Why Every Southern Party Still Needs Grandmother's Candy Dish

Don't forget the old-fashioned candies.

candy dish

Caitlin Bensel; Styling: Torie Cox

Who remembers their grandmother’s candy dish? A hostess must, the candy dish stayed filled by the door, though it honestly didn’t always taste good. The grandkids ate it anyway, happy for any treat that included sugar.

There’s a reason every Southern grandmother had that dish ready for her guests to sample: The candy dish held a simple souvenir of the evening, a sweet note at the end of a gathering. The tradition should be front and center at your own events. Here’s why.

Taste as a Memory

My parents had one particular star of the candy dish: Brach’s peppermints were always in a crystal container, ready to go home in the little hands of grandkids, or quick to find their way into my father’s pockets. When he passed away in his 80’s, we revived the tradition near his photo on a table, a smaller, more modern bowl hosting the beloved mints.

I began to notice that my children grabbed them heading out the door for a night out or on their way back to college. It was a comforting way to recall their childhood and continue the memory of their grandparents.  

In an earlier article, our contributing writer Melissa Locker explored the science behind the link between taste and memory. What may have developed as a survival skill now links us to a time and place where we experienced a certain flavor, good or bad. The association of candy with our grandparent’s house has the ability to flood our brain with stored memories, a sort of sweet-inspired memory book. 

It’s believed that sugary treats are even more successful at linking taste and memory. The sweet flavor activates our brain’s reward center, linking it with special events like birthdays or happy occasions. 

Why not bring those sugar-induced memories into your own home? 

Use That Special Dish

Often, the candy dish was something notable. It could be a passed down piece of silver or an ornate crystal dish with a fitted lid, but it might be as simple as a kid-created ceramics project.

As long as it holds the candy within its walls and can be removed from that one grandchild who can’t stop eating, the candy dish that’s used with your family is the perfect one. 

Hospitality at its Finest 

The candy in the bowl served as a gift signaling a warm welcome or a fond goodbye. Either way, the generosity of giving guests a special treat at the door is a kind act that says, “I’m glad you came.”  Southern hospitality is real, y’all. 

What was in your family’s candy bowl? Typical selections might be hard cinnamon candies, butterscotch, lemon drops crusted with sugar, or taffy. Many bowls held assorted candies that grandchildren worked their way through until just the lime ones were left, much to their disappointment. They ate them anyway.

Our grandparents, living through the Great Depression, often used candy as an inexpensive and distracting relief from the hardships of life. The attitude that candy served as a pleasure to be savored certainly inspired the Southern candy dish as a delightful act of kindness. 

So go buy all the orange slices, candy corn, and Werther’s Originals, and be transported back to your childhood.

Helpful Hints

A good excuse to buy some nostalgic candy, the candy bowl can be filled with any choice sweets. Even if no one else in your house likes to eat those strawberry candies with the gummy middle or peel the plastic covering off sticky caramels, the candy bowl inspires them to dig in. There must be something about an unexpected treat that makes the candy extra appealing. 

You can find old-fashioned candies at Cracker Barrel, especially the multi-flavor variety of stick candy. For a party, the candy bowl makes a great spot for a homemade treats like these candies.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles