the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Sucking Candy


I already told this story on Twitter, but I don’t think anyone believed me, so I’ll tell it again.

Sophia’s mother asked me to pick up two things from her supermarket:  mayonnaise and these sugar-free Werther’s candies that she likes to have while watching TV.  I drove over and stopped at the supermarket near her home.  I was unfamiliar with the layout of the store and I was in a rush.  I had an appointment later that day.  I approached a supermarket employee who was stocking boxes.  He was a young, friendly-faced, college-aged kid.

“Where can I find mayonnaise?” I asked him.

“Aisle four!  I’ll show you.”  he replied, in that cheerful California “have a nice day” supermarket voice that you would never hear in New York. 

He guided me over to the condiment section, where I found my “Best Foods” Mayonnaise.  (side note:  In New York, it is Hellman’s Mayonnaise.  In California, it is Best Foods Mayonnaise.  In New York, it is Arnold’s Bread.  In California, it is Orowheat.  In New York, it is Edy’s Ice Cream.  In California, it is Dreyer’s ice cream.  I have this personal conspiracy theory that the names were changed for the West Coast so they seem less “Jewish.” — but that’s another post)

After grabbing the mayonnaise, I thanked the stock boy.

“One more thing,” I asked.  “Do you know where I can find “sucking candies?”

He giggled nervously.  We were alone in the condiment aisle.

“What do you mean?”  He asked.

“Sucking candies!”

“Uh… the candies are in front by the register.”

“No, I don’t mean like the M&Ms.  I mean the candies you suck on.  The… HARD candies.”

He turned red faced.  At the same time, he seemed VERY intrigued.  I’m not exactly sure what was going on, but it seemed as if I had hit upon some new “code” that has replaced the hitting of feet in the bathroom stall.   He looked up and smiled, shyly.

“I’ll find it myself.”  I quickly said, stumbling over a shopping cart as I went searching for the hard candies.

A few minutes later, I was in line, ready to check out with my mayonnaise and sucking candies.  I saw the stock boy looking my way.  I held up the package of Werthers that I bought, hoping that he got the message.  He GOT the message alright, but I’m not sure WHAT that message was.  He waved good-bye to me, a wisp of hopefulness in his eyes.

When I got back home, I logged onto Twitter.

“Does anyone use the term “sucking candies?”

I was surprised that nobody had ever used the term before.  My entire family calls them “sucking candies.”  “Good and Plenty” is candy.  A Hershey’s Bar is  chocolate.  A Werther’s is “sucking candy.”  Where did this term come from and why was I the only one using it?

Last night, Ninja Poodles sent me a message.  She noticed this on Margalit‘s Twitter. 


Yeah!  I’m not alone.

Since both Margalit and I are Jewish, I wonder if “sucking candy” is a Jewish term that was changed for the West Coast.


  1. HeyJoe

    Sounds like you made a new friend Neil.

  2. Whit

    The kid missed a real opportunity for some great one-liners. Probably for the best.

  3. Larry Craig

    Hey, thanks for the tips. Got Milk?

  4. Karen Sugarpants

    I’ve never heard the term but the next time I’m at the grocery store, I’m totally going to have fun with it. Maybe I’ll ask the butcher.

    • Judith

      Yeah I grew up in NJ, and that term entered my vocabulary when my mom remarried. My stepfather who spoke Yiddish as a first language used that to describe hard candies.

  5. bethany actually

    Hmm, I’ve never heard the term “sucking candy” before, but I would think the meaning would be obvious. I grew up calling it “hard candy”.

  6. Rhea

    I just call ’em hard candy. Not sucking.

  7. communicatrix

    You guys were always with the different lingo, like “on line.” That always killed me. Was there an invisible line painted on the street somewhere that only you NYers could see? (Although I love your coffee descriptors: coffee light always seemed like a better, quicker way to say “coffee with a shitload of cream.”)

    Anyway, Jews from Chicago, here, and we never called them “sucking candies”: it was “hard candies” and then all other candy.

    And it was “Hellman’s” in Chicago, for the Jews and the goyim. I think I recall the dividing line being the Rockies, but it may have been the Mississippi.

  8. Otir

    I don’t know. I call them “bonbons” and of course I would never dare uttering it anywhere.

  9. sizzle

    you’re kinky, neil.

  10. ajooja

    I went to high school with a girl we called “Sucking Candy.” 😉

  11. Heidi

    I’ve always called it hard candy, but I know a woman who very seriously calls them “suckies”.

  12. lizardek

    We called ’em sucking candies, too (non-Jewish, midwesterners). Also, Hellman’s is Jewish?? Who knew! I just thought it was the best damn mayo on the planet.

  13. Neil


    from a webcomic by asher sarlin

    And I have no idea about Hellman’s. But why change it to something as bland as Best Foods?

  14. Kathy

    I’ve always said “hard candy,’ but I think sucking candy would be obvious, and I’m neither coastal nor Jewish.

  15. kristen

    I’ve heard “sucking candy” here and there but don’t use it; everyone I know says “hard candy”. Could be an east coast thing, though (I’m from CT).

  16. Nate

    My family always called them “sucking candies,” but I think I’m going to put a “hard stop” to that now.

  17. Ellen Bloom

    We’ve been a west coast Jewish family since around 1915. Grandma Freda always just called them hard candy. We call them “Grandma Candy” ’cause Grandma ALWAYS had them in her purse!

  18. better safe than sorry

    our mayo here is hellmans, but the name best foods also appears on the label, in fine print.
    i call those candies hard candies, never heard of your term before.

  19. gorillabuns

    i can’t believe you said “sucking candies” to another guy.

  20. Atomic Bombshell

    I knew about the brand name changes for East Coast vs. West Coast on a few of those products, but I never noticed that it was to cover up their Jewish names! I’m inclined to believe your theory! Sad.

  21. Partially Insane

    Heheh! I am with Gorillabuns, I can’t believe you said “sucking candies” to another guy. Hehehe.

    I grew up in GA and have lived in Philly for 6 years, and I’ve never heard anyone use the term. I’ve always heard it referred to as “hard candy.”

    Now I’m definitely intrigued to find out what this guy thought you wanted from him. You should go back and do a little more investigating…just for journalistic integrity. Whaddya say?

  22. Partially Insane

    Just read Heidi’s comment on someone she knew calling them “suckies” and almost choked laughing so hard!

  23. Finn

    Maybe it’s an East Coast thing. You know how in the Midwest they say “pop” instead of “soda’? I would say hard candies because I grew up in the South, but since I’m originally from the Northeast I’ve heard “sucking candies” before.

    I wonder what the kid thought they were…

    And I agree that all that name-changing is some sort of conspiracy. I want Hellman’s, not Best Foods. How boring.

  24. TC

    Anything I would say here (of COURSE I’ve heard of sucking candies, and I have the same definition of them as you do) is negated by the fact that I grew up just a few miles from you and then moved West to the same city you live in…so of course our experiences would be the same. Still, don’t want you to think you’re alone out there in knowing with a sucking candy is!

  25. teahouseblossom should have just added, “They’re for my mother in law!” That might have avoided the whole awkwardness issue.

    Or else just asked for Werther’s.

  26. OMSH

    Hard candy.
    I call it hard candy.
    I have never heard “sucking candies” – but isn’t Werther’s a chewing candy? That might not have had the same effect with little raunch boy.

  27. brettdl

    Never heard the expression growing up in Chicago or anywhere else for that matter.

  28. Neil

    Werther’s has both a chewy candy AND a hard candy. I was looking for the hard sucking candy. Jeez, I’m beginning to sound like a pervert talking about this. And it was for my mother-in-law.

  29. Rosa

    Wow, I never knew that about the mayo. It’s Hellman’s here (Boston) and my husband insists on it because it says “Real” on the label, as if all the other mayonnaises on the shelf are fake.

    I hope that fresh faced college kid was over 18, yikes, what if he fetched the police instead of looking for the candy?

  30. Noel

    In New York, it is Hellman’s Mayonnaise. In California, it is Best Foods Mayonnaise. In New York, it is Arnold’s Bread. In California, it is Orowheat. In New York, it is Edy’s Ice Cream. In California, it is Dreyer’s ice cream

    In New York, we say sucking candies. In California, they say A Mindless Sexual Encounter Between an Older Man and a Younger Man. If you’d simply asked, like any California would, “Excuse me, but where can I find A Mindless Sexual Encounter Between an Older Man and a Younger Man?” he’d have shown you straight to the Werther’s.

    (Public Service Announcement: If you’re going to do that stuff, always use condiments.)

  31. margalit

    Wow, I feel famous and I didn’t even know this was going on! I’m from LA and we’ve always said sucking candy in my family. My mother is from Crown Heights and my father is from Boston. Sucking candy in their respective families as well. And Granny Rose, my father’s mother? She is from Birmingham England and…sucking candy.

    I think it MIGHT have more to do with our ages than anything else. But it’s gonna remain sucking candy as long as I’m alive, and my kids call it that as well.

    Now could you PLEASE explain why a child would buy her sick mother hot tamales for her sore throat? To me, that’s the real question of the day!

  32. Jack

    “Sucking candy?”

    Never heard the term before.

  33. Bemused

    Never mind ‘sucking candies’ (never heard of them before)… I think he wanted to know what you really wanted to do with the mayo!

  34. Shannon

    I’ve used the term sucking candies before, and I’m not jewish and I’m from California. But then again both my parents are from the south, (Arkansas and Georgia) so perhaps it’s a term that’s just used on that side of the country, and when you pass Texas suddenly it becomes dirty and has nothing to do with candy?

  35. V-Grrrl

    NY born, raised in the South–never heard the term “sucking candy” though in Oklahoma they called lollipops “suckers.”

    And there is no other mayo but Hellman’s.

    Coulda been worse you know, you could have asked for Miracle Whip and then had to ask for the “sucking candies.”

    I don’t do Miracle Whip–just so you KNOW.

    And I did once sport an adolescent smirk when a checkout boy told me, “Ma’am, just so you know, your eggs are under the nuts in that sack.”

    Oh my…..

  36. cruisin-mom

    Geeez Neil, do I have to teach you everything? Ravers love “sucking” candy…helps keep them from gnashing their teeth.

  37. churlita

    Imagine what was going on in that kid’s brain. I’ve never heard of sucking candies before, but it’s my new favorite term.

  38. Neil

    OK, you uneducated lugs — this is from Wikipedia, which KNOWS everything about CANDY —

    Candy, specifically sugar candy, is a confection made from a concentrated solution of sugar in water, to which a variety of flavorings and colorants is added. It is sometimes frozen (as in an ice pop).

    In North America, candy is a broad category that includes candy bars, chocolates, licorice, sucking candies, taffy, gumdrops, marshmallows, chewing gum and more. Vegetables, fruit or nuts glazed and coated with sugar are called candied.

    Outside North America, the generic name for candy is sweets or confectionery (UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other Commonwealth countries). In Australia and New Zealand, candy is, in normal usage, further categorised as either chocolate or lollies (for all other non-chocolate candies).

  39. melanie

    I have heard of the term sucking candies. I wouldn’t say it in public, well, for obvious reasons.

  40. Dagny

    I always say hard candies.

    As for the brand names, I remember the jingle going something like, “Bring out the Best Foods to bring out the best,” or something like that. What was the Hellman’s jingle?

  41. Neil

    Bring out the Hellman’s to bring out the best.” Seriously.

  42. 180/360

    I think my British in-laws use the term sucking candy. I figured it was an old term.

  43. Pants

    I bet asking for “sucking candies” in Utah would get me arrested. Or at least have a Mormon bishop thrown at me.

  44. will

    For some time I’ve been advised to read your blog and today I finally did, sorry it took me so long.

  45. Ash

    Neil, when you come to Amsterdam I am going to ask you if you have any sucking candy for me.

    • Leiba Etta

      Hopjes! Jewish grandma’s also have those.

  46. Penelope

    In England we don’t say candy, we call them sweets, and we have boiled sweets (hard candy), or sometimes we call them sucky-sweets, (I don’t know where that came from). Chocolate isn’t candy, it’s just chocolate, oh and of course we have Hellman’s. Did any of that make sense?

  47. Porter

    Ha. I thought everyone called them that. We’re Jewish and the family lives in D.C. (but originally from Brooklyn). My grandmother always carries “sucking candies” (my sister calls them “sucky candies”) in her purse. They are brands that I’ve never heard of, most often sugar-free, and they are ALWAYS in a filthy plastic, fold-over-top sandwich bag.

  48. kerrianne

    I know not of this sucking candy of which you speak. But boy do I love me some Hot Tamales.

  49. Los Angelista

    Sucking candies totally sounds like some sort of juvenile slang for sucking, er… sucking something else.

    Poor Neil. Your “sucking candies” innocence stolen away, never to be found again.

  50. Paul

    We call them boiled sweets in the UK … a tad safer to ask a youth for, in public …

  51. Meredith

    I can’t believe so many people have never heard the term “sucking candy.” I grew up in Minnesota and that’s what we say all the time. We’ll also use the term “suck-um.” You know, like, “while you’re at the store pick up some suck-ums.” Or maybe it’s “suck-’ems.” Whatever. “Sucking candy” is totally valid and I encourage you to continue using the term no matter who winks at you.

  52. Caron

    In my Minnesota family they were hard candies. Go figure.

    My thought is that perhaps he misheard you altogether. If he heard “sucky” (as in this candy sucks , it tastes bad, eww I’m spitting it out!) instead of suck”ing,” well, that could explain a quizzical look. Why would you be out shopping for bad candy?

  53. metalia

    East coast Jew, born and raised…I also say “sucking candy.”

  54. Neil

    Wow, it really must be a cultural thing. We need to consult the rabbis!

  55. Marge

    HARD candies – I’m dyin’ here! Hm, less semitic product branding – could very well be. I’m in Colorado where we get a weird blending of all of the product names and candy-isms. Is it soda, pop, sodapop or coke? Eh, potayto/potahto

  56. mrs mogul

    I’ve heard of sucking candies!! is it a NY thing??

  57. Hilary

    I think it’s a Jewish thing…my family calls them that (we’re from Detroit), and I always sort of assumed that’s what everyone called them. Now I’m going to have to poll my non-Jewish coworkers.

  58. Hilary

    Oops..sucking candy that is. And, it should also be noted that sucking candies had medicinal purposes–throat sore? Have a sucking candy. Ears plugged on the airplane? Have a sucking candy. Go figure.

  59. blackbird

    Somehow, at our house, they’ve morphed into ‘sucky candies.’

  60. Janelle

    Well I came to your blog to sign up for the great interview thingy and learned about suckin’ candy…I’ll be back tomorrow for another lesson 🙂

  61. stacey

    My God is it a Jewish thing? I just got berated by my boyfriend for making up a word. He insisted that my mother had taught me words that did not exist. I have always used the term “sucking candy”. I am from Long Island and am Jewish, so I guess that would be the reason.

  62. fajer

    i call them sucking candies and i’m not jewish i’m a muslim

  63. Sophie

    It’s a corporate buyout thing, not an anti-Jew thing. Below is the Wiki on Hellman’s, but you’ll find the same is true for the other brands you mentioned.

    In 1905, Richard Hellmann opened a delicatessen in New York City, where he used his wife’s recipe to sell the first ready-made mayonnaise. It became so popular that he began selling it in bulk to other stores. In 1912 he built a factory for producing Mrs. Hellmann’s mayonnaise in jars. It was mass marketed and called Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise.

    While Hellmann’s Mayonnaise thrived on the East Coast, the California company Best Foods introduced their own mayonnaise. Best Foods Mayonnaise became popular on the West Coast.

    In 1932, Best Foods bought out the Hellmann’s brand. By then both mayonnaises had such commanding market shares in their respective halves of the country that the company decided that both brands and recipes be preserved. To this day:

    Best Foods Mayonnaise is only sold west of the Rocky Mountains, specifically, in or west of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
    Hellmann’s is sold east of the Rockies, specifically, in or east of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.[1]
    In 1955, Best Foods acquired Rosefield Packing Co., makers of Skippy peanut butter. Then Best Foods was bought by Corn Products Refining Company in 1958 to form Corn Products Company, which in 1969 became CPC International Inc.

    In 1995, Bestfoods split from CPC International, becoming its own company once more. The company was acquired by Unilever in 2000.

    In the United Kingdom, Hellmann’s mayonnaise arrived in 1961. Unilever says that it had over 50% market share by the late 1980s. [1]

  64. kookimebux

    Hello. And Bye. 🙂

  65. Beth

    This is hysterical…I just offered two girls (whom I work with) sucking candies and they looked at me like I had two heads (yes both are Jewish heads). They are from Ecuador and said that all candy is just “candy.” I wonder if it is a Jewish Long Island thing.

  66. Roxfro

    ARGH! NY-isms!!!!
    Here in the Pacific NW, we stand “in line”, not “on line”, and we go “North”, not “Upstate Washington”.

    Did I say “ARGH!!!!!!”???

  67. sherrila

    Ha ha! I call them sucking candies, too.
    (I am a New York Jew living in California, for the record.)

  68. The Bombshell

    So glad you could brighten that guy’s day.

  69. Paul

    You are not alone. Just the other day, I shared the story of my grandmother and her sucking candies. Hers were generally coffee flavored, and they sat in a glass bowl in the living room that no one ever entered. You had to make a special trip to go grab one.

    I think it must be a New York thing. My parents both grew up in Brighton Beach. They and my grandparents say things like sucking candies, nudnik, pocket book, and dungarees.

    Suck on!

  70. Sal

    I grew up Catholic in Ottawa Ontario Canada – we always called them sucky candies. When I moved to the Prairies, they are called hard candies.

  71. C.E.

    Oh, I am SO glad to read all this and PROOF that I did NOT make the word up. The other day, after a business meeting, I offered one of our company VPs a bottle of water and a “sucking candy”. (I had put out a few bowls of assorted aka “hard” candies for the meeting) He gave me this astonished look and replied, “Pardon???” We both just cracked up laughing with tears running down my face as I tried to explain it was a term I grew up with from my mom in Boston although I love in Kentucky.

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