I wasn’t allowed to watch cartoons as a kid, probably because my mom thought they were loud and/or not Of God. But she and my dad slept late on the weekends, leaving me plenty of time to press my nose against our 22-inch TV and catch the Saturday morning Cartoon Network lineup. My favorite was Ed, Edd n Eddy, a show about three similarly named boys who spend their days pulling pranks and eating jawbreakers.
Jawbreakers are a motif in most episodes of Ed, Edd n Eddy. In my favorite episode, which aired in 2002, we see Eddy (not to be confused with Ed or Edd) convince Ed (not be confused with Edd or Eddy) to spend his sister’s designated fudge money on jawbreakers. “You’ve got enough moola there for three sweet ever-lovin’ jawbreakers, big boy!” Eddy cries before Ed eventually gives in to temptation. It’s the greatest line of dialogue ever written.
God, I loved those strange cartoon boys and their jawbreakers. I loved the gross drool that dribbled down their faces as they slurped and smacked; I loved the idea that a single piece of candy could power an entire day’s worth of antics. I loved the idea of conquering a piece of candy larger in circumference than my own scrawny little string cheese head. And that is why, on the eve of my twenty-seventh birthday and in honor of As Seen On TV Week, I ordered the biggest jawbreaker I could find and set out to become One of the Boys.
Before diving into my experiment, I pondered the mysterious nature of the mighty jawbreaker. Cooked at a high temperature for days at a time, jawbreakers are formed as countless layers of pure sugar pile atop one another, hardening into cavity-inducing stalactites.
I’d like to think that jawbreakers have fueled the most iconic moments throughout human history. Imagine, if you will, George Washington crossing the Delaware with a six-inch orb in his gob, or Neil Armstrong accidentally spitting his jawbreaker into the depths of space while chattering about one giant step for mankind.
Fantasy aside, today’s jawbreakers were invented in the United Kingdom in the late 1800s and branded “gobstoppers.” One gumball manufacturer reports that the word “jawbreaker” first appeared in the English language in 1839 and was defined as “a hard-to-pronounce word,” whatever that means. The candy was reportedly popularized in the early 1900s by Illinois candy manufacturer Ferrara Pan Candy Company. Today, jawbreakers abound in a variety of colors, flavors, and sizes. And I wanted the biggest one.
My jawbreaker arrived on a Monday. Officially known as a MegaBruiser, the one-pound jawbreaker has a diameter of 3 1/4 inches which is, according to the box, “bigger and better tasting than the brain of the African redtail monkey.” In case you’re wondering, the MegaBruiser is also slightly larger than a regulation baseball. It contains dextrose, corn syrup, a small quantity of malic acid, “natural and artificial flavor,” and many, many dyes. Per the box, it would take 4.7 years for a frog to consume an entire MegaBruiser. This made me nervous, as my tongue is only slightly larger than that of a frog.
The packaging also notes that the world record for eating an entire MegaBruiser is 17 days, four hours, eight minutes, and 19 seconds, although I couldn’t find confirmation outside of online candy stores, which all echoed the packaging. In fact, I doubted the veracity of the 17-day claim. I would finish the thing much faster. Undeterred by the lore, I unwrapped the jawbreaker at 10:10 a.m. on a Friday. I would master the MegaBruiser.
I did not master the MegaBruiser.
I began my quest an optimist. I started licking the MegaBruiser cheerfully, then quickly realized that such fervent licking was sure to cause tongue paralysis. Instead, I decided on a flat-tongued approach, simply sticking my tongue out and rubbing the jawbreaker on my tongue for half an hour. After 30 minutes of aggressive licking, I docked the MegaBruiser like a sugary pontoon boat and took a water break.
Over the next several hours, I tried a few different techniques, stopping roughly every half hour for water or a snack. I discovered my favorite technique about 1.5 hours in: sticking out my tongue and rubbing the jawbreaker around in a grotesque, vaguely obscene circular motion. This seemed to coat the jawbreaker in spit more reliably. Somehow, the circular licking also kept my tongue a bit more lubricated, sending a snail trail of spittle sneaking down my shirt. The price of greatness!
In pursuit of full journalistic transparency, I need to be honest: after three hours, I was done with this shit. The jawbreaker tasted like pure granulated sugar, and it left a vaguely cardboard taste in my mouth. My tongue hurt. My head hurt. Worst of all, I had barely breached the MegaBruiser’s exterior coating. After hours of mimicking a deer attacking a salt lick, I had only incrementally flattened the top of the sphere. My three-hour lickfest had also produced a major canker sore on my tongue, and I couldn’t find the strength to do further battle with the MegaBruiser.
Now, three days later, I still have the canker sore. I have to admit: the only thing the MegaBruiser bruised was my pride. With my failed experiment behind me, I asked: how did Ed, Edd n Eddy eat these things every day? Well, readers, it’s because they are cartoons. They are cartoon boys. Humans are not meant to consume comparable amounts of dextrose. It’s just not worth it.
As I write this, the jawbreaker sits on my desk. It’s next to my office philodendron in its little plastic sheath, taunting me. Will I ever revisit the MegaBruiser? We’ll see. I hate to waste the thing; it was, like, 10 dollars. But I don’t know if my weary tongue can take it. I guess I could always pivot to a different sort of cartoonish antics. Who knows—maybe I’ll go full Scooby-Doo and start chasing away criminals. If anything, I could nail ’em with the MegaBruiser.