Archive for February 2017

Philly

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I just gave a talk about the history of candy at the Historical Society in Philadelphia. The most amazing aspect of the “City of Brotherly Love,” more than the architecture, the ports, or the gardens, is the people. Sitting curbside at a Cuban restaurant afterwards, I watched the parade of humanity go by: Muslim women with hijabs, Latino families with dark-eyed children, a Vietnamese cook in chief’s whites, European American students chatting at a nearby café, and two African American workers with key-laden rings at their hips. As for candy – for most people, candy is a metaphor, a metaphor…

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Norbert Rillieux: All the Sugar that You Eat and a Bizarre Twist

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If you like sweets, eat sweets, or give gifts of made sugar, you have Norbert Rillieux to thank. His story is remarkable and his legacy regarding cane sugar in specific and sugar in general is profound.  He was born in 1806; his mother was a free woman of color, and his father, Vincent Rillieux, a European American plantation owner and inventor. At that time, 25 percent of African Americans in New Orleans were free and mixed couples often raised families together. Rillieux was a precocious student – so precocious his father sent him to the famous l’École Centrale in Paris…

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Candy in the Classroom?

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Yesterday, I gave a talk at the D.G. Cooley Elementary School in Berryville, Virginia, about the history of candy with plenty of samples as we went. Skeptics, such as health professionals or parents who fastidiously limit their children’s intake of sugar, may cringe. Candy? In the classroom? Seriously? No worries – I’m on their side. But first, a little background. Candy is uniquely qualified for teaching children. They can relate to it directly – it’s not abstract, difficult, or about grown-up achievements. It’s about something in their realm and so, about them, complete with positive associations of candy bags at…

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The Charleston Chew

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The Charleston Chew, that dense chocolate covered marshmallow-taffy-toffee substance may be nostalgic, but beneath the chocolate exterior, is an edgy, activist DNA embedded in the candy which, as it happened, was named for the song and the dance known as the “Charleston” in 1925. Let’s start with the dance. No one knows where it originated exactly, but it likely was in the domain of enslaved African-Americans living on a small island near Charleston, South Carolina. Their dance likely had Ash-Ante African roots, modified to deceive the slaveholders and their rules prohibiting it. You have to remember that both song and…

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Black History Museum Talk & Tasting

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Last Saturday, I had the pleasure, and I do mean pleasure, of speaking at the Black History Museum in Alexandria. The museum was formally a one-room library for African Americans during segregation. Since then, the site has expanded and now features a presentation and exhibition area. I don’t know what I liked best. The museum itself is beautiful, clean, bright and airy. And while African American history is too large to fit into the New York City library, the small museum presents just the right information to make the trip warm and informative. The exhibition on the day I gave…

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In Virginia? Skip Trip Advisor and Head Here

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I’ve been traveling around the country quite a bit these days and am always delighted to be hitting the road in Virginia. Last weekend, I found myself speaking in two beautifully historic places: Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. My recommendation: visit both (they’re only 90 minutes apart), spend time walking around the historic area, enjoy the wonderful stores, then head over to the Rising Sun Tavern and the Albemarle County Historical Society. Rising Sun Tavern: Fredericksburg, VA This former tavern was originally built in 1760 as a home for Charles Washington, George’s younger brother. About 30 years later, it became a tavern…

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True Treats Historic Candy® Announces Launch of the Grandmother’s Purse Project

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Candy Store to Donate Percent of Profits to Four Different Charitable Segments – Welcomes Requests for Funding Harpers Ferry, WV (February 15, 2017): True Treats Historic Candy announced they will launch the “Grandmother’s Purse Project,” giving up to 10% of their profits to charitable events. In addition, True Treats will continue to donate up to six gift baskets or other goods to organizations for raffles and silent auctions Says True Treats founder Susan Benjamin, “We’ve been planning this project for several years and are delighted to begin. We called it ‘Grandmother’s Purse’ because, for generations, grandmothers have carried sour balls,…

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Valentine’s Day: Why Hearts?

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So, it’s almost Valentine’s Day and you might be wondering what’s with the cupids and hearts. Excellent question and the answers are many…or none, depending. The origin of the heart, for example, is said to have evolved from the ancient and now extinct plant silphium, used in the fifth century by Romans as a spice and birth control measure – application method unknown.  The plant’s seed pod apparently was heart-shaped. Others claim the heart appeared as a sexual symbol in art around 1250, looking much like an inverted pine cone, while still others say it was an ancient depiction of…

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The Almost-Astonishing Story of Chocolate Covered Peppermint Candy: From Ice Cream Cones to a Retro Candy Favorite

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I’ve been thinking about peppermint patties these days, although I’m not sure why. Maybe because peppermint and chocolate, individually or combined, is big on Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day…face it, there’s always a holiday nearby where candy is concerned and chocolate covered peppermints are standard fare. Chocolate Covered Peppermint Candy: The Retro Candy Version Cometh The year was 1940. At that time, chocolate covered caramels, bonbons, and others along that line were old hat: suitors had been giving their intendeds chocolates for decades. But the chocolate covered peppermint languished… the peppermint was soft and gummy and the candy overall substandard….

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