Posts filed under ‘Books and Literature’

Candy Experiments, by Loralee Leavitt

13547799Candy lovers, parents, and educators have something to cheer about in this new book by Loralee Leavitt.

For several years, Loralee has been developing kid-friendly experiments with candy and posting them on her website candyexperiments.com where she promises “all candy, all science, all fun.” Now comes this beautiful, full color book that gathers all the experiments in one place, with gorgeous photos of the sometimes startling results of, say, putting marshmallows in a vacuum food saver, or nuking a 3 Musketeers bar in the microwave.

Kids will love the weird effects, but there’s a method to the madness. Loralee includes with each experiment a brief but very clear explanation of the physics and chemistry that make wintergreen Lifesavers spark and Skittle separate into different color bands when you melt them in water.

I ordered it as soon as I knew it was out, and my trusty assistant in the Candy Professor Kitchen, now 9 years old, exclaimed “this book is awesome!” We’re planning a Candy Science Birthday party. I think it’s going to be a hit with her friends!

April 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm Leave a comment

Dylan Lauren wants you to Unwrap (Book Review)

Celebrity candy entrepreneur Dylan Lauren wants you to live your life candy-style. Her new book Dylan’s Candy Bar: Unwrap Your Sweet Life (2010, Clarkson Potter/Random House) offers all of America an opportunity to emulate her candy infused decorating and fashion sensibility. (Look inside a virtual copy here.)

In Unwrap Your Sweet Life, self-proclaimed Queen of Candy Dylan Lauren offers us a field guide and instruction manual for the candy life style. The book is a visual mashup of Wallpaper and UsWeekly, highly styled candy photo spreads on one page and celebrity peep-show on the next. There is a lot about Lauren here, her childhood, her relation with her father designer Ralph Lauren, her connections in the fashion and art worlds, her design sensibility. But Dylan Lauren is a distraction from the main attraction: the candy. Candy in these pages is dazzling. Carefully arranged arrays of rock candy or swirly lollipops transform common sweets into glimmering jewels. Candy, one quickly notices, is not a subtle visual medium. I recommend sunglasses or small doses.

The book builds on the success of Dylan’s candy stores, first in Manhattan’s Upper East Side and now expanded to East Hampton, Houston, Orlando and beyond. The brilliance of Dylan’s Candy Bar as a retail enterprise has been to use her design sensibility and her celebrity connections to elevate the cheapest sort of mass-produced food product into a luxury good. Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s are upper-end department stores that feature her branded merchandise: adequate chocolate bars in designer Dylan wrappers, and transparent tubs of colorful cheap candy like Runts and gummies distinguished only by the Dylan’s logo. Dylan’s brand is not a flavor or type of candy,  it’s a look. It just happens to be a look made out of candy.

The book encourages you to bring Dylan’s candy style home. True, you might not be able to manage a Lucite staircase embedded with gummy bears like the one in Dylan’s Candy Bar. Instead, the book proposes do-at-home projects that might have been cooked up by Martha Stewart on the day she woke up in Wal-Mart’s candy aisle. Dylan suggests scattering bowls of gum balls around your living room for a burst of color or sprinkling foil-wrapped chocolate kisses across your mantel for a little sparkle. And why stop at a candy buffet for your next party? Dylan has ideas for using candy for every aspect of celebratory decorations, from the invitations to the favors to the table settings.

Although the art fell out of fashion in the twentieth century, sugar-based centerpieces have long been a feature of banquets and feasts. Artisanal sugar work as practiced in the 17th and 18th centuries was a finely wrought art. The sumptuous temples and follies that graced the banquet tables of the wealthy were made of sugar paste and therefore nominally edible. The wealth and power of the host were signaled by the fact that no one expected to eat them.

The candy décor of Dylan’s is decidedly down market compared to these ancestral masterworks. Where artisans would labor for weeks to create a sugar replica of the Parthenon, Dylan coaches her aspiring readers to fill a bowl with blue jelly beans and float a yellow chocolate duckie on top. But like the royal revelers of old, it is impossible to imagine the baby shower guests who would surround this luscious table actually stooping to eat the jelly beans. The ultimate destination for this candy craft is the garbage can.

Sugar was once so rare and expensive that many people would go their whole lives never tasting it. To decorate with sugar with the express intention of not eating it was to declare one’s indifference to need or want in the  most flagrant way. The value of sugar has fallen precipitously in the intervening centuries, of course. Uneaten candy in Dylan’s scheme recreates the gesture of conspicuous waste, but at a fraction of the cost. The waste of the royal banquet reminded the guests who was king. At Dylan’s table the waste is of a more democratic sort. It is conspicuous waste, but conspicuous waste that anyone can afford.

Waste is perhaps a little harsh word for Dylan’s vision of candy art. Waste seems so 1990s. But on the other hand, maybe decorating with candy is a clever solution to the problem of caloric over-production. We know the story of supersizing: too many calories need to go somewhere, and where they tend to go is to America’s waist line. Attentive readers will notice that in Unwrap Your Sweet Life, nobody actually eats. Here is the unstated premise of candy style, the promise of consumption without expansion.

This will come as a surprise to the hundreds of shoppers in Dylan’s Candy Bar, who fill their sacks and buckets with an evident intention to sample the wares. But Dylan herself remains chaste; in her entire book, filled with pictures of her and candy in every pose, the only thing that touches her lips is a straw (which may or may not contain milkshake). And that picture was taken when she was 8 years old.

Dylan’s persistent obliviousness to the foodiness of candy produces some comical effects in the book. Take, for example, the suggestion to craft a children’s gift by artfully covering a metal lunchbox with jelly beans and gummy bears and then shellacking the result. One can only surmise that Dylan has limited contact with actual children who might like to actually put the candy in their mouths.

Maybe this is where we’ve arrived in the collision of exploding global production and contracting local consumption: look, but don’t eat. If our bodies are reduced to eyeballs, we’ll get by on less. And if it is just about the surface, no matter if what’s underneath is nothing but sugar paste. All that glitters, glitters. From a distance, who can really tell the difference between rock candy and a diamond in the rough?

January 19, 2011 at 9:51 am 7 comments

Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage (Book Review)

There are a lot of books about chocolate out there. Probably too many. Is there really that much to say about chocolate? Is our appetite for stuff really so insatiable?

So a book about chocolate has to be really extraordinary to get my attention. This one is: Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage, edited by Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro (Wiley, 2009).

Well, I’m being a little unfair. This is no ordinary book. This is an enormous and exhaustive compendium: nearly 1,000 pages, including 56 articles and 11 appendices. The articles are written by experts in fields ranging from food history to archeology to chemistry.

This volume is the fruit of the chocolate history group, a loose aggregation formed at UC Davis and sponsored and funded by Mars, Incorporated. In 2004 the group was expanded and a fresh infusion of Mars funding allowed for scholars and researchers from the U.S., Canada and Britain to join in the project. Using the most up-to-date research techniques, including access to newly discovered historical documents and new data bases, this team has produced incredible and original in-depth accounts of every aspect of chocolate history that you could imagine.

It is not, admittedly, a book for the casual reader. And at a list price of $99.95, it is likely to be found mostly in research libraries and very specialized private collections. But for food historians and the candy-curious,  it is a good book to know about. If you are wondering about, say, chocolate’s use in whaling voyages, or the evolution of chocolate manufacturing techniques, this is the work to consult. Here’s a link to the table of contents, fun reading in itself.

There is a lot of concern these days about corporate influence on academic research. This volume, and the enormous work of research it represents, absolutely would not exist were it not for the funding from Mars, Inc. Obviously Mars has a stake in producing more positive images of chocolate. But this research is significant in much more profound ways. The emphasis here is on the history of the making and eating of chocolate, not on the current faddish studies of chocolate’s purported health benefits. Chocolate history, like food history more generally, gives us a window on all kinds of aspects of everyday life in the past.

If Mars is benefitting from this work, it is only in the most indirect ways. So I say, thank you Mars. This is an excellent resource, and I’m very happy that Mars was willing to fund it.

 

December 1, 2010 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

Sugar and Snow: Jeri Quinzio and Eskimo Pies

I’m looking forward to a Candy Professor night on the town: Jeri Quinzio, the author of the award-winning book Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making, is lecturing and hosting an ice cream tasting here in New York City.

Ice cream and candy have been happy fellow travelers throughout history. Although candy making and ice cream making required different sorts of skills and equipment, they tended to operate in close proximity. The venerable Confectioners Journal, which began publishing in 1874, included ice cream making and fountain recipes until the 1940s. The Chicago area trade journal published in the first decades of the twentieth century was called Candy and Ice Cream. These days the only candy you’ll find at Baskin Robbins or Cold Stone Creamery is mixed into the ice cream. But when I was a kid, the ice cream parlor and the candy shop were usually one and the same.

Until fairly recently, the term “confection” referred both to frozen sweets like ice cream and non-frozen sweets like candy. Check out the wrapper on your Popsicle next time you flag down the ice cream truck. It says on the side that it is a “quiescently frozen confection.” That means it doesn’t get shaken around as they freeze it, and that it is in the same culinary category as candy and Cracker Jacks.

My research focuses on candy, so I was pretty happy to pick up a copy of Quinzio’s Of Sugar and Snow, which fills in the ice cream side. Her book is filled with all sorts of delightful ice cream stories. My favorite is one about the collision of candy and ice cream, perhaps for the first time: the story of the Eskimo Pie.

According to the story, Eskimo Pies were the brain child of a fellow in Iowa,  Christian K. Nelson, who taught high school and ran an ice cream parlor on the side. One day a kid came into the store with a nickel and a dilemma. He wanted ice cream. He wanted a chocolate bar. But he only had enough money for one or the other, and he just couldn’t make up his mind. I’m sure we all can sympathize.

In any event, we don’t know what Nelson did on that particular day in 1919. Maybe he chipped in another nickel of his own. Maybe he broke the chocolate bar in half. Maybe he sent the kid packing. But he went home that night with an idea.

Nelson experimented over the next few months with different combinations of ice cream and chocolate until he hit on the right formula for a chocolate-coated bar of ice cream. He called it the “Temptation I-Scream Bar.”  The Bar was a reasonable success. But things really took off after Nelson met Russell Stover, who was working at that time with an Omaha ice cream company. They decided to go into business together. They changed the name to “Eskimo Pie,” and started selling the bar for 10 cents. The bar was a big hit (although I note that the kid with the nickel was still out of luck). Nelson and Stover were so successful that they started licensing the rights to local ice cream manufacturers. Quinzio tells us that “by the spring of 1922 they had twenty-seven hundred licensees and were selling a million Eskimo Pies a day.” That’s a lot of ice cream!

I had noticed advertising in the 1922 trade journals for chocolate coatings to make “Eskimo Pies,” and Quinzio’s story of their manufacture explains why. Nelson patented his chocolate coated ice cream bars, and the manufacturing license was for the process and the brand name “Eskimo Pie.” That meant that ice cream companies who wanted to make Eskimo Pies would buy their own ingredients and chocolate coatings.

H.O. Wilbur and Sons was one of the contenders for the Eskimo Pie supply market. Their ad gives you an idea of what an ice cream bar looked like in 1922. Also it’s interesting to notice the igloos, polar bears and “eskimos.” Famous expiditions to the Arctic regions in the early 1900s had made  Americans were fascinated with all things “eskimo.”

Unfortunately, Nelson and Stover ran into legal troubles that drained their finances, and their business broke up in 1922. But two things came out of us that we still enjoy today: Eskimo Pies and their myriad offspring, and Russell Stover Candies. Yes, it’s the same Russell Stover. He left his ice cream past behind and went on to found one of the most recognized brands of American candies.

Source: The story of Eskimo Pies is told in Jeri Quinzio, Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making (University of California Press, 2009), 173-174. Wilbur ad from Confectioners Journal March 1922.

May 19, 2010 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

True Confections, by Katharine Weber

Laid up with a nasty head cold, I’ve been enjoying some me-time Candy Professor style, with a sack full of taffy from the Savannah Candy Kitchen and Katherine Weber’s latest novel, True Confections (2010, Shaye Aereheart Books).true confections

This novel is a fun splurge, sort of CandyFreak meets An Arsonists Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England. Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky, admittedly unreliable narrator, seeks absolution for her role, if any, in the series of accidents, disputes, and disasters that seem to trail after her. Alice marries into the Ziplinsky candy family at the story’s outset, and the novel follows her rise from the factory floor to the helm of the company. She’s no Ziplinsky, as her resentful mother-in-law never ceases to remind her, but she claims she is the only one in the family who truly loves and understands the candy business.

Whether Alice is the rightful possessor of the Ziplinsky fortune is one of the puzzles of the novel, which offers many mysteries and intriques along the way and kept me turning the pages. But for the candy crowd, the fun of the novel is really in the background and setting. Zip’s Candy is one of the great American candy makers, founded in 1924 by hard-scrabble immigrant Eli Czaplinsky. Weber has really done her candy history homework for this novel. Along the way, we hear about the family squabbles at Mars, the business canny of Milton Hershey, the rise of the candy bar in the 1930s, the mechanics of candy manufacture, the politics of cacao and sugar, and the transformations in the American candy business as smaller factories were bought up and consolidated into larger companies.

Zip’s Candy has been making the same candy since 1924. Alice has a lot to answer for, but she’s doing her best to bring new direction to the staid and static Zip’s Candy line. Zip’s Candy even has a website, where you can read about the history of the company and order Mumbo Jumbos, Tiger Melts, and Little Sammies (although they all seem to be unavailable at present). Weber is mercifully restrained in her recourse to hi-tech gadgetry and computer-mediated plot device, but the story is unmistakably one of our time. In Weber’s candy world as in ours, the candy blogs can make or break a new confection. All the candy bloggers will chuckle knowingly as Alice’s brilliant new product launch unravels in a fiasco that takes “white chocolate” to its logical but unfortunate conclusion.

And the website: a real find for candy nostalgists. Part of Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky’s new marketing push, one presumes. The highlight of the site is definitly the video clip of Frieda Ziplinsky’s 1958 television commercial for Little Sammies, complete with the “Say, Dat’s Tasty!” jingle. If you like the  jingle, record your own version and send it in, there’s a contest!

Although Alice is faithful to her Ziplinsky marriage, she does commit “therapist adultery.” And she admits to making appointments with three different dentists in rotation; each time she goes for a cleaning she is praised for her extraordinary dental hygiene. Things are not, dear reader, entirely as they seem. But whether it is real, or true, doesn’t matter in the end. What matters is that it tastes good. And it does: there’s a bit of candy on every page of this fun novel.

www.zipscandies.com

www.katharineweber.com

Jincy Willet, “A Passion for Candy,” New York Times Book Review, Jan 14, 2010

Related Post:

  • Chocolate? Tootsie Rolls
  • January 27, 2010 at 9:14 am 1 comment

    The Gruesome King of Candy Land

    By 1890, candy was everywhere. It was cheap, and it was plentiful, and children with just a penny or two could enjoy an afternoon of sucking and chewing and licking all sorts of sweet stuff.

    Not everybody was happy about this. Adult reformers and alarmists were appalled at the spectacle of children choosing and enjoying their own treats. No good could come of it. Adults who sought to save children from their own worst impulses did not hesitate to use dramatic scare tactics to persuade youngsters, and their overly lax parents, of the evils of candy.

    Here is one version of didactic anti-candy literature, a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox that was published in several magazines in the 1890s. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was best known for her inspirational and sentimental popular poetry. You can see here that, when children’s teeth and stomachs seemed in danger, she would not hesitate to go over to the dark side.

    Nutcracker

    The King of Candy Land
    by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (c. 1890)

    Have you heard of the King of Candy Land?
    Well,listen while I sing;
    He has pages on every hand,
    For he is a mighty king,
    And thousands of children bend the knee
    And bow to this ruler of high degree.

    He has a smile, O! like the sun,
    And his face is crowned and bland;
    His bright eyes twinkle and glow with fun,
    As the children kiss his hand;
    And every thing toothsome, melting sweet,
    He scatters freely before their feet.

    But woe! for the children who follow him,
    With loving praise and laughter,
    For he is a monster, ugly and grim,
    That they go running after:
    And when they get well into the chase,
    He lifts his mask and shows his face.

    And O! that is a grewsome sight,
    For the followers of the king:
    The cheeks grow pale that once were bright,
    And they sob instead of sing;
    And their teeth drop out and their eyes grow red,
    And they cannot sleep when they go to bed.

    And often they see the monster’s face,–
    They have no peaceful hour;
    And they have aches in every place,
    And what was sweet seems sour.
    O, woe! for that foolish sorrowful band
    Who follow the King of Candy Land.

    While I don’t recall candy ever giving me nightmares when I was a child, I suspect this poem might have done the trick.

    Related Posts:

  • Poetry and Candy Lands, 1875
  • December 18, 2009 at 8:50 am 3 comments

    Poetry and Candy Lands, 1875

    kings crown

    Candy Land was a recurrent theme of popular children’s literature in the late nineteenth century. Poems and stories frequently featured children dreaming of a candy land, or being whisked away by the wind and landing in a candy forest, or taking a train by invitation of the King to a land of Candy. These candy lands represented the ideal of children’s desires: children, like candy, were seen as being sweet and insubstantial. Children, left to their own desires, would be expected to desire nothing so much as unlimited sweets.

    “The King of Candy-Land” appeared in a children’s magazine called The Youth’s Companion in 1875. This writer describes a child’s dream of a land of candy, where every lovely thing tastes as good as it looks. In this benign vision, Candy-Land is a land far away from ideas about proper meals and sugar making you sick. There are no nagging grownups here to stand in the way of the child’s pleasure. It’s all candy, and it’s all good.

    King of Candy-Land
    by Hugh Howard (1875)

    I had such a lovely dream last night!
    It was truly so fine and grand!
    I thought I was king, all alone by myself,
    Of a land called Candy-Land!

    I dwelt in the great lemon-cocoanut walls
    Of a palace just to my taste;
    With its furniture made out of all things nice,
    From taffy to jujube paste!

    With rarest of candies at every turn,
    Obedient slaves would wait,
    And my throne was studded with peppermint-drops,
    And carved out of chocolate!

    And O, ’twas such fun as I wandered through
    Those beautiful rooms alone,
    To bite off a morsel of sofa or chair,
    Or nibble a bit of throne!

    This poem is somewhat unusual for the “candy land” genre in so far as there are no negative consequences that result from the child’s indulgence in (imaginary) candy. In fact, the child in this poem dreams of having all the power, of being “king, all alone.” When he is put to bed, he is but a powerless child who only gets candy when Mama says yes. But when he enters his dream, he becomes the powerful King who is lavished with candies by his “obedient slaves.” The reversal of power suggests another idea in this poem as well: a rebellion against adult expectations of “proper behavior” and good manners. In Candy-Land, the child is free to lick the walls and bite the furniture and enjoy his own power as king. Back in his mother’s parlor, such destruction would surely result in a spanking.

    In the next post, I’ll share an example of a much darker vision of what will happen to children if they give in to their desire for candy.

    Related Posts:

  • The Gruesome King of Candy Land
  • Source: Hugh Howard, Children’s Column: “King of Candy-Land,” The Youth’s Companion 14 October 1875.

    December 16, 2009 at 9:36 am 1 comment

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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,
    Rutgers University

    (C) Samira Kawash

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