MUKILTEO — There’s something fishy about these candy canes.
What’s up with that?
Leave it to our fun friends at Archie McPhee to come up with sardine-flavored candy canes.
Sardine is among the tantalizing flavors from the novelty giant famous for its weird and clever gifts and gags. Other cane choices are ketchup, mac and cheese, pickle, bacon, kale, hot dog, sour cream and onion, brisket, butter and Caesar salad.
A six pack is $6.95. The striped confections look suspiciously like normal candy canes and are packaged in a box with cool graphics.
Do people really eat them?
“Yeah, they do,” said David Wahl, who goes by the title “Director of Awesome.” He started at Archie McPhee 30 years ago and worked his way up to that role.
Archie McPhee is named in honor of creator Mark Pahlow’s wife’s great-uncle who liked practical jokes. Products are sold online and at numerous retailers. Mail order catalogs from 1985 to 2008 are in the Smithsonian archives.
The flagship store in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, at 1300 N 45th St., has everything you didn’t know you needed, plus a rubber chicken museum. Online travel company Tripadvisor ranks it the No. 16 shopping destination in Seattle. I’d put it higher.
The McPhee think tank and wholesale center has been hidden in plain sight in Mukilteo for about 25 years. The building blends into a business park within blocks of the Mukilteo YMCA and police station.
It’s marked with a simple nameplate that says “Accoutrements.” You’ve probably passed it many times and had no idea the creative minds were inside designing yodeling pickles, finger puppets, bacon soap and underpants for squirrels. They spend hours debating the size of Bigfoot’s butt to make it anatomically correct.
McPhee is a go-to for all things Bigfoot and items in honor of J.P. Patches, the state’s beloved clown newly featured on an official license plate.
There are no clown-flavored candy canes. At least, not yet.
The oddball candy canes launched with bacon a dozen years ago. It’s a top flavor, along with pickle.
“And, shockingly, mac and cheese, even though it tastes kind of like a foot,” Wahl said.
He didn’t say if it was Bigfoot’s foot.
Cane ingredients include sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, and titanium dioxide.
Flavors come and go. Neither gravy nor coffee made this year’s list. Some get repurposed into small bites. Fried chicken hard candies come in a decorative tin for $5.95.
“My dream would be just like Willy Wonka to do a full meal of candy canes, where you started with the appetizer and worked your way to dessert,” Wahl said.
What better platform than the candy cane. The hooked candy sticks have been a holiday treat for centuries. These days, classic peppermint competes with the likes of Starburst, Dr. Pepper and Oreo on store shelves.
Wahl came up with the Caesar salad cane, a new flavor this season.
“It went viral this year because someone tweeted it with, ‘This is the real war on Christmas,’” he said.
The McPhee canes are social media sensations, with taste tests galore on YouTube and TikTok.
“It’s a fun group activity. It’s kind of a dare,” Wahl said. “It is a sign of bravery if you’re willing to taste a sardine candy cane.”
They don’t come much braver than Jacqueray Smith, a Daily Herald multimedia sales consultant who stepped up to the sardine challenge.
“It stinks. It smells like fish food,” she said. “Fish food, but sweet.”
Her take on the Caesar salad cane: “Sweet disgust.”
My 3-year-old granddaughter found it to be delicious.
Wahl and the team create three new flavors to market each year. It’s as serious as getting Bigfoot’s butt size right.
“We sit around the table and blind taste-test them first,” he said. “We’ve started working on the ones for next year.”
He can’t say what. We’ll just have to wait.
Is there a person, place or thing making you wonder, “What’s Up With That?” Contact reporter Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @reporterbrown.
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