Sample Talks & Tastings

Native Treats: The First Candies Ever (Prehistoric-1860)

What confections did the Native Americans Eat? The answer is surprising and speaks to the lives and values of the Native American people. Other treats arrived through trade, some dating back to the early Egyptians and some through the “slave trade.”  Equally intriguing, why did people eat them? In this presentation participants get to sample the early marshmallow (made with the Marsh Mallow plant), the early chewing gum (made with tree resin), the first North American sugar (made from maple syrup and formed into a dense brick), and other surprises including buffalo meat with dried fruit and early Native American chocolate.


The Peanut Collection: African American Confections (1770-1900)

African Americans contributed enormously to American confections and were among the finest chefs. This session gives participants a taste of the wide array of confections African Americans created from refined meringues and sugared flower petals to tasty dried fruits. They also hear inspiring stories about lesser known African American heroes, such as Hercules, a master chef who was enslaved by George Washington and dared to escape.  In the process, participants gain appreciation of the strength the slaves revealed as they protected their lives and struggled to maintain a sense of community against overwhelming odds.


War Rations: The Confectionary Legacy from the American Revolution to the Iraq War (1770-1950)

From the home front to the battle field, confections played a significant role in warfare and visa -versa. These include the role of blockades in creating new ingredients, such as corn syrup which resulted from shortages during the Napoleonic wars. They taste the candies that were created for troops and found their way into the national taste buds such as Goldenburg’s peanut bar (World War I) and the M&M (World War II). And it discusses what war time confections say about the society, such as the Civil War soldiers who relished a combination of the new and old, recent culinary arrivals and those carried with the slave trade.


Brass Kettle Confections: Candies Through the Nineteenth Century (1806-1880)]

Our flagship presentation takes participants from the first commercially made candy in the U.S. (circa 1806) to salt water taffy, an American original (early 1880s).  They also get the proverbial scoop on candy history including the role of the slave trade in sugar production; the abolitionists’ approach to confections; the first mass-manufactured candy during the Industrial Revolution; the invention of corn syrup in 1811; and much more! Favorites include molasses pulls, rock candy, and peanut brittle, with a stunning story no one will forget!


Blue-Grey Sweets: The Unexplored World of Civil War Sweets (1861-1865)

We hear the stories of the heroes. The excitement and pain of the battles. But little is known about the role of sugars and sweets of the Civil War, those which the soldiers relished and relied on. Some were new, such as the peanut which the northern Union soldiers ate for the first time. Others were traditional, such as the horehound candy, part of the American diet since the early settlers.  Participants will learn about the many aspects of Civil War daily life from fireside to packages shipped from home and sample flavors which were familiar to the lucky soldiers who ate them.


True Treats for Health and Happiness: Chocolates from the Revolutionary War through the Great Depression (1772-1934)

Chocolate has a surprising vibrant role in the American diet. In the Revolutionary War era, soldiers ate chocolate for health; in the late 1800s, French chocolate was a critical ingredient in courtship; in the Great War, chocolate bars were a coveted part of army rations; and in the Great Depression, chocolate bars were marketed as a nourishing and inexpensive meal in a bar.  Participants  explore the dynamic and exciting life of historic chocolate, compare the taste and packaging through the years, and discuss the role (and marketing) of chocolate today.


Failing Up

The Value of Failure with Seven Gateways to Success

The story of success is ultimately about the power of failure. This fact is no better demonstrated than in the remarkable stories of seven-plus American candy makers, whose failures helped them rise up and to monumental heights. In this presentation, you’ll follow their journeys and delve into the strategies that made them work, from rallying their communities to reshaping their personal or professional brand.  Case studies include Mary Spencer, a shipwrecked Englishwomen who opened the nation’s first candy store in 1806, while helping enslaved workers in New England to escape; Pharmacist Oliver Chase, maker of the NECCO Wafer, who invented a pill-cutting machine, changing the course of food and medicine; and Charles Hires, who tapped the powers of communications in the early 1900s, to navigate political, social, and technological obstacles. Also included are Hershey, Mars, and other familiar greats whose stories are even more intriguing than the products that they made.  You will sample their candies as we go.

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