Posts filed under ‘Ingredients’

Campfire in the Pantry (Marshmallow Chronicles, Part V)

When the Imperial Candy Company/Redel Candy Corp. of Milwaukee launched their new marshmallow line in 1917, they were clearly thinking about just one thing: Campfires. Marshmallow and campfires were the peanut butter and jelly of the ‘teens, and so they named their new confection “Campfire Marshmallows.”

The earliest packaging encouraged marshmallow munchers to roast the goodies around the flaming logs, or at least to imagine a forest surround. Here is a 1918 ad that sets the sylvan tone:

Although the campfire image suggests a rough masculinity, marshmallows were frequently marketed in ways that connected their appearance and texture with qualities of women and children. For example, a competing brand put out by the manufacturer of  Cracker Jack was called “Angelus” and featured a cherubic little girl as the trademark. Along similar lines, in this 1919 ad Campfire brand makes a saucy connection between the puffy white mounds of marshmallow and the little cheeks of these cute rascals:

We can see in these ads that something dramatic has changed between 1918 and 1919. The 1918 box is really emphasizing the campfire theme. It even has the slogan “you can toast them if you like.” In contrast, the 1919 package was simplified and streamlined. And that wasn’t the only change afoot at Campfire headquarters.

In 1919, Campfire broke ranks with the leading marshmallow manufacturers. It launched an audacious new marketing campaign with one aim: to stock every pantry in America with marshmallows. American cooks had been experimenting with marshmallows for more than a decade, to be sure.  (On scientific cookery at the turn of the century and the culinary rise of the marshmallow, see my post on Candy Salad). But Campfire wanted more: to redefine marshmallow altogether, to push marshmallow out of the candy store and into the baking aisle.

Campfire acted on multiple fronts to push marshmallow forever more onto grocery shelves. They changed the shape of the marshmallow to round, the better to cook with. Before that, marshmallows sold as candy were square. And they put the marshmallows in six ounce boxes, rather than the traditional candy-serving of two and 3/4 ounce. They launched a new advertising campaign which promoted marshmallow desserts: jellies and cakes and parfaits. And they put out a cook book featuring both familiar and entirely new recipes “showing the many uses of Campfire in preparing dainty desserts, cakes, puddings, etc.” The booklet was described in ads such as the one above, and included in the marshmallow package.

This 1920 ad features an even more elaborate dessert display, and the explicit suggestion that Campfire marshmallows deserve a permanent place in the kitchen pantry:

There was much to be gained in this push into the kitchen. As an admiring article in Printers Ink explained:

It is easy to see why Campfire keeps entirely away from the confectionery idea and bases its whole appeal on cooking and baking. … Regarded as candy, marshmallows would be purchased only semi-occasionally. Looked upon as a cookery staple most valuable in the preparation of new and dainty dishes it can have a steady demand.

But Campfire did not entirely abandon its marshmallow roasting history. Ads in Boys Life Magazine in 1920 and 1921 reminded Scouts of their summer camp marshmallow pleasures. In an early example of “kid-fluence” marketing, Campfire counseled:

Tell mother about these tempting Marshmallows today. Tell her there’s a recipe folder in every package. But be sure to tell her to get Campfire–the kind of Marshmallows you had at camp. (see the ad here)

Campfire Brand marshmallows today are manufactured by Doumak, Inc. It was Alexander Doumak who invented the modern extrusion process in 1948. Since 1900, marshmallows had been made using the starch mogul system, which involves dropping marshmallow goo into starch molds and letting it set. Doumak came up with the revolutionary idea of squeezing the marshmallow mixture out into a long tube and cutting it into pieces. It was faster and easier than the starch moguls. And that is the marshmallow we have today: tubes of white puffs in a sack, and sold as grocery.

Sources: All advertising images appeared in Confectioners Journal in the years indicated. “Changing a Confectionery into a Staple Article of Cooking,” Printers Ink, Jan 27, 1921 p. 97-100. For a detailed explanation of the modern marshmallow manufacturing process, see How Marshmallows are Made.

June 25, 2010 at 11:29 am 3 comments

Candy Salad (Marshmallow Chronicles, Part IV)

The rage for all things marshmallow that newspapers noted in the early 1900s also inspired creative cooks to propose new ways of incorporating marshmallow into desserts. While candy promoters sometimes struggled to have their products accepted as “good food,” in the case of marshmallow the passage between candy and pantry staple seemed exceptionally smooth.

The  years of marshmallow’s transition from specialty confection to national candy craze were also the years of stunning innovation in American cooking. The movement known as “domestic science” advocated a rational approach to cooking that emphasized consistency, nutritive value, uniformity, and blandness and rejected the traditional, the intuitive, and the flavorful. Untamed, messy, irregular foods were not modern or hygienic. The task of the scientific cook was to regulate, control, and master her ingredients.

At the pinnacle of turn of the century scientific cooking stood white sauce. There was no dish that could not be improved by the addition of a coating of white sauce, a bland mixture of milk, butter and flour. And while marshmallow was perhaps slightly less versatile, to a generation of scientific cooks trained at the knee of white sauce, its white, bland appeal must have been irresistible. Just as white sauce improved every meat and vegetable, so would marshmallow improve every cake, pudding and ice cream.

At first, the marshmallow incursion was limited to the most simple and straightforward sorts of additions. Fanny Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook book included a recipe for “marshmallow cake” in 1896, yellow cake with a marshmallow crème in between the layers. Recipes for marshmallow cakes and marshmallow frostings were published several times in the Boston Daily Globe’s “Housekeeper” column in the early 1900s, suggesting that home made cakes featuring marshmallows were a popular dessert item.

The cake recipes added sweet to sweet: marshmallow’s pure sugar hit would intensify the dessert sensation offered by tender cakes and succulent sugar frostings.

But marshmallow would not be stopped. By the ‘teens, the layering of sweet on sweet led to dessert innovations like gingerbread with melted marshmallow, ice cream re-frozen with melted marshmallow then topped with marshmallow, and cakes with names like “Ecstasy” or “Heavenly Pudding” which combined “marshmallows, candied fruit, macaroons, white cake, gelatin, and whipped cream in one fashion or another.”

These and other marshmallow creations are described by Laura Shapiro in Perfection Salad, an indispensable history of the emergence of “scientific cookery” at the turn of the century. Shapiro’s book explains the trends and attitudes that would pave the way for a new phenomenon that flourished at mid-century: Candy Cookery. The marshmallow was just the beginning.

As a distinctively American style of cooking and presentation took hold of American stomachs and American kitchens in the early 1900s, sweet flavors were less and less confined to the final course. The versatile marshmallow presented the inventive cook with sweetness, volume, and texture, but no particular flavor or color to intrude on other ingredients.

Nothing was immune from marshmallow improvement. The line between dessert and salad quickly blurred. Shapiro describes Fanny Farmer’s famous Los Angeles Fruit Salad: canned pineapple, grapes, walnuts, and marshmallows, “an innovation in sweetening that was remarkable even by [Farmer’s] own standards” (Shapiro 194). And many marshmallow concoctions defied categorization entirely. Shapiro describes a Boston Cooking School Magazine recipe for cream cheese and marshmallow sandwiches to be served for tea, as well as the mania for toasted marshmallows stuffed with raisins as a luncheon buffet specialty. Such culinary innovations seemed to fall entirely outside traditional categories of salad, dessert, or even candy.

Marshmallows were destined for great things in the kitchen. By 1913, the grocery magazine Table Talk was pushing marshmallows as a regular pantry staple. In an article titled “Marshmallow Mixtures” Eva Alice Miller scolds the cooks of America for their narrow marshmallow prejudice:

Many housekeepers consider marshmallows simply a confection, and make no use of them in their cooking. They are very useful, however, in many ways, and make a pleasing variety in the bill of fare.

Alongside the pudding and pie recipes, Miller included instructions for Marshmallow Omlette, Marshmallow Toast, Marshmallow Salad, all of which would seem at home on a breakfast or lunch plate.

Marshmallow cooking was no joke. Witness this antique marshmallow tin for Gordon’s Household Marshmallows (offered for sale by Rion’s Relics). It is big enough to hold ten pounds of the puffy stuff. Eat up, America!

For more on turn of the century ideas about American cookery, see Laura Shapiro, Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (1986; University of California, 2009).

June 23, 2010 at 8:00 am 3 comments

Vegetable Candy Revolution

I finally got my hands on the 1912 candy cookbook classic, Candy-making Revolutionized. Until now, I’ve only known this book by reputation, and it was the reputation of a total crack-pot. The “revolution” that author Mary Elizabeth Hall promises is this: candy from vegetables.

When I first heard about this book, I made snarky comments about the preposterousness of potato creams and lima bean taffies. I assumed Hall was another of those “food faddists,” prophets of health who promoted wacky ideas like chewing your food one hundred times or eating only uncooked foods.

After all, we know that “vegetable” and “candy” are at the opposite ends of the food spectrum. Vegetables are good for you. Real food. Eat your vegetables. And candy? Barely food. Certainly, of all the things you can eat, the one that is the very worst. So I assumed that Hall’s proposal to make candy that is really vegetables was another of those food tricks: disguise and dishonesty, sneaking in the virtue under the mask of artificial vice.

I was wrong. Hall is not trying to sneak or disguise anything. Hall doesn’t have an axe to grind, and she has nothing at all against candy. She just thinks that making candy with vegetables is a good idea. And now that I’ve read the book, I have to admit to a certain admiration for Hall and her project.

The vegetable candy future Hall envisions is “purer, more wholesome, more nourishing” than that of the past, to be sure. But there is much more to recommend it.

Half the book is dedicated to decorative and artistic candy forms made with potato-based confection. She gives recipes for a sort of potato-sugar modeling dough. This substitutes for marzipan at a substantially lower cost. The potato can be shaped, molded, colored, painted, and eaten. Hall proposes this craft as a home-based business with in the reach of even the most rustic hausfrau. Every village that can muster up a ration of potatoes and sugar will be showered with potato candy roses and potato candy violets. In schools where home economics and fine arts are taught to young ladies, potato confectionery promises the most ingenious combination of the two disciplines: every girl will learn the principles of line and color while turning out edible potato castles and gnomes.

Beyond this decorative use, Hall presents vegetables in candy as having their own distinctive merits. There are colors like the red of beets and the orange or yellow of carrots that are vivid and lovely. There are new flavors from novel ingredients like green beans and rhubarb.

But the best thing about vegetable candy, at least to Mary Elizabeth Hall’s way of looking at things, was the way it solved the problem of appetite. Hall didn’t see anything wrong with candy, nor with the craving for candy. Quite the contrary: Hall thought of candy as a good form of energy food, and saw the craving for sweets as natural and benign. But children didn’t always know when to stop, and that might make them sick to their little tummies. Vegetable candy solves the problem:

Sugar it of course contains, but the vegetable base supplies no small part of the bulk; consequently children may eat their fill of it and satisfy their natural longing for candy without having gorged themselves with sugar.

It is worth noting here that the virtue of the vegetables in the candy is not the vegetables themselves, but their physical property of “bulking.” Americans were not, in 1912, all that interested in vegetables. No one had ever heard of vitamins, and the nutrition science of the day focused teaching people to view their food “scientifically” as so many calories or so much protein or carbohydrate.

Today, we have a totally different perspective on vegetables. Candy itself is trending “healthy.” So I’m wondering how long it will be before some 21st century entrepreneur discovers these recipes?

Candied carrot-rings, candied parsnips, and sweet potato patties incorporating coconut and nuts all would find, I suspect, an eager market in the artisanal food stalls popping up in every major city these days.  And the recipe for tomato marshmallow sounds brilliant. Think tomato as fruit, think the color and a little subtle flavor. Candy making techniques have not changed in the last hundred years, anybody could follow these recipes. Any takers?

The recipes are here. The time is right. Mary Elizabeth Hall was just a century before her time.

Related Posts:

Source: Mary Elizabeth Hall, Candy Making Revolutionized: Confectionery From Vegetables (1912). Available at Google Books. The image at the top of the post is the frontispiece of the book, all examples of the confections described within.

June 2, 2010 at 9:56 am 5 comments

Zzang! Candy Bar Blows Candy Professor Out of the Water

I am not in the candy review business. At least not on most days. And then I eat something new and… ZZANG!

That’s Zzang!, as in the candy bar, from Zingerman’s Bakehouse of Ann Arbor, Michigan. It comes in a few varieties, but it was the “Original” that got my attention. I had just intended to taste the thing, really just a nibble. And then another, and another, and I ate the whole thing. (So that’s why you see the Zingerman photo here. All I had left after that particular debauch was the box, below.)

ZZANG! It’s “Butter-roasted peanuts, caramel and peanut butter honey nougat dipped in dark chocolate.” Sound a little familiar? This is what a Snickers Bar would taste like if it went to Exeter and then to Princeton. Only the finest. I mean, the finest. These are the ingredients:

Dark chocolate, butter roasted peanuts, sea salt, caramel (organic muscovado brown sugar, corn syrup, cream, water, butter), nougat (honey, sugar, water, peanut butter, egg whites, sea salt).

That’s it. Take a bite with me: Smooth, creamy nougat with a soft chew, peanut flavor so rich and buttery, big crunches of peanuts melting into salty caramel and the smoky bite of the dark chocolate. Intense, chewy, everything a candy bar should be. And fresh. Zingerman’s puts a 60-day freshness recommendation on the box. Mine was nearly “expired” and it still was the freshest tasting candy bar I’ve ever tried. What would it be like really fresh? I’m on a quest for the next fresh shipment.

Now these are the ingredients of a Snickers Bar:

Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate, Skim Milk, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavor)Peanuts, Corn Syrup, Milkfat, Skim Milk, Vegetable Oil (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil)Salt, Lactose, Egg Whites, Chocolate, Artificial Flavor.

Don’t get me wrong. Snickers is basically my favorite U.S. candy bar. Snickers is widely recognized as the ultimate in salty, fatty, sweet satisfaction. Food scientists love to wax rhapsodic about the way the nuts crunch down and moosh into the caramel, with the chocolate melting everywhere: a perfect release of texture, flavor, and sensation. All that, and still you can buy one for the change you find under your sofa cushions.

No one has ever improved on a Snickers bar. Until now. Just look at those ingredients again. Skim milk, lactose, and artificial flavor are not even in the same ball game. Of course, when you go to the opera, it costs a lot more than when you go bowling. Zzang! set me back $5 for a bar just a wee bit bigger than your standard Snickers (see the stats below).

Zingerman’s tags the Zzang! line of candy bars as “taking candy bars back 100 years.” But really we should be saying 80 or 90 years at most. Candy bars like this were not too common until the 1920s. The Snickers bar went on the market in 1930. Fun fact: according to Jan Pottker in Crisis in Candyland, the first Snickers bars were nude of chocolate coating (weather issues).

The real question is, would a candy bar made in the 1920s taste anything like a Zzang!? Alas, I fear the answer is no.

A candy bar maker in the 1920s would have been using smaller, cheaper peanuts roasted in oil, not butter. Instead of fresh cream and eggs, the nougat and caramel would most likely be made out of pre-cooked bases, which would be more stable and easier to make into the final candy product. Maybe  something like this nougat product from the White-Stokes company:

The sweeteners in the nougat and caramel might have included larger portions of corn syrup or other sugar substitutes. The other ingredients would probably have been fine, but nothing special. Chocolate would not have been so carefully selected and prepared so as to assure the maximal mouth feel and flavor. Salt might have come from the sea, but it wouldn’t have been the pure, mineral, intense experience we associate with today’s sea salt.

No matter how much they resemble their old time cousins, the Zzang! and similar new artisanal nostalgia candies are completely of the twenty first century. It is our most modern idea of finding the freshest, the most exquisite, the most unusual, the best, and combining it all to make the most delicious of food stuffs, no matter the difficulty or the expense.

It is elitist in a way; Zzang! and similar candies will never be produced at the volume of our dollar bar standbys. But you might decide that one Zzang! bar is totally worth the trade off of giving up five Snickers bars. Or you might not.  The important thing to me is that these things exist, not that they have to be the standard for every one all the time.

I was wrong when I said it was the end of candy. It’s just the beginning. Candy has never been like this.

Sources: I bought my bar at the Brooklyn Larder. The Zingermans Candy website lists places that sell the Zzang! around the land and also offers mail order. Candy image from Zingermans. White-Stokes ad from Confectioners Journal 1920. I first got turned on to Zzang!  by Rebecca Marx’s review in the Village Voice, “Fat Pants Friday”

Stats: Snickers: 2 ounces, 270 calories, less than a buck. Zzang! 2.5 ounces, 240 calories, 5 bucks.

May 28, 2010 at 8:14 am 5 comments

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

Candy Cookery

In a simpler time, advice for the homemaker could include these sweet words:

Candy has been discovered by home economists to be an all-day food. From candy-coated cereals for breakfast to a midnight nibble, there is no moment of the day when candy can’t be used to fit into pleasant times.

These encouraging words occur midway through a chapter titled “Candy in the Home,” the final chapter in an 1958 NCA volume titled All about Candy.  Candy, the author promises, will “contribute an unique aesthetic and artistic enjoyment to the home and to family living.”

And what does that enjoyment look like?

Candy for dessert is a no-brainer. How about the candy-and-fruit tray? or the “Scout soda,” that would be an orange with a candy stick stuck in for sipping. Another suggestion is “Strawberries Pastel”: lovely fresh strawberries surrounding a mound of pulverized after-dinner  mints. Dip you strawberry in the mint–Delicious!

But don’t think candy can’t come to your aid through the rest of the meal. Meat and vegetable sauces? You bet. Try candy mints to flavor your lamb sauce. Crushed peanut brittle in your cole slaw. Candy sauce for carrots. And although it goes unmentioned in “Candy in the Home,” I’m sure there’s something you can do with those cinnamon red hots.

As for baked goods, breakfast will never be the same. The author has such novelties in mind as these: Crush some hard candies to top your crescent rolls. Melt some caramels for extra-sweet caramel pecan rolls. Or how about cinnamon-apple coffee cake with chopped up gum drops mixed into the batter? It’s for “breakfast, lunch or snacking any time.”

All of these seem a little surprising to today’s palette. On the other hand, many of the “novel” uses for candy suggested in this chapter are by now so ordinary that we barely recognize them. Cakes and cookies, especially those made for children, are frequently decorated with colorful candies like gum drops, jelly beans, or M&Ms. Hard to believe it, but there was a time when no one would have thought to mix candy and cake. Adding chopped chocolate, chocolate chips, or even chopped candy to any kind of cake or cookie seems today pretty obvious. Back then, the author found need of extensive explanation and justification for this “dressing up.” Candy as a topping for ice cream was once a big surprise; today, it’s hard to find ice cream that doesn’t have candy mixed in.

It’s hard to believe, but fifty years ago it was not obvious that Easter Egg hunts were hunting for candy, so the author has to spell it out:  “A place where candy can be used in numerous ways is for a children’s party. . . Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July celebrations, almost any time children are gathered together are also good times to make use of candy.”

Source: “Candy in the Home,” chapter 8 of All About Candy and Chocolate by Philip Gott (NCA, 1958).

May 10, 2010 at 8:28 am 2 comments

Candy Bar Fillers

What’s inside your favorite candy bar? Could be all kinds of yummy stuff: crispies, nuts, creme, something chewy, cookie wafers, raisins, coconut. I look at all those amazing combinations and I’m wowed by American candy ingenuity.

So when I found out why all that stuff is in our candy bars, I was surprised. Ingenuity, yes. But first, necessity.

Between 1916 and 1922, prices of everything were going up, and supplies were going down. It was that pesky war thing. One candy lover kept track of the size of his favorite penny roll of candy, getting smaller from 1916 to 1922:

If you were making wafers or chocolate drops, you could either raise the price or, as in the case of those penny rolls, lower the quantity. But if you were making candy bars, there was another option: filler. Something to bulk the candy up, but at a lower price than sugar or chocolate. And if it tasted good, so much the better.

Candy fillers start appearing in 1918. The ads that I’ve seen in the trade journals make a very explicit appeal to candy makers. The whole idea was to do more with less.

In July, 1918, the California Associated Raisin Company extolled the use of raisins in candy: “Nowadays when all fillers are high-priced, Sun Maid Raisins can help you. The more raisins you use, the bigger your profits.” That same year, the Cincinnati Extract Works advertised its cherry, raspberry, and strawberry pieces with the header: “Conserve Sugar by Using Fruit Centers for Candies.” Merrell-Soule of Syracuse,  N.Y. brought out a “New Filler” called Confectioners Mince. Candy-makers were instructed to “use it as you would use any other filler. It conserves sugar.” Coconut was popular, and as an added bonus it was a good filler too.

Grains and cereals were especially attractive as fillers. They were cheap and bulky, and perhaps interesting in flavor and texture as well. The Baltimore Pearl Hominy Company promoted “Fairy Flakes” as a good substitute for up to half the coconut in coconut bars.

Quaker Oats Company offered this proposition:

There is a way–a splendid way–whereby candy may be made with the greatest possible bulkiness–at the lowest possible cost–with the minimum amount of sugar… The problem of selling the consumer big satisfying dimes worth of high grade goods is solved. … This epoch-making candy ingredient is Puffed Wheat–or for that matter, Puffed Rice or Corn Puffs.

The candy-stretching powers of this new invention, puffed grain, would make it again possible to offer “the old-time size at the old-time price.”

Liberal use of nougat, creme, and caramel in candy combination was likewise the result of sugar conservation. New food processors had developed bases for these ingredients that used corn syrup or other sugars that were not rationed. The nougat and caramel bases were advertised as saving time and money, and thereby boosting the bottom line.

The direct ancestors of what we know today as the “candy bar,” innovative concoctions appearing in 1919 and 1920 like Planters’ Chocolate Cluster Bar (peanuts, fruit, coconut and chocolate), Continental Candy Corp.’s Feasto (chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and peanuts) or Mason’s Cocoanut Peaks (“Purity and Plenty”) were no doubt delicious. But they were something more as well: the ingenious inventions of clever candy makers who took economic necessity and made something sweet.

April 26, 2010 at 8:30 am 3 comments

Corn Into Candy: 1918

Today corn syrup is everywhere, especially that bugaboo, high fructose corn syrup. HFCS has the same balance of fructose and glucose as table sugar, but is immensely cheaper and so immensely more attractive to profit-seeking food processors.

Back in the early 1900s, HFCS was unknown, but corn was a huge product. Most corn went to animal feed. But war related food shortages suddenly brought corn to center stage.

Sugar shortages were impacting households as well as food makers by the end of 1917. In January 1918, industry watchers predicted that sugar use would be restricted to something like 90 percent of what was available the previous year. But candy was ready.

Walter Hughes, the secretary of the National Confectioners Association, got himself appointed to the Sugar  Division of the U.S. Food Administration. When sugar conservation began to appear necessary, the candy industry had a seat at the table and made sure that candy was recognized as having food value and as being important to public morale.

And it was a good move. Candy, and other “non-essential” foods like ice cream and soda, were allotted 80 percent of their previous usages when the Food Administration began strict rationing in May 1918.

It was a serious reduction, to be sure. But candy makers had already begun working around the shortages with new formulas and new concoctions that would minimize the need for sugar. The obvious work-around was another ingredient that was sweet and tasteless: corn syrup.

‘War candies,’ containing less sugar and more corn syrup can be made widely popular. If you are going to turn out ‘war candies’ give them snappy war names and watch the result. You are going to save sugar for other purposes and in doing so disarm the current assertion that ‘candy is a luxury.’

Candy makers wanted to be seen doing their part for the war effort. Candy using less sugar meant more sugar for the war. Americans could enjoy their candy, and support their troops as well.

The war was good news for corn syrup. In the early 1900s, corn syrup had been called “glucose,” and was frequently vilified as an “adulterant,” some bad stuff contaminating the candy. Sometimes this was because the accuser didn’t know what glucose actually was. But often enough, criticisms about glucose in candy were directed at new-fangled ingredients and techniques that made people suspicious. (See my post Glue-Cose for more)

The war changed all that. Now corn syrup was patriotic. Candy makers could boast that their confections were sweetened without taking from the sugar stores.

This ad for “War Special” Candies from George Close ran in Confectioners Journal in January 1918, when sugar is become tight but not yet officially rationed. Close promotes the candies as both patriotic and good business:

“By pushing these specialties you are not only performing a patriotic duty in conserving sugar, but at the same time are helping yourself and your customers to maintain a normal volume of business.”

Maltose, molasses and honey could also be used as alternative sweeteners, but corn syrup as a sugar substitute was the easiest, the most abundant, and had no taste. New formulas for things like gum drops and suckers made use of higher portions of corn syrup.  And new kinds of candy ingredients using no sugar at all came on the scene: “creme” fillings and caramel bases made of corn syrup and milk products were increasingly used, as well as corn-syrup based candy coatings.

Corn syrup today is seen as cheap and inferior. But candy makers using corn syrup in 1918 were innovators responding to war-time shortages. Some Americans looked at their empty sugar bowls and pointed the finger at candy. Shut down the candy factories, they shouted, and give us back our sugar! Candy fought back to show that candy could be good and sweet, and still not use more than four percent of the total sugar output. Corn syrup kept candy in business during the shortage years, and corn syrup kept Americans eating candy.

April 16, 2010 at 8:41 am 3 comments

Corn People: How It Started

Close-up of a teenage girl (15-17) holding a corncob in front of her face

If you’ve been following the food news, you probably know by now: we are corn. Just about every item in the meat and dairy cases, just about every ingredient in processed food, somehow begins as corn in the corn field. This is not obvious from the mind-boggling array of goods on display at your local grocery.

Man spilling cornflakes

The corn-ification of our food supply is perhaps the most significant change in the U.S. food scene in the last hundred years. We mostly think of this as a consequence of “industrial food”: bigger and bigger food processors squeezing more and more profit out of less and less input.That’s definitely the story of the twentieth century, not just for food but for just about every commodity. Here’s an interesting twist, though: what set it all in motion wasn’t just greedy agri-business.

Corn used to be just for animals to eat. The reason humans started eating more and more corn, and more and more processed corn products, was because of the U.S. Government. Or you could even say it was because of Germany. Or imperialism. Or the ambition and folly that drives humans to war.

Don’t worry, I’ll get to the candy part. But to understand what happened to candy, you have to understand what happened to food more generally. And to understand that, you have to go back to the first World War, back to 1916.

Ironically, the stage was set for the corn take over by some very charitable motivations. It was the start of World War I. We hadn’t committed to fight yet, but our allies in England and France and Italy were under attack, and hurting. Europe was experiencing terrible food shortages, and the U.S. was at the ready to help with the bounty of amazing agricultural resources.

But by 1918, the American agricultural surplus was gone, and the U.S. had joined the war. Wheat in particular was in short supply, due to poor crops in 1917. Lower food harvests combined with desperate appeals from overseas inspired the U.S. Food Administration to launch a campaign for voluntary reductions in wheat consumption. Instead of wheat, Americans could eat corn.

There was plenty of corn to be had. The crop in 1917 was more than 3 billion bushels, and only six percent of that crop was normally used for human consumption, the rest going to feed cattle and livestock. But Americans weren’t accustomed to eating corn.

In the spring of 1917 and then in an expanded version in 1918 the American Museum of Natural History put on a Food Conservation Exhibition which aimed both to educate the public about proper nutrition and to support the war through encouraging food conservation. The exhibit was extremely successful in New York, where it traveled to various schools and civic centers through late 1917 and early 1918. It was praised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “the best food exhibit yet prepared,” and was widely emulated by other museums around the nation.

Corn wasn’t part of the original plan for the exhibit cooked up in 1915. But by 1918, Americans needed to  know that corn was the food of choice for patriotic citizens supporting the war effort:

The value to the country of the corn crop is being emphasized in the food exhibit in the foyer of the Museum by presenting scores of ways in which this chief of American cereals may be used in the home. The Corn Products Refining Company has presented to the Museum twenty-two products made from corn. Among these are various starches used for jellies, puddings, pie filling, and sauces; the syrups and sugars for confectionery, preserves, jams, and jellies; and the oils used for general cooking, pastry, and salads. Great quantities of gluten and oil cake, besides corn meal, are used for feeding cattle, thus indirectly contributing to our food supply. Aside from their food value, corn products have a large place in the arts and industries. From corn oil are made leather, rubber, paints, and varnishes; the starches are used for laundry purposes, for ‘sizes’ in textile and paper industries, and for soaps an adhesives; the syrups and sugars are used in tanning, in shoe polishes, hair tonics, chewing tobacco, and in the manufacture of lactic acid and vinegar. (Am Mus Journal Oct 1917 p. 420)

Perhaps the multiple forms of corn would have eventually insinuated their way into American life anyway. The War gave corn an air of necessity and of patriotism. Corn was a good choice, corn was helping America and its Allies in the war effort.

Corn meal could take the place of wheat in the nation’s bakeries and bread baskets. In the words of Professor Graham Lusk, a food expert at Cornell University who advised on the U.S. food program as well as the AMNH Food Exhibit, “corn bread became the bread of every patriotic citizen.”

And what about candy? Sugar was in short supply and everybody, including the candy industry, was conserving.  Corn had a solution there as well, a way to keep the candy coming, just as sweet: corn syrup.

In my next post, I’ll tell you more about how the WWI food shortages and rationing programs created modern candy.

Sources: The quote about corn at the exhibit is from Am Mus Journal Oct 1917 p. 420; the quote from Graham Lusk is from Lusk, “The Food Supply of our Allies,”  Am Mus Journal 18.8 Dec 1918: 629-635; quote on p. 630; the quote regarding the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is from Am Mus Journal Nov. 1918 p. 623. Accounts of the Food Exhibit can be found in the Annual Reports for the American Museum of Natural History for 1917 through 1925. I consulted correspondence and clippings relating to the Food Exhibit at the AMNH Archives; my thanks to librarian Mai Qamaran for her assistance in locating relevant materials. As general background, Michael Pollan describes the ubiquity of corn in our diet in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, an excellent place to start one’s food re-education.

Images: Corn: PicApp, AMNH image: Fusionpanda on Flikr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fusionpanda/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

April 14, 2010 at 8:28 am 5 comments

Ancient Candies Sell New Technologies, 1950s

Today I wanted to share with you a couple of candy industry ads from the 1950s that caught my eye. When I saw them, I wondered, why the sudden appearance of these “ancient” motifs and references?

Here we have Monsanto Chemical Company advertising their Flavor Chemicals in 1952 (yes, its the same Monsanto). This is the fruit and flower of modern science, the efforts of chemists at the cutting edge of food engineering. And what image do they use to promote their oh-so-modern product? Ancient Egyptians and Classic Greeks in togas.

And two years later, Annheuser-Busch brings a full-blown pharaonic fantasy to promote its starches and corn syrups.

This ad describes candy as “one of the oldest manufactured food products.” I think this phrase tips us off as to what these ads are doing.

The food business was undergoing a major technological revolution in the 1950s. All sorts of food engineering and food chemistry, much of it developed for the military during WWII, was hitting the marketplace in the form of new kinds of food, new kinds of packaging, and new ways of cooking and eating.

It was “better living through chemistry,” to be sure. But as much as there was the excitement of progress and the new, there was also anxiety: after all, was  chemistry really food?

I think these ads are about creating psychological links between the old and the new to make the new seem more a continuation of the old, more familiar and less of a dramatic break.

The problem is not so acute for Annheuser-Busch’s starches and corn syrups, perhaps. After all, they have some recognizable relation to corn. But Monsanto was peddling additives that were radically new and absolutely artificial: ethavan, vanillin, coumarin and methyl salicylate, flavorings that created the effects of “real” foods like vanilla and mint. The question on some people’s minds must have been: Was Monsanto selling chemicals? Or food ingredients?

Monsanto reassures its customers of its rightful place in the candy kitchen by establishing links to the candy past. “Hebrews, Greeks, Romans… history-making men of nearly every nationality… have listed candy among their foods,” and now Monsanto joins this distinguished line as part of the “modern Candy Industry.”

Note: yes, that’s the same Annheuser-Busch better known for beer. For the full story on how a brewer ends up provisioning the candy trade, see my post Beer and Candy III. For more on Monsanto’s chemicals in the candy industry, see my posts Please Don’t Eat the Wrapper and A Complete, Well-Balanced Diet.

Ads appeared in Confectioners Journal: Monsanto, Feb 1952; Annheuser-Busch, Aug 1954.

April 7, 2010 at 8:30 am 2 comments

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

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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.

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