I love newspaper food pages, what with their Bolognese sauce recipes and reviews of locavore bistros. They tell us how to eat well, and that’s something of real value. Putting thought into what we put in our bodies is never a bad thing.

That said, sometimes I just wanna grab some garbage food and shove greedy handfuls of it into my dumb face. There’s not much coverage of junk food in the food pages, and this feature seeks to remedy that.

In every biweekly edition of Pat Eats Garbage Food, I’ll review a different fast food item or convenience store snack and let you know what works and what doesn’t. (You’ll note I didn’t say what’s good and what’s bad; it’s all bad. That’s the point.)

The food

This week we examine a candy that nobody loves or hates, a candy that simply is. This week we examine Smarties. You know, the little aspirin-sized discs of pressed dextrose that have for decades been used as filler in giant bags of assorted discount candy. They’re inoffensive, even pleasant. But I’ve never once heard anyone claim them as a favorite. Nevertheless, they’re ubiquitous.

Smarties are actually a great American story, despite their status as a benign mediocrity. British expat Edward Dee started the Smarties Candy Co. in New Jersey in 1949. It was called Ce De Candy Inc. back then, and it operated out of a rented facility. His granddaughters Sarah Dee, Jessica Dee Sawyer and Liz Dee run the company now. It’s a legit multigenerational, family-owned candy company. In a world in which most such companies have become subsidiaries of Nestle-Pepsi-Mondelez-Mars-Chevrolet, that seems impossibly quaint. Does it make me like Smarties more and want to eat more of them? Yeah, it actually kind of does.

The damage

You can get 5 pounds of them for $ 10.98 at Walmart. Or you can order “unwrapped tablets in bulk; approx. 27,000 tablets ”directly from www.smarties.com for $ 55.95. That’s a lot of unwrapped Smarties, baby! Of course, you can also just walk through life never buying any Smarties at all and still somehow end up with them in your home. The ones in the accompanying photo were left over from my niece’s birthday piñata.

The other damage

They’re only 25 (entirely empty) calories per 15-tablet roll. That means you can eat, like, 10 rolls before you get to candy-bar calorie levels. This is good, because I always just kind of eat them until they’re gone. That’s one reason I will NOT be ordering 27,000 unwrapped bulk tablets directly from the company.

Official description

From www.smarties.com: “Indulge your sweet tooth with the yummy Smarties candy wafer roll you know and love, just the way you remember it. It’s no wonder they have been one of the leading Halloween treats for over 50 years! The perfect treat anytime, anywhere. No need to worry about a mess in the heat – they won’t melt! “

I bet I could get them to melt if I really worked at it.

My description

They’re Smarties, you know? So they’re fine. They’re like the beige 2005 Toyota Corolla of candies. I eat them when they’re around, but I can’t recall ever seeking them out.

How do they feel?

They feel OK. You’d have to eat a whole bunch of them before you started feeling bad.

Will I eat them again?

Yeah. I mean, there are gonna be plenty more birthday piñatas before my kids and their friends are fully grown.

Overall rating

7 out of 10, but that includes a couple of bonus points for being a real family-owned company. If the Dee granddaughters sell out to a giant conglomerate, I’m lowering the score to a 5. (But I’ll still eat them.)

• Pat Muir is former Yakima Herald-Republic staff writer whose Pat Eats Garbage Food Column ran from 2018 to 2020. It appears in Explore every two weeks.


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