Candy Cook Books: Where have they Gone?

November 4, 2009 at 8:30 am 1 comment

Recipe book, eggs, measuring cup, bowl, whisk and muffin tin

I was in the bookstore the other day looking for cookbooks on candy making. I found approximately…zero. I’m not saying there aren’t any at all out there, I’m just saying it doesn’t seem to be a popular topic.

And why would it be? There is amazing candy to be had, whatever your taste or budget. It’s not the kind of thing you do at home. You need special equipment, and a fearless approach to hot sticky liquids. Most of us are still struggling with the Betty Crocker Mix. But once upon a time, home candy making was a very big deal.

In the olden days (before 1865 or so), a confectioner would set up shop in town and sell what she made. The invention of candy making machines in the second half of the nineteenth century meant that by 1890, most North Americans had access to a fantastic array of commercially produced candies. That meant when you headed out to buy some candy, you wouldn’t be likely to know who made it, or even where it might have been made.

This anonymous commercial production of candy made some people quite nervous. What was in that candy? New technologies and processes were creating candies no one had ever seen before. Was it safe? Some candy makers were cutting corners, adding cheaper fillers or substituting fakes for more expensive ingredients like chocolate or nuts. Some of the new ingredients were chemicals, unknown and untested.

There was an explosion of home candy cookbooks from the 1880s to the 1910s. These cookbooks often made explicit appeals to women to protect their children. Good mothers were told never to let their children touch “cheap” candies. They might be “adulterated” with fillers, poisons, who knows what. Instead of buying cheap candy for their children, good mothers should make their children’s candy at home.

The per capita sale of candy increased dramatically from 1900 to 1915. By then, home candy making was falling out of favor. Worries about adulteration seemed less important. Pure Food laws had helped regulate additives and ingredients, and advertising and brand names increased consumer confidence in the goods they bought at the store.

It could never have been the case that home candy significantly displaced manufactured candy. Only a small number of families would have the leisure time necessary for candy making. It is likely as well that after some 25 years of experimentation, home candy cooks realized that candy making was difficult and exacting work, and the variety and quality of candy readily available at attractive prices made home candy less appealing.

The days of home candy making seem long past. I have friends who enjoy baking, friends who garden, friends who sew handbags. I don’t know anyone who makes candy at home. But these days, we think a lot about how to simplify, how to get back to basics, how to “do it yourself.” Perhaps lollipops and taffy from our own kitchens will be next!

Source: on home candy cookbooks, see Wendy A. Woloson, Refined Tastes: Sugar, Confectionery, and Consumers in Nineteenth Century America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002)

Related Posts:

  • Home Made vs. Store Bought Candy
  • Entry filed under: 1890 to WW I, Books and Literature, Candy Making, Candy Nostalgia, Uncategorized. Tags: , , .

    Halloween Aftermath Candy Band Aids

    1 Comment Add your own

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s

    Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


    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,
    Rutgers University

    (C) Samira Kawash

    All written contents protected by copyright. Except where noted, Candy Professor is my original research, based on archives, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other historical artifacts. You do not have permission to copy or re-post my content. If you want to refer to my work, please create a link from the blog entry and also write out the citation:
    Samira Kawash, "entry name," candyprofessor.com, entry date.

    If you would like to copy, re-post, or reproduce my work, please contact me for permission.

    Categories

    Enter your address to receive notifications by email.

    Join 566 other followers

    Header Image Credit


    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 566 other followers