A few months ago, I went to the candy cane farm to see what the new generation of hard candy was.
It was hard to tell the difference between a candy cane grown by a family in a small farming town and a candy plant in a sprawling sugar cane complex on the outskirts of the city.
They were all different.
The only thing that was different was the name on the plant: Cane Candy.
The two plants were different, too.
I asked the owner, Mark, if he had seen the new candy cane hard candy.
He shook his head.
He said he had never seen any candy cane, but that he’d heard the news about the new crop of hard candies coming out of China.
“What is that?”
“Candy cane,” he replied.
He told me it was a candy made with cane sugar, cane wax, and a blend of cane, coconut, and corn syrup.
“It looks like this,” I said, pointing at the cane head.
“Yeah, like this.
They’re all different, but they’re all cane hard.”
“I have never seen this before,” he said.
“That is really strange,” I told him.
“I think it’s cane cane.”
“What does it look like?” he asked.
He was wearing a brown t-shirt with a large American flag.
I looked at the candy on his head, which was covered in tiny white letters.
“We’ll call them ‘Candy Heads,’ ” he said, gesturing at his candy head.
Mark looked at me and smiled.
“So, I guess you’re right,” he answered.
He picked up the candy head and held it to his nose.
“Here,” he whispered to me, “I want to see how that works.”
“The cane is hard and soft,” Mark said.
I stared at it for a few seconds.
“Are you crazy?”
The cane head was a big, brown lump of sugar.
I tried to look at it, but it was so hard I couldn’t.
The letters were small.
“This is a candy from China,” Mark explained.
“And this is a cane from a family on the other side of the world.”
The letters on the cane were the same as the letters on my candy.
I was really confused, so I asked Mark if he knew how the cane works.
He looked at his cane and said, “It’s a hybrid.”
“It doesn’t look like cane sugar,” I asked him.
I thought for a moment.
“But the cane can actually make this stuff,” I continued.
“Right?” he said with a laugh.
“The thing is,” Mark continued, “it’s made of the same stuff that you eat.
And it’s made from cane sugar.
That’s why it looks so different.”
“Are they different?”
I looked him in the eye.
“Yes,” he finally said.
He had a big grin on his face.
“When you look at the letters, you can see that they are different.
But that’s the hard part,” Mark told me.
“If you look hard at it and try to look in the other direction, the letters don’t match,” I explained.
Mark pointed to the letters in his cane.
“These letters are from China, so they’re actually from the family.
They came from China to the United States.”
“That’s weird,” I agreed.
“They’re different,” he told me, smiling.
“Because they look so different,” I replied.
“In China, they’re not made of cane sugar.”
“Oh,” he sighed.
“Oh, well, they are,” I answered.
“For the last 100 years, China has been exporting cane sugar and sugar cane to America and Europe.
They do this by making sugar cane sugar to get around a lot of restrictions on the U.S. and Europe that they have.”
“You know what’s weird?”
I told Mark.
“People think they can make cane sugar that looks and smells and tastes like cane,” I added.
“Actually, it’s just like what you’d eat, it doesn’t have any flavor or color to it.”
“Why do you think it is?”
“Well, it has a different texture,” he explained.
I felt the tears in my eyes.
“Why does it smell and taste different?”
“Because cane sugar is different,” Mark answered.
I could tell that he had been thinking about this for a while.
He turned to me and said to me.
“…and this cane has this different taste, and this different texture.”
“How does that work?”
I had never heard of cane cane.
I wondered what he meant by that.
Then he looked at my candy