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I was 10 years old in the summer of 1966 when Batman: The Movie opened. My younger brother, Charlie, was 6. My parents were at work. The housekeeper was in her room. A vague notion that Charlie and I should eat a proper meal before I snuck him off to the movies subsided as a grand plan emerged. I would buy us dinner at the movies. We would have a candy dinner.
To appreciate both the roots and the audacity of the plan, consider that for months beforehand, every day after school, local kids had gathered in our house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. There, free from parental supervision, my 12-year-old brother, John, and his friends from the sixth-grade class at Brookmont Elementary School would be Batman, Robin and the Riddler. I was Batman's secretary. Charlie was invariably the hostage.
As games began, Charlie would be kidnapped, the rest of us would count to 100, and I then would receive and relay hints from the Riddler as to where Charlie was being held. The games persisted until the Riddler had exhausted all the best places to hide Charlie, including the attic, the laundry room and, once, an old dog kennel in the garage.
By the time Batman: The Movie opened, school had let out. John wasn't there. It must have been the summer he spent at sailing camp in North Carolina. For his part, Charlie had become rebellious. So it required enticement to execute my plan, which I assured Charlie our parents had not condemned. (And how could they have? They hadn't been consulted.)
As I led Charlie to a city bus, I promised two things. First, he would not at any point be locked in a laundry room or kennel. Second, at the cinema, we would have a meal like no other. In our rampaging around the house, I had discovered my father's collection of pure silver quarters. Charlie and I were not only going to the movies by ourselves to see Batman: The Movie. We were also going to have a dinner that was entirely candy.
Previous years negotiating Halloween candy — chiefly experimenting how to eat it before my brothers did — had led to serious thought as to just how such a meal should work. A perfect candy dinner struck me then, and still does now, as something of the Holy Grail of meal planning.
So, I told Charlie, there would be rules, and he would have to abide by them. To start, instead of salad, we would have Life Savers. A candy dinner must be started slowly, made to last, so it wasn't all over before the Penguin was vanquished. Boiled sweets were just the thing.
And yet, whether it was Charlie's wheedling, my greed or both — I don't recall — as we left the concession stand, for our first course, in addition to Life Savers, there were Tootsie Rolls for me, Sugar Daddies for Charlie. At least they fit the all-important eat-slowly criterion for the first course of a candy dinner.
Then the main course. All the stops came out: Snickers for me, Milk Duds and Raisinets for Charlie. Caramel and chocolate, any kid can tell you, are the steak and potatoes of a candy dinner. For a vegetable, we got a bucket of salted popcorn.
I clearly remember refusing to buy Charlie a Coke on the grounds that soda pop cannot be consumed with candy. The tastes clash. Rather, to cut the richness of the chocolate, I preferred another cure. Let's call it the sorbet course, or palate cleanser: Necco Wafers for me, Good & Plenty for Charlie, and some Hot Tamales to share.
That we might go into sugar shock never occurred to me. Normally, we would have eaten a Stouffer Salisbury steak heated up by the housekeeper before, say, scoring a vanilla ice-cream cone topped with chocolate and almonds. The Good Humor truck passed our house only after dinner. Here, candy was dinner.
Charlie's pace slowed first. As he surrendered his Milk Duds for me to finish and moved on to the Twizzlers, I should have recognized something was up when he couldn't finish his main course. But I had my own worries. A thick sweat was forming on my brow. So much candy. So little time.
Allowing Charlie the Twizzlers was regrettable. I've since come to realize that their red coloring only suggests the idea that they might be as refreshing as fruit. They, like most other corn syrup- or gelatin-based candies, sit in your stomach like half-set polymer medium spiked with raspberry fizz.
Who puked first now escapes me. I remember clearly trying to quell Charlie's nausea with some Hot Tamales as our parents were called.
Once home, I was in such hot water over the stolen quarters, giving the distraught housekeeper the slip and kidnapping my 6-year-old brother that if there was a nutritional angle to the thrashing that followed, I don't recall it.
Welts fade but inspiration dies harder. The idea that a dinner comprised of nothing but candy could be made to work persisted for at least another three years. I only gave up as a seventh grader, following a regrettable palate-cleanser course in a screening of The Reivers, when I cracked a rear right molar while biting down on a Fire Ball.
I've never filled that gap in my jaw with a bridge or an implant, though various dentists have assured me that I will regret it in my dotage. My tongue seeks it out reflexively whenever I am slouched in my favorite aisle seat at the movies and I smell the wafting scent of concession-stand chocolate. When that happens, optimism persists. What a great world, I think, it would be if dinner could consist of nothing but candy.
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