out with an organic line which I can have, so I can finally have doritos again).

  13. Dreadjaws says:

    Man, what a corny post.

  14. Mr Compassionate says:

    Oh man I love candy! Especially sugary Haribo stuff. Almost as much as I love candi.

  15. Darius says:

    I’d be really interested to know if you’ve tried other glucose syrups. Corn syrup is made by breaking the starch down into sugar and can be made with many other starches. You can get glucose syrup made from wheat, potatoes, rice and other starches.

    I started doing candy making as a hobby a couple of years back, and if I used a different kind of glucose syrup it would all be completely corn free. It tastes a lot better than what you can get at the store, but it’s a lot of work and you can’t match the sheer variety of what you can get at the store. I’ve yet to make home made Twizzlers.

    1. Darius says:

      Couldn’t figure out how to edit previous comment:

      I hope I didn’t come across as ‘that guy’: “Shamus, why don’t you just manufacture your own candy?”

      I just find candy making fascinating and by association find corn syrup to be interesting as well.

  16. Zak McKracken says:

    “4: That's not allergies. That's just gettin' OLD! Welcome to the club! ”

    … I think there is some truth to that:
    1: Most people start developing these problems with age. Of the people I know who have problems with certain food, none of that had them in their teens.
    2: I think at least a few decades back, people just dealt with their digestive problems on their own, and many still do. You don’t ask a doctor, you just realize that your digestion doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, you don’t link it to specific food, and you just blame age.

    It makes sense, then, that at least some of the older generation have very similar problems but simply ascribe it all to age, grit their teeth and live with it. Not to say that was a healthy thing to do…

    I’m genuinely undecided whether food intolerances are actually happening more these days than they used to or just whether they’re a problem that was simply not noticed a few decades ago. As Shamus himself wrote some time ago, he would probably not have survived in mieval times due to asthma. Everybody was too occupied with not dying to the million other things which were a problem at the time to notice. Asthma has since become recognized and dealt with to the extend that it’s merely an inconvenience to most people who have it. My impression is that food intolerances are heading in a similar direction. It is becoming more and more easy to find food without “X” in supermarkets, and while this process does sprout some strange fruit, like the “gluten intolerance epidemic” (and mean jokes about people who are actually gluten intolerant), it seems to become easier and easier to tell what’s in the stuff you eat, and to either directly avoid those things or deal with them in a better way (e.g.: carry lactase tablets, or find and eat the stuff your gut flora needs to calm down).

    I kind of hope that Shamus’ problems are the growing pains assiciated with society realizing that having dealt with a bunch of very deadly problems, there are now some less-frequent and less-deadly problems left over that were conveniently ignored and maybe we should do something about those, too, since those others are less of a concern now. Things are actually getting better.

  17. Perceptiveman says:

    So does EVERYONE have an Aunt Ethel? (And an Uncle John?)

  18. Alex Broadhead says:

    You might try the few candies that are very definitely not made with corn syrup: maple sugar and honey-based stuff like sesame candies. Yeah, it’s not really the funhouse of color and flavor that your average quickie mart can hook you up with, but they’re pretty good. (And as my palate has aged out of sweet, they’re still enjoyable.)

  19. Falcon02 says:

    My Brother and I were put on I think the “Feingold diet” after I came home acting weird and highly hyperactive after being given M&Ms by a pre-school teacher.

    It was to the point that the Teacher got concerned and called home after school to ask my Parents if I was okay.

    We basically had to avoid Artificial flavors and colors, for a long time. No issues with Corn. It seemed to resolve the behavioral issues we experienced. Whenever I tell the story people seem to think, yeah you give children candy/sugar of course they’ll get a bit hyper, that’s normal. But it went beyond that (as evidenced by my teacher’s concern).

    Once we reached our mid to late teenage years though we had outgrown it and didn’t have any more issues, and became free to try whatever we wanted. Though I still don’t like the “Taste” of certain food coloring when over used.

    Based on Wikipedia the Diet now a days seems to be out of favor and lacking concrete scientific support, but it did seem to work anecdotally for my family.

    1. Did a small part of feingold diet when kids were small. And rotation. Among other things. All helped to some extent. GAPS made a huge difference.

  20. Ander says:

    Uncle Sweetshare is coming near
    To spread his candy and his cheer!
    It’s better than trinkets, games, or toys–
    So say all the little girls and boys.

    Candy, candy, he makes so much!
    Uncle Sweetshare has a magic touch.
    So it’s back to the workshop in the snow,
    With lovely lanterns all aglow.

  21. Durican says:

    I can’t eat candy anymore because I get mouth ulcers very easily. If I simply avoid candy and junk food, then I don’t have any problems, but eat candy get a week of pain.

    I am very sore with my body for enforcing healthy eating against my will, and I feel Shamus’s pain for having to explain constantly why I won’t eat amazing delicious sugary treats when offered. Except when I do.

  22. default_ex says:

    I realized a bit after my last response to this post that I actually encounter the same thing with an allergy of mine, which thanks to some recent climate change that scares me hasn’t been as bad as it used to be.

    I have some intense, though not fatal allergies towards pollen and grass. I’m perfectly find with walking around a grass field but the moment the stuff goes airborne it begins to get to me. I get weird white welts on my skin, my throught swells to the point where it’s stressful to breath (as in I feel my “breathing muscles” working a lot harder) and I’m usually stuck in bed for a couple days after with flu-like symptoms. I have been called everything from lazy to stupid because of this because no one accepts it. As a result I get stuck mowing the lawn instead of people I’ve lived with whom don’t posses such allergies (hows that for irony you lazy jerks).

    So my process has become this to mow the yard. I take an allergy pill containing a very specific chemical and dosage of it, luckily available over the counter for a couple dollars for enough pills to get through a summer. I put on a surgical mask, pants that don’t breath very well and a long sleeve insulating shirt. Then I got out and mow the yard coming back in covered in alarming amounts of sweat due to the clothing required to keep that crap off my skin. This moves me from flu-like symptoms down to sniffling and very slight throat swelling (frog in throat feeling for a couple days).

    What aggravates me about the whole thing is how others treat it beyond what I already mentioned. Everyone wants to suggest X-drug that they take for unrelated allergy Y. I have to repeat myself over and over again that what they are suggest is for pet dander allergies or food allergies and that I have already tried the stuff with no avail. Followed by proclamations that “obviously” what I’m using isn’t working: really, I went from bed ridden for a couple days to being able to function when I found this particular one, it seems to work very well. I also get suggestions to double on doses which the bottle specifically warns against doing due to risk of seizures and blood thinning, no thanks I’m accident prone and don’t need anything to help me bleed out when I nick myself on some random thing nor do I want to fall to the ground convulsing in a field of grass that I’m allergic to.

    All of these stupid medical suggestions when there is one very real way to deal with my allergies. Get off your lazy ass and mow the lawn so I don’t have to.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I have similar, though not as severe, allergies, which also make my eye membranes itch, burn, and swell. Finally bought a full-face gas mask and reusable impermeable coveralls a few years back, and haven’t regretted an instant of it. As an added bonus, I look like a hazmat cleanupmn while I’m working in the yard!
      Full face gas mask also comes in handy for cutting onions. Be sure to get the acid gas and organic compounds filter for that one. Or working in the attic, or the shop where one doesn’t want to breathe all the particulate. Or in the crawlspace or the barn, if you’re averse to Hantavirus.

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