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Sweet on sweets in sour economy

POLLSTERS SPEND millions of dollars gauging the national mood, concocting fancy algorithms to measure national happiness or misery. What a waste.

There’s a much simpler and far more accurate measure that we’ve invented: The Gummy Bear Index.

While sales of almost everything else are tanking, candy sales are reported to be soaring. It’s not hard to guess why: People are taking refuge from the economic storm in the elemental pleasure of a Snickers bar or a bag of Skittles. If they can’t have a payday, they at least have a PayDay.

A quick glimpse at the Gummy Bear Index would tell you all you need to know about the country’s collective despair.

Or you could survey your own candy habits. In these times of stress, don’t you find your eye straying to the candy aisle, your hand reaching for the Lemonheads or Twizzlers more and more? There’s a certain comforting innocence about the candy of youth.

Candy expert Steve Almond (yes, that’s his name) recently wrote a fascinating op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal, tracing the rise of the candy bar. At first, chocolate was the province of the rich. But during World War I, the candy bar became a staple of the troops. In the Great Depression, bars with names like “Chicken Dinner” were popular. Our favorite: “Vegetable Sandwich,” which, Almond reported, apparently consisted of dehydrated celery, peas and carrots covered in chocolate. Yummy!

In the future, gummyologists — scholars who study the Gummy Effect — will unwrap the mysteries of the human craving for candy. Why, for instance, is one handful of gummy bears never enough? Why must Sour Patch Kids be chased by Hot Tamales?

Is the peanut M&M perfect?

These academicians will seek a Unified Theory of Candy, much like the physics conundrum that baffled Einstein in his later life. They will attempt to answer the eternal questions, like, why does green apple flavor never taste like green apples? And what, exactly, is nougat?

They will ponder the root beer barrel.

The human-candy bond is strong and subtle. Researchers might never pierce all the dense layers of meaning to reach the inner core of understanding. They will, however, enjoy a delicious journey of discovery.

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