For The Love of Candy

 

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.   

Soon jars of colorful penny candy could be found in every trading post and general store in the country. It took almost four hundred candy manufacturing companies to keep up with the demand. 

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. 

This call to grind the coffee beans got a rash of volunteers.  No rough and tumble cowboy worth his salt would turn down a stick of peppermint candy, especially when out on the trail.

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?

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Who knew being Left at the Altar could be such

sweet, clean, madcap fun?

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Margaret Brownley
Margaret has published more than 40 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and past Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! A Match Made in Texas is available for pre-order now. Margaret's stories also appear in the 12 Brides of Christmas, Pioneer Christmas and Second Chance at Star Inn collections. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.
Updated: January 23, 2017 — 5:05 pm

21 Comments

  1. I have always loved Payday candy bars, but back, in the early sixties I remember the Mars Bar. It was similar to Snickers and Three Musketeer with the creaminess inside but then it had whole almonds on the top with a generous covering of chocolate. Oh how I miss that candy bar.

    Thank you for the great post Margaret.

    Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    1. Cindy, I remember that Mars bar. I hadn’t thought about for years. I wonder whatever happened to it. Hmm.

    2. Do you think Almond Joy with the almonds and coconut inside replaced it? Just a thought.

      1. Maybe so, Eliza. I’m not that fond of coconut.

  2. What a “Sweet” article. Thank you for giving us all this tidbit of information about candy. I did not know most of that, what a wonderful history candy has had in our lives. My favorite candy bar is Snickers, but if I could afford to buy them, my most favorite candy I discovered last year, It’s only sold in Vegas and a couple of other special places. Ethel M candy. Now that is some wonderful candy.

    1. Tonya, I’m really curious now. I never heard of Ethel M. Now I’m on a treasure hunt.

      1. Margaret- Here’s the story of Ethel M candy:
        For over 100 years the Mars family has shared their passion in time honored tradition’s for chocolate making. It all began in 1911 when Ethel Mars began teaching her family the joys and making chocolate by hand in her kitchen. In 1981 Forest Mars Sr., Created Ethel M chocolate as a tribute to his mother and to share his passion for creating the best chocolates the Mars family knows how to make. Over 30 years later we continue to hold steadfast to these traditions by creating our chocolates in small batches using quality ingredients and no preservatives. We take pride in experiencing a shared passion from our loyal customers, who make this part of their own family traditions. Nothing but the best for Ethel’s family, nothing but the best for yours.
        And when I bought my first batch of chocolate in Las Vegas they have all types, they even have a liqueur one, but that has to be bought from the store cannot be shipped as the others can be (because you have to be carded that you were 21 years old to buy it), they can be shipped anywhere in the world Except the liqueur, because has 1 ounce of alcohol and each piece of chocolate. Talk about a chocolate experience.
        Website is http://www.ETHELM.com

  3. I have always enjoyed JuJuBees and Smarties. I like them better than chocolate sometimes. Although sometimes nothing can satisfy like a Dove bar.

    1. Hi Debra, ah, yes, a Dove bar. Heavenly. It’s on 6 a.m. and already I’m in trouble today. Such sweet temptation.

  4. My favorite candy is the Snickers bar.

    1. Hi Estella,
      You’re not alone. On Halloween I notice that the Snickers bars always go first.

  5. I love all chocolate. I can’t pick just one.

    1. Janine, I’m with you.

      One of my heroes is Englishman Mr. Fry who in 1847 figured out how to make the first chocolate bar.

  6. As a little girl, I remember my dad and I going to an old-fashioned multi-purpose store that still had a big glass case with penny candy in it. So I always saved my allowance for some of that candy, as well something from the stationery aisle (I guess I’ve always been a pen and paper addict).

    For more recent years, though, and for the longest time I couldn’t get enough M&M’s chocolate covered peanuts. But in the past year I’ve switched to a burning desire definite need for mini Reese’s peanut butter cups in white chocolate. The supervisor of the nearby store confessed he makes sure the white chocolate is stocked for me. lol Anyway, I always prefer chocolate with some kind of nuts involved, like Nestle Crunch Bars, or Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar. Well, at least I’m doing my part for different businesses. 🙂

  7. Eliza, I still like M&Ms covered peanuts. Chocolate with nuts is my favorite. BTW: as a child, I spent all my money on notebooks. I still purchase them regularly and have them all over the house for writing down things that come to mind. My husband once suggested that I join notebook anonymous. LOL

  8. I still have fond memories of the corner store which was across from our grade school. The owner would stop everything and take a seat on a pretzel can in front of the candy case while children took forever to decide how to spend their pennies! I didn’t get those pennies very often so it was a big thrill and took me forever to decide lol.

    1. Hi Catslady, what a nice memory. Penny candy gave children a lot of power and independence. It also taught them about making choices, interacting with adults and handling money. It probably didn’t do much for the teeth, but that’s another story.

  9. Oh, Margaret! I LOVE this post!!! I remember when 5th Avenue Bars had an almond on each half. One of my favorite candy memories was going to the laundromat. It was across the street from my grandparents’ house. The candy machine had all the slots showing which candy was in them except one, it was a “Guess What” That was the one I always chose. My cousins all told me I was crazy, I guess I liked living on the edge. I liked the surprise of a “Guess What”
    I also remember if you ate a Mallow Cup and took a drink of Coke a Cola right after, it would fizz in your mouth.

    1. Andrea, I love your story about the “Guess What” slot. What a fun idea. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Dark chocolate.

    1. Hi Kim, I asked a candy store owner which was the most popular chocolate, milk or dark. He told me that men generally purchased milk chocolate, but most women preferred dark. Not sure what to make of that, but it was interesting.

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