The Cotton Candy of Tomorrow
As every cotton candy lover knows, the treat is at its best when served fresh from the machine. And a big part of the pleasure is watching the magical transformation of powder into spun floss.
The first machine to spin sugar floss was invented in 1897 by a pair of innovators from Tennessee named William Morrison and John C. Wharton. Around the same time, other versions of cotton candy machines appeared and their inventors claimed to be “the first.” But the Morrison and Wharton device was closest to the modern machine.
The mechanism is very simple. Heat melts the sugar, and the centrifugal force created by spinning the apparatus pushes it through a fine mesh. The tiny strands of molten sugar solidify when they hit the air, and cotton candy collects around the sides of the bowl. A skilled confectioner could spin sugar manually off the tines of a fork or similar instrument, but the result would never be so fine, nor could the fluffiness of cotton candy be achieved by hand. So even though manual techniques existed for creating very find strands of sugar, the spinning into fluffy clouds can only be achieved as a machine effect.
Cotton candy must be made fresh, on the spot. A whiff of humidity and it wilts into a sticky mass. As for that pre-bagged stuff at CVS…not even close. So dedicated cotton candy lovers count the days until summer, with its carnivals and county fairs. That’s the way it’s been since 1897. But the cotton candy times, they are a changin’…
I’ve seen the future, down at the multiplex: it’s a big box called the Cotton Candy Factory, a vending machine that makes a fresh, fluffy cotton candy on a stick in under a minute, right before your eyes. The floss is identical in every way to the midway classic, except you don’t have to step in horse poop to enjoy it. Price per vend? 2 dollars U.S., or 4 dollars N.Y.C.
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