I'm going to start by stating the obvious: things are at the grocery store because people buy them. Grocery stores are not in the business of stocking items that do not sell. That's kind of the purpose. Therefore, the fact that grocery stores stock Circus Peanuts means - stick with me here - that people buy them on a semi-regular basis. Makes sense, right? It's confusing at an emotional level, but it makes logical sense.
For those who live outside the scope of Circus Peanuts, they are a marshmallow-ish candy which is about the size of your thumb, shaped like a peanut, orange in color, and tastes like banana. I know, right? The only question which comes to mind fully formed is, "Why?"
Start with the texture. Although it purports to be a marshmallow candy, this is unlike anything else called "marshmallow" that I've ever encountered. It could more accurately be described as a solid foam, not unlike that of a memory foam mattress, or one of those stress balls they sell as executive desk toys.
Biting into a Circus Peanut is like biting into a slightly softer form of Violet Crumble. The texture is difficult to describe. It almost has scroop, which is the crunchy squeaky feel of silk, corn starch, and wet acrylic sweaters when you take them out of the washing machine.
The color of the Circus Peanut is a pallid orange. I do not know why. The flavor is said to be "banana" but you could also call it an "unsuccessful orange." Put it this way: the flavor is so brightly artificial that it is difficult to tell if it is meant to be banana or orange.
Marshmallow peanuts may be one of the oldest candies still in production today. According to the Spangler website, they were first invented in the 1800s. Originally it was a seasonal candy, due partly to the fact that the texture didn't last long in summertime heat or winter's dampness. Circus Peanuts traditionally stocked the barrels of the old timey penny candy store in springtime.
This makes me think of Peeps, which are also a marshmallow candy which is associated with springtime. (Although the Peeps are now being manufactured for every holiday under the sun, we still do not have an everyday Peeps candy.) I wonder what the connection is, there?
At any rate, in the 1940s Science developed the plastic candy bag, which allowed Circus Peanuts to escape their seasonal prison and become available year round. To suckers like me, who guiltily purchase a bag about once a year, eat enough Circus Peanuts to make them queasy (about five, in my case) and swear never to eat them again.
There is an old story that Lucky Charms were invented when some candy honcho discovered that you could shave Circus Peanuts into breakfast cereal and it was delicious.
But frankly I am too busy being hypnotized by the Circus Peanuts recipe on the Spangler website to care. This recipe has you cut Circus Peanuts into little chunks, melt them into orange Jell-O, add Mandarin oranges and juice, and let set.
Dear lord in heaven, what hath man wrought?!
Creative Commons-licensed image courtesy of Flickr user KateMonkey