Archive for March 2017

What is the vegan version of the gummy bear?

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Actually the venerable and nicely-textured gummy bear started life as the Turkish delight, a vegetarian medicine-turned-treat that originated around 900 in Arabic apothecaries of the Mideast. The core ingredients were cream of tartar, possibly starch (ours contains corn starch) sugar, and the oil, such as rose. Pistachio or other nuts would have floated deliciously in the mix. Then came gelatin in such creations as the jelly bean and gummy bear – both off-shots of the delight. At long last, one mainstream candy came along to save the vegetarian’s day: the Swedish Fish. The no-gelatin candy was, in fact, invented in…

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Mexico

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THANK YOU MEXICO! Without Mexico we would be chocolate-less. Of course, early on Mexico was home to the Olmecs, known for their large head sculptures, the Mayans, and the Aztecs. In 1521 explorer Hernán Cortés landed in Mesoamerica and saw a mesmerizing sight: the great Aztec leader Montezuma, bedecked in jewels and feathers, and attended to by 200 wives. And in his regal hand he cupped a golden chalice filled with the cacao drink. This inspired Cortés, largely to overthrow him, which he did with a devastating, bloody blow.   As for the cacao – the bean which is the…

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Roller Coaster Candy and the Fun Factor

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When you go to an amusement park, you may notice that there are two types of roller coaster riders: one has hands flung in the air, faces broad with animated expressions, plenty of laughter, and plenty of screaming. Fun screaming. The other is white-knuckled, fingers so tightly wrapped around the bars, you’d think they’d make an imprint. Their eyes are closed – rigor mortis seems to have set in. Same is true with candy. When the fun-loving visitors come into the True Treats shop, they are excited about the variety, the color and the stories. When they get to the…

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Charlie Chaplin

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Born in London in 1889, he was destitute as his mother was mentally and physically ill and his father, an alcoholic, had abandoned the family. Chaplin inher ited his parents’ theatrical talents and began acting at five years old. He rose to become one of the world’s greatest stars. At the rise of Hitler, Chaplin turned his theatrical attention to politics, a decision which ultimately destroyed his popularity in the U.S. Later Americans recanted their opinion and Chaplin received an honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”…

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The First Penny Candies: What’s Missing and Why?

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Penny candy has been a favorite for kids since the burgeoning industrial age of the mid-1800s. They could buy an array of sweets in general stores, tobacco stores, and apothecaries. The Ohio Journal of Education, in an 1857 publication, Lessons in Common Things, listed a few of the selections: Cream candy, popcorn, peppermint, molasses, rose, clove, butterscotch, sugar plums, lemon drops, lemon candy, peppermint drops, French kisses, cinnamon, ice-cream, wintergreen, sour drops, horehound, lavender, gum drops, vanilla, Rock, birch, cats-eyes, and kisses. Look carefully at this list and you’ll notice a difference from lists of today which would more likely…

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The Not Dumb Dum Dum

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The Dum Dums lollipop was first made in 1924 by the Akron Candy Company. According to manufacturer Spangler, who purchased the company in 1953, they produce12 million Dum Dums per day and about 2.4 billion Dum Dums each year. The reason for its success goes back to the 20’s with I.C. Bahr, a company sales manager. At that time, marketing was no longer a tacky sales pitch. It was all about strategy, demographics, and imagination. Marketing had risen to a heyday which, to be frank, has yet to end. Good salesmen knew that the candy’s name could be translated into…

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The Secret Life of the Pixy Stix (Plus Kool-Aid)

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The Pixy Stix, beyond any other candy, is a lesson in “don’t stop ‘til” you get it right. The ubiquitous Pixy Stix sugar-esq powder started out as a drink mix in 1930, along the lines of Kool Aid, made two years earlier. Not to digress, but the guy who made Kool-Aid, Edwin Perkins, actually experimented in his mother’s kitchen. Apparently, the drink started as a liquid. According to the Hastings Museum in Perkin’s home town of Hastings, Nebraska: “One of the products Perkins found success with was Fruit Smack. It came in came in six delicious flavors and the four-ounce bottle…

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Abolitionists, Resistance, and the Nation’s First Candy – Part 3

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The Author’s Illuminating (for her) Experience I recently had an experience in my hometown of Shepherdstown, WV. It was about racism, not against African Americans but Muslims, and it did not directly involve me. Still, I felt strongly about it and got involved. The situation, which is still ongoing, gave me new insight into how Mrs. Spencer and, dare I say, the escaped slaves, felt. Here’s how it started: I found, among other things, an anti-Muslim meme on the Facebook page of the town’s police chief, who is also a star in the hit show Ghosts of Shepherdstown which reaches…

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Abolitionists, Resistance, and the Nation’s First Candy – Part 2

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Resisters Under the Seat It’s hard to know where the enslaved people in Mrs. Spencer’s buggy started. Slaves labored at the ports of Salem and many other nearby places in the 18th and 19th centuries. Likely, they didn’t come from the South, as freedom was too far for escape. Regardless, they traveled on inconspicuous roads and paths, with little food, drink, or chance to rest. The escaped slaves fled for many reasons, among them the harsh reprisals of slaveholders; starvation and brutality where they worked; and the need to seek out family members who were sold away from them. How…

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Abolitionists, Resistance, and the Nation’s First Candy – Part 1

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Mrs. Spencer: The Nation’s First Candy Store and Abolitionist The fascinating and revealing story of the nation’s first candy begins in 1800 when Mrs. Mary Spencer and her son Thomas were shipwrecked in Salem, Massachusetts, after sailing over from England. As you can imagine, Mary Spencer was destitute, having lost everything she owned in the wreck. The town’s women felt bad for her, and learning she was an excellent cook, raised money to buy her a barrel of sugar.  Cane sugar was expensive at that time, and women didn’t have the means to make money. It’s likely they had to…

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