Beer and Candy I

September 15, 2009 at 2:03 pm 4 comments

Remember Prohibition? The nation went officially dry in 1920, but through the nineteen-teens, temperance activists succeeded in passing anti-alcohol laws in several states. By 1913, more than half the U.S. population was living in areas that prohibited alcohol.

The candy industry benefited tremendously from the declining availability of beer and spirits. Soda and ice cream shops took the place of saloons, and the taste for a certain something was satisfied with sweet candies when bootleg liquors couldn’t be found.

Scientists had an interesting theory about the relation between candy eating and alcohol. Having discovered that the sugars in candy fermented in the stomach in a manner that seemed similar to the fermentation of alcohol, candy seemed awfully close to liquor. For candy alarmists, this meant candy eating was tantamount to alcoholic dissipation. But for candy lovers, this explained why candy eating and “tippling” didn’t mix, and why eating more candy would lead to drinking less liquor. As one scientific explanation put it:

“The body requires a certain amount of alcohol which it acquires through the channels of normal food, but when one consumes the alcohol by greater than normal activity, he requires a food which will produce more than the normal amount of alcohol, and he eats in candy–or booze. The difference is that the candy gives him the alcohol without injury, while whiskey and other stimulants are not gentle in their after effects.”

So the basic theory was: you need “alcohol” which both liquor and candy supply; better to get it from candy!

This was a good reason to let children eat candy: deprived, they risked a future of alcoholism and misery. Here is some 1916 advice for the friends and family of the alcohol abuser: “If you are unfortunate enough to have some dear one addicted to the drink habit, get him (or, we regret to add, her) to EAT MORE CANDY. It may not cure, but it will help.”

Source: “Eat More Candy,” International Confectioner, July 1916: 68.

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    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

    Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

    Samira Kawash, PhD
    Professor Emerita,
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