Sweet Talkin' Blog

Valentine’s Day – Sweet and Ancient

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Valentine’s Day sweets are older and more remarkable than taste reveals, some originating thousands of years ago, and were associated with the less romantic notions of fertility and sex. One example is the quintessential heart-shaped candy box. The heart, which obviously looks nothing like an actual heart, likely evolved from the now extinct silphium plant used by fifth century Romans as a seasoning, medicine and birth control measure. Its pod was heart-shaped, lending itself to the symbolic heart of today. After appearing in everything from 14th and 15th century artwork to16th century playing cards, it found a place in Valentine’s…

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Valentine’s Day – Sweet and Sexy

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Valentine’s Day sweets are older and more remarkable than taste reveals, some originating thousands of years ago to celebrations of fertility and sex. One example is the quintessential heart-shaped candy box. The heart shape, which obviously looks nothing like an actual heart, likely evolved from the now extinct silphium plant used by fifth century Romans as a seasoning, medicine and birth control measure. Its pod was heart-shaped, lending itself to the symbolic heart of today. After appearing in everything from 14th and 15th century artwork to16th century playing cards, it found a place in Valentine’s Day sweets in 1861.  That’s…

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Sichuan Province and the Global Wonton

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When it comes to food research, I generally focus on sugars and sweets. But a recent lunch with a friend, Judy, convinced me to venture away. She and I met in Rockville, Maryland at the Sichuan Jin River restaurant, situated in an old style (think 1950s) shopping mall-ish place, between a vast parking lot and a busy street. The restaurant lacked dazzle and the menu was full of common, crowd-pleasing items such as wonton soup. Fortunately, Judy, who has mastered the art of eating, selected satisfyingly Sichuan-style dishes for both of us: roasted peanuts with tiny anchovies, emboldened by chili…

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The Taming of the Peppermint Plant

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I recently got a call from a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, asking about the background of peppermint in the U.S.: Was it a breath freshener? A medicine? A treat? I don’t think I’m scooping WSJ by answering the question here, which is “yes.” Peppermint was all this and more. A hybrid of water mint and spearmint, the peppermint first made an appearance in England in the 1600s and in North America via the early colonists. They used the plant as a medicine as well as a treat in early versions of candy. It was tasty, effective, and grew…

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Black Music Month

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We cannot let June slip by without acknowledging Black Music M onth and the remarkable contribution of black musicians to our culture, our history, and, dare I say, our candy.  Here are three of our favorites:   James P. Johnson.  In 1894 and the great African American musician and composer was born. Classically trained, he went on to bridge the gap between ragtime and jazz, as back-up player for such greats as Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith, mentor to Duke Ellington and  Fats Waller, among many others, and an accompanist on over 400 recordings, and colleag ue of George Gershwin….

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July 4th: Marshmallows, Patriots and Our First Founders

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July 4th is fast approaching and we Americans toast marshmallows, set off fireworks, and have an overall great time honoring the founders of our nation. True Treats Historic Candy is right onboard, ready to celebrate the brave, difficult and enduring contributions of our forefathers and mothers like nobody’s business! So, as proprietors of a candy store, it makes sense that we’d focus on those who devoted their lives to cane sugar – a powerful force in the economy and diets of early Americans. I am speaking, of course, of the enslaved workers, without whose efforts our nation may never have…

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July 4th: Let’s Celebrate our Nation’s Founders…All of Them

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Cane sugar was one of the main reasons for enslavement in the U.S. The cane sugar plantations were infamous: the average worker suffered egregious injuries, lived short lives, often ending in their 20s, and were typically malnourished with little or no medical care. They, and others in similar circumstances, were also among the founders of our nation.   July 4th is fast approaching, and we Americans eat hot dogs, send off fireworks, and have an overall great time honoring the Declaration of Independence and the founders of our great nation. True Treats Historic Candy is right on board, ready to…

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Father’s Day: Expression of Love or a Commercial Trap? Why Worry?

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If you’re torn about Father’s Day – wanting to show Dad love but avoid a commercial trap – take heart.  While some people believe Father’s Day, and its counter-part Mother’s Day, are a Hallmark Card company gimmick, both have sincere origins dating back to the early 1900s in West Virginia. Father’s Day began in 1908 at a church service honoring 362 coal-miners who died at the Fairmont Coal Company disaster in Monongah, West Virginia. The one-time event honored not only those men but all fathers. The idea was picked up a year later by Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington…

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Something’s Old is Entirely New at Chicago’s Sweets and Snacks Expo

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Regal Crowns, Turkish Taffy, and Classic Tootsie Rolls What’s new in the candy universe? I decided to find out at the annual Sweets and Snacks Expo held at Chicago’s McCormick Hall. What I found was plenty of candies that are delightfully old. Best of all, the owners of the companies who make them were there – such as Mitchel Goetz, whose family has been making Caramel Creams for generations, and Ross Born, of the Peeps family fame… my personal real life heroes. Among the classics were the Wax Lips, big bar Tootsie Rolls, American Licorice Black Licorice Twists, and Goldenberg’s…

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Potato Candy

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The potato candy is quickly rising to the best seller list at the shop. Our customers have two reactions to this Americanized German immigrant. One is: “What is potato candy?” The other: “My grandmother use to make this.” So, let’s address this fascinating candy: What is potato candy? Potato candy came to the U.S., somewhere around the turn of the century, reportedly from Germany. It arrived in recipe form – possibly memorized rather than written – with immigrants. The candy consisted of two main ingredients: potato and sugar. One it hit the American shores, it took on peanut butter –…

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