Save the Earth; it’s the only planet with chocolate
I’ve got candy on my mind this month and it’s not even Valentine’s. There are two reasons why I’m thinking of all things sweet and it has nothing to do with the empty box of chocolates on my desk; January is national candy month and the heroine of my current work in progress owns a candy shop.
While doing the research for my book, I turned up some fun and interesting facts. For example, we can blame our sweet tooth on our cavemen ancestors and their fondness for honey. But the most surprising thing I discovered was that marshmallows grow on trees—or at least used to. That was before the French came up with a way to replace the sweet sap from the mallow tree with gelatin.
I also learned that during the middle ages, the price of sugar was so high that only the rich could afford a sweet treat. In fact, candy was such a rarity that the most children could expect was an occasional sugar plum at Christmas. (BTW: there are no plums in sugar plums. Plum is another word for good).
This changed during the early nineteenth century with the discovery of sugar-beet juice and mechanical candy-making machines.
This changed the market considerably. Children as young as four or five were now able to make purchases independent of their parents. (Had youngsters known that vegetables including spinach was used to color candy, they might not have wasted their money.)
Children weren’t the only ones enjoying the availability of cheap candy. Civil War soldiers favored gumdrops, jelly beans, hard candy and, hub wafers (now known as Necco wafers).
Never one to miss a trend, John Arbuckle, noted the sugar craze that had swept the country and decided to use it as marketing tool. He included a peppermint stick in each pound bag of Arbuckle’s coffee to encourage sales.
“Who wants the peppermint?” was a familiar cry around chuck wagons.
Arbuckle wasn’t the only one to see gold in candy. Outlaw Doc Scurlock, friend of Billy the Kid and a Bloody Lincoln County War participant, retired from crime in 1880. Though he was still a wanted man, he moved to Texas and opened up a candy store.
Cadbury, Mars and Hershey rode herd on the chocolate boom of the late 1800s, early 1900s. Penny candy still made up eighteen percent of candy sales but, by this time, some merchants had refused to sell it. Profits were thin and selling such small amounts to children was time-consuming. Chocolate was more profitable. The penny candy market vanished altogether during World War II when sugar was rationed. Fortunately, no war could do away with chocolate.
Okay, so what’s your favorite candy? Anyone have a candy memory to share?
Who knew being Left at the Altar could be such
sweet, clean, madcap fun?