While stopping in Fish Kill New York on my way to Boston, I discovered the Red Line Diner, which shouldn’t be called a diner. Here I am with one of the owners of the family business, Nick Vanikiotis!
The food goes beyond classic diner food to include clams and mussels cooked with chorizo and upscale burritos made with arugula. What they did have that was quintessential dinner food was an array of cakes, too divine, to ignore.
I love the very concept of chiffon cake. How light and airy sounding can a cake’s name get? It seems the cake was actually invented in the late 1920s by a guy named Harry Baker, known for his angel food cake, a descendent of sponge cake. He later sold the closely guarded recipe to Betty Crocker.
The best thing about chiffon cake, in my opinion, is that it was served with grape-fruit (of all things) at Hollywood’s Brown Derby in the 1930s. No matter who’s making it, chiffon lives up to its name.
Strawberry shortcake is its own miracle. Basically, it requires strawberries, whipped cream with sugar, vanilla, basically cook’s choice, atop cake – again, cook’s choice. Angel food, sponge cake, short bread cookies aka biscuits, whatever works. The history of the particular cake is mired in legend and reality. The bottom line is that strawberries grow throughout the world and people have uniformly loved them, putting them everywhere they could.
A word about sponge cake! Sponge cake is among the oldest known cakes around, an iteration appearing as early as 2000 BCE. It became popular in the U.S. in the mid-1800s, but got its greatest following in its incarnation in the 1920s as Twinkies.
LOVE STRAWBERRIES? Here are other strawberry treats you’ll certainly enjoy!
I discovered this amazing segment from a six-line poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. 40 years ago – it stays with me today! I believe it was etched in a small monument or tombstone in a graveyard in Cambridge Massachusetts.
“Little flower-but if I could understand What you are, root and all, all in all, I should know what God and man is.”
Here is the full poem:
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
For so many Americans, “old time candy” is fascinating. Orange, banana-flavored circus peanuts? Horehound candy?? Penny candy?? But for the many elders amongst us (including several on the True Treats staff) “old time” candies are literally a taste of the past, conjuring memories and feelings of fun. They are flavors well-worth returning to – and sharing. So, we are happy to provide our truly old-time candy, and the memories that come with each, to those who deserve them the most. We are happy to discuss the best options for all our categories and adjust the products at a small, additional fee.
Who We Are
From the nation’s only award-winning historical candy company, a selection of 500+ sweets, treats, teas, and other treasures your residents will love. Our products range from the old-time candy they remember or read about in books, whether horehound or authentic Turkish Delight. We also have low-sugar items, such as teas and a variety of biscuits, crackers, and even popcorn.
ALSO: Each product comes with its own story, whether a label or tag attached to the bags or boxes used as gifts or prizes. Our programs include a cheat sheet for leaders and, in many cases, a descriptive page for participants.
About: The nation’s only award-winning historical candy company, True Treats has been honored by 50+places, such as the Food Network, PBS, delish.com and was even one of the questions on the quiz show Jeopardy. We sell at our award-winning store in Harpers Ferry, as well as to select specialty stores and museum gift stores across the nation, such as Mount Vernon and the Museum of the Bible. Our president, Susan Benjamin, regularly discusses sweets and treats on the History Channel, New York Times, ABC and NPR programs and podcasts, among countless others. Susan’s tenth book: “Sweet as Sin: The Unwrapped Story of how Candy Became America’s Favorite Pleasure” was on Smithsonian’s Best Books about Food. She is currently working on her eleventh book, due out in 2024: American Fun Foods.
We would be happy to meet with you for a tasting and to create an affordable and enjoyable plan for your residents. You can reach us by phone: (304) 535-8904. By mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, and by mail: P.O. Box 201 Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
AND YES – We take requests from your residents about the favorite or hard-to-find candies they love!
Gifts. Our gift boxes and bags range from tasters to full-fledged boxes and baskets. We have numerous options and would be happy to create a special box for events such as milestone birthdays – including centenarians! – at a small additional charge. Should your residents need a gift for a child or grandchild, our offerings include toys and treats, festive bags, and alcohol-flavored truffles. We are happy to discuss the best product for your resident with you.
See our full selection of gift boxes at our website: www.truetreatscandy.com.
Our bags are great for numerous purposes and come in three sizes:
Tasters: 2 ounces
Use: Treats, special occasions, good for large numbers of people
Comes in: Small recyclable bag with easy-open tie and label
Premium Assortment: 4 ounces
Use: Prizes, gifts
Comes in: Recyclable bag tied with ribbon and an assortment of candy
Gold Assortment: 8 ounces
Use: Prizes, gifts for special occasions, such as milestones, welcome bags
Comes In: Tied recyclable bag with a festive ribbon and a lively assortment, containing loose candy, bite-size pieces, and small packages or mini-boxes.
The following options are guides to help you select the best treats for your residents. Want bags with only one kind of candy? Don’t see what you like? Go to our website or feel free to ask. Web products receive a 10% discount.
When you want to focus on specific textures, depending on dental issues, health concerns, or general preferences.
Hard Filled: Raspberry-Filled, Strawberry-Filled, Zotz, Napoleons…
Melt-in-Your-Mouth: Pulled Creams, French Creams, Caramel Creams, Angel Mints,
Chewy: Toffees and Taffies
Fun: Fruit Stripe Gum, Pixy Stix, Pop Rocks, Lollipops…Highly textured/flavorful
Used to stoke memories and have fun. A small number of these candies are on the mainstream market. Most are hard-to-find or have vanished and returned.
Penny Candy. A variety found in penny candy stores, many familiar, others forgotten. Includes gum drops, circus peanuts, Pixy Sticks, pulled creams, and traditional All created in the late-1800s to early 1930s and popular for decades thereafter.
Nostalgic. “Count candy” which were not weighed but sold by the piece, wrapped and ready to go. These include mini candy bars, chewing gum, peppermint sticks, caramels, and Lifesavers. Made between the 1800s and early 1930s, these were popular through the early 1970s.
Cold War Favorites. The zip and jazz of candy from the 1950s-1970s, such as Zotz, Satellite Wafers, Napoleon Sours, Fireballs, and Red Hots among many others.
Yesterday’s Medicines (Today’s Delights). Have fun enjoying the flavors – and sweets – that were used as medicines for centuries. These includes NECCO Wafers and Turkish Delights (once throat lozenges) and hard candy with medicinal flavors such as peppermint, sassafras, and lemon, many made with a 1920s pill capsule mold.
Time Periods/Historic. When you want treats that engage your residents. They make great discussion vehicles and are a great add-on to a presentation, movie, or other event. We also provide these candies to museums around the country such as Mount Vernon, the Museum of the Bible, and the Deadwood Museum in South Dakota.
First in History (Pre-history)
Non-Candy. An increasing array of historic snacks such as Native American fruits and berry blends as well as Biblical snacks, such as unprocessed Carob pieces. Also includes 1700s tea biscuits, popcorn from all time periods, and more. Please ask about options and prices.
Our short programs are intended to provide a fun, memorable, and highly interactive event for participants. Each one is customizable and generally includes everything you need to host it. Some sell for “sets.” For example, our Trivia games come in sets of three, with 12 possible options. Minimum participants – 10. Please ask for the prices of each. Turn-around time is usually one week, although we are happy to supply programs you can use for a month. Discussion points are provided for most of the programs. Minimum order: 15
Quizzes, Games, and Q&As
Candy Trivia. A ready-to-go game of candy trivia – the game where you eat the answers. We supply Trivia Keepsake Cards plus a Cheat Sheet for the Leader, Prizes for Winners, and Runner Up Prizes for everyone else. Twelve trivia games to choose from. Price per person: $2.75
Candy Bingo. A bingo game unlike any other, where the pieces are made of candy and the prizes are edible and fun. Comes with Bingo cards, Traditional Bingo Chips, but these are made of candy, Prizes for Winners, and Runner Up Prizes for everyone else. Price per person: $2.75
Guess that Snack. The leader tells participants a tag line from a famous candy or snack and participants guess what it refers to. Prizes for Winners (the correct answer) and Runner Up Prizes for everyone else. The first-place winner gets a larger prize. Comes with tag lines, a cheat sheet, and the product. Price per person: $2.00 per person
Q&As. A fun game where participants answer questions about eight products, such as the date they appeared, how they got started, how people used them, which were considered a health food, etc. The questions are meant to be challenging, fun, yet manageable. As the event proceeds, participants learn more about the history of candy, snack food, and even history and the questions become easier to answer. Comes with questions and answers for activity leaders. Each participant gets a bag of candy. The top three winners get a prize at the end. Price per person. $2.50
Movies and Media
Movies with Candy and Treats in them. Candy plays a bigger role in movies than you think – until you watch our movie/TV videos. Segments are between five and 10 minutes long, with approximately five segments. Comes with bags so you can eat along! True Treats supplies movies, treats, and discussion points for breaks and before-and-after the show. Price per person: $2.50
Candy with Candy Ads. A hilarious compilation of TV and movie theater ads of classic candy with the chance to taste-as-you-go. Brings up fun memories AND YES! Participants can guess how many licks it takes to eat a Tootsie Roll Pop. Price per person: $2.50
Old Time Radio Shows. Host radio day once a week or once a month or whenever you like. Pick from a variety of old-time radio shows, such as comic classics like Burns and Allen, murder mysteries, like Sam Spade, or cowboy classics like the early Bonanza. Each episode is approximately 30 minutes, although some can be shorter. Comes with radio days snack food, such as chips and dips, sweets, or cheese and crackers or candy and discussion points for after the show. Fun for all, even those growing up exclusively in the TV Age. Price per person: $3.25. Candy only: $2.00
Guess that flavor. History never tasted so sweet, so familiar, or so surprising in the fun and festive blind candy tasting. Whoever gets the most flavors right, gets the prize. Contains traditional flavors such as sorghum and horehound, as well as grape, sassafras, and other more familiar ones! Comes in a bag with five, small, bottled water and soup crackers for palate cleansing, and a cheat sheet for the activity leader. Price per person: $2.50
Tea Tasting. A wonderful time for all! Participants select from three different botanical teas, such as hibiscus, rose, orange peel and many others. True Treats will supply taster cups, bagged tea, a variety of sugars, and the story of each selection. ALSO: small, bottled water and soup crackers to cleanse the palate. All you need to add is the hot water. Price per person: $3.00
Hot Chocolate Tasting. A taste of three different kinds of chocolate drinks, from the first ever through the modern ages. True Treats supplies all the dry ingredients and quick and easy cooking directions. Also comes with a voting card to see which the participants liked best. Hot chocolate from the ancients through the 1800s does require a small amount of preparation. We provide directions. Price per person: $3.00
Tastings of specific kinds or styles of candies from early history to now. Comes with six sample pieces, small, bottled water and soup crackers for palate cleansing, and a cheat sheet for the activity leader. You may want to host a monthly or even weekly tasting group. Price per person: $2.50
Options can include the following – or let us recommend:
Time periods: Such as 1700s, 1800s, Cold War period, or others
Survey Timeline: From first ever to 1970s with representative candies
Type: Story of chocolate, licorice, gummies, hard candies, or other favorites
I remember! Classic candies just about everyone over 60 remembers and their parents and grandparents also liked, such as circus peanuts and rock candy on a string. The idea is for participants to eat the candy then say what they remember about it. Prompts and story lines will be included to encourage conversation. Comes with a cheat sheet telling the story of each. Cost per person $2.00
Tasting Groups: Small groups, usually 3-4 at a table, taste and review various sweets and snacks from a menu you pick before-hand. Then, each group picks their favorites. The winning selection will be announced, and a sample may be given to all residents. Samples can contain sugar, such as candy, or snacks such as potato chips in a small, manageable quantity. The tasting is blind. Participants learn the identity after each tasting round and the story of each one. Cost per person$2.00 for candy only. $4.00 for non-candy items or mix.
Parties and Other Gatherings
Our party set-ups can be adjusted to size and style of candy or snack food. Please ask for prices, as our offerings vary depending on the items you select. We will be happy to discuss particulars, so you are certain to have the products you want. Prices will follow accordingly.
Pick the style, time-period or theme that interests you from our selection, or we’ll pick for you. Then, we’ll do the rest. Option to include small birthday instruments!
Includes Birthday Card for Celebrants
Birthday Bags – First of Month gift for everyone with birthday celebrants prominently displayed
Birthday Bags for everyone (suggested size: taster)
Birthday Cards and Bags for Celebrants (premium or gold)
Milestone birthday bags are available by request or as listed on our website. 10% discount applies.
Birthday Gift (Small) or select from our offerings at 15% discount
Birthday Parties – Monthly
Any of the above at 10% Off
Why not host a movie night with an old-time concession stand complete with theater-style popcorn, mini-size movie theater candies such as Mike n’ Ikes, Raisinets, Goobers, finger-food size hot dogs and more. Can include movie sodas and old-time lemonade or limeade powder. Comes in bulk and large or small sizes.
Choose from Tue Treats’ 50-plus teas, including Early Grey, rose petal, lavender, hibiscus, and authentic period mixed blends. Options include tea biscuits, select sweeteners, complementary sweets and nuts, a mini tea “kit” with extra fill your own tea bags, and bamboo spoons. All selections come with a True Treats’ Tea Guide.
Are your residents looking to throw a party at your location? We have kits that your residents can purchase, or you can provide including favors, cards, cakes, and cupcakes. Or get the full set, including unique old-time invitations, thank you cards, and birthday cards from Victorian to the crazy ‘60’s styles. We can also provide old time sodas, including legendary favorites such as Moxie and Nehi Grape.
Game night has been a favorite pastime since the late 1800s and for every game was a collection of sweets and treats used for sustenance and enjoyment. True Treats kits include a variety of favorites such as bridge mix, mini sausages (refrigeration not needed) nuts, and other finger foods enjoyed at game night for over 100 years. These snacks were meant to be easy-to-reach, non-greasy, and fun. Board games, cards, dice and others are available upon request.
We, at True Treats, hear LOTS of comments about what people love and loathe about specific candies. We hear it in our retail shop. From our wholesale customers. And, yes, online. Through it all, we have a good idea about what people like, but were still curious about what they didn’t like. So, we asked our friends at the True Treats Experience (please join, if you haven’t already) and Facebook page, about their least favorite candies. We figured – why not?? We got well over 100 responses and listed the most hilarious here!
But first, let’s start with True Treats’ FAVORITE ANSWERS:
Unfortunately, I can’t think of any I don’t like!🤪 – Caroline C Williams
Vegetables I could name a dozen but candy I’m very flexible. Maybe bad nougat but still in a pinch it’s doable. – Shirley Goodson
Susan’s Response: The macadamia nuts are also among the top nuts people love. Go figure. People are on the fence about nuts added to other candies, like chocolate bars. MEN love them. Women – not so much
Susan’s Response: You’re not alone. They’re pretty much THE most controversial candy. They were also a prototype for Lucky Charms in the early ’60s
Whoppers. They taste like chalk covered in wax – Layna Dias
Susan’s Response: We’ve heard from others who don’t like Whoppers. So, you’re not alone. They remain a movie theater favorite, though, since being branded in 1949. Interesting sidenote: malted milk was invented in the mid-1800s as infant formula.
If we’re counting stuff like this: I order from a company that sells international sweets and I once got something called mastic toffee. That lives in infamy in my brain as the worst candy I’ve ever had. Otherwise, warheads. -Marianne Bossert
Susan’s Response: Don’t blame you. Mastic, known for its health benefits, comes from a resin which was the first chewing gum in written history. What does it taste like? Tree.
Bit o Honey, peanut butter taffy. 🤢 – Michelle Hall
Bit-O-Honey or those foil wrapped fake-strawberry granny candies with the ooze inside. – Michelle Perkins-Cole
Hardshell with gooey strawberry gunk in the middle – David Dickey
Susan’s Response: Actually, people tell us all the time that their grandmothers enjoyed the strawberry filled hard candies, so you’re right, Michelle. They are Granny candies. People request them all the time and we have a steady supply, but clearly not everyone feels the same. Thanks for letting us know.
About Candy corn: ewwww – Helen Luick
Those orange circus peanuts and candy corn. Once you see someone puke them, that about does it for me. – John Mize
Susan’s Response: Candy Corn, originally called “Chicken Feed” in the late 1800s, wasn’t made for Halloween. People enjoyed them (or not!) all year round.
And a few more:
That pink candy that tastes like pepto bismol. 🤮 – Tami Acosta
All-time least favorite? Those peanut butter things that came wrapped in squares of yellow wax paper. Big bags for 88 cents. Great for handing out on Halloween, not so great when you ate them! – Jennie Gist
FB Response: Sounds like Mary Janes. – Randy Strausbaugh
Eat-More bars, in Canada. Tastes like nuts in tar to me. – Linda Bachmanek
Anything with peanut butter and chocolate combined. – Stephanie Lee
Response: Stephanie Lee do you still eat peanut butter and bologna -Kristine Waller-Lindsey
FB Response: Nope. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 16.
BLACK LICORICE: The #1 least liked flavor
Who loves licorice?
Note from Susan: Just about all the responses from licorice NON-lovers (those who put black licorice in the annals of controversial candy) were women. As we found out in another such survey, indeed, women don’t seem to like black licorice. Actually, they REALLY don’t like black licorice. But men do. In fact, it ranks up there with candy bars. As for me? I LOVE black licorice. Maybe it’s my inner man coming out?
Here are a few of the responses – sound-bite style – to the least popular candy:
Anything with black licorice !!
Candy corn black licorice white chocolate
Black Licorice ties with Circus Peanuts
Black licorice and hot cinnamon
Black licorice is the worst
AND MANY MORE ANTI-Licorice!!
SOME (a few) rushed to black licorice’s defense. Here’s one:
Note to Licorice Hater Nicole Evans from Kathy Brown: Nicole Evans what?? I love black licorice!! What planet are you from?!! I love you tho!
Note from Susan: One more mention of Circus peanuts. THEY REALLY ARE controversial. Most people do say their grandmothers love them. I’m a grandmother. I love them, as long as I’m eating 1/2 a month. Behind the scenes: Circus Peanuts: The True Circus Candy
Gift giving can be an angst-provoking event. So many decisions. So many choices. But what do people really want? Since so many of our customers buy gifts from True Treats, I decided to research the matter – we are research-based, after all. What I found was surprising, in part, because it wasn’t surprising. My sources ranged from professional gift-giving companies to Ph.D.’s weighing in on platforms such as Psychology Today.
So, here are the top five best recommendations from gift-giving experts.
Top 5 Recommendations from Gift-Giving Experts
The Gift of Experience
Experience. Without a doubt, people enjoy gifts that give them an experience, something engaging and memorable. That experience can be an outing, of course. But it can also be interactive – a present they open and can immediately use. We recommend experiences that engage as many senses as possible – taste, sight, sound, touch…plus engages the mind, whether they learn something new or reawaken memories. All True Treats’ products are made for a full-experience from the cards that tell the story to the images on the labels that match the time period inside.
Thoughtfulness Counts in Gift Giving
Thoughtfulness. With all due respect to re-gifting (a truly bad idea when it comes to food!) thoughtfulness counts. It shows that you care about the person is a meaningful way, and that the gift, even a professional gift, has an element of caring and love. With candy, teas, and other foods, the most thoughtful gift is one that taps into the recipient’s interests and values. For elderly people, a gift of old-time penny candy or hard-to-find flavors from their past, such as horehound or sarsaparilla, might be perfect. For the history buff, a gift from their time period of interest would be amazing, as it creates a uniquely visceral experience of history.
Evaluate Personality Type in Gift Giving
A match to their personality type. One size definitely does not fit all. But often we forget to look at the personality of the person involved. Are they hands-on, ever exciting about doing things? Or are they introverts, eager to hunker down for a good think? In matching the gift to the nature of the person, you’ll express true generosity intended just for them. Our recommendations: for the adventurous, try some of our do-it-yourself kits, such as our Small Beer-Making Kit. For the introvert, how about giving one of our old-time cookbooks with a selection of sweets?
Quality of Gifts Matter
Quality. The quality of a product can be a measure of respect. Quality does not mean expensive – by the way! It means getting the best of whatever you give – the best wrapped, the best presented, the best materials…and so on. True Treats gift boxes can range from $14.00 – $60.00 and range from candies, rich with sugar, to healthy, all-natural and naturally sugar free. Regardless, the quality is always the best, from the stories on our cards to the products within the rapper.
Know when the gift should be a Suprise and when it should NOT
A surprise (Or not). Most researchers indicate that people love surprises. Of course, the fit needs to be a happy one. Gag gifts, while well-intended, are the least appreciated gifts while positive, up-beat and focused surprises are the best. Make sure the surprise isn’t something they’re likely to buy themselves – the idea of gifts is akin to spoiling someone, giving something over the top of the usual into pure enjoyment and, even, fun. The “or not” part? One writer said it’s better to ask what people want. But you might end up gift-wrapping boxes of socks. And really, what kind of a gift is that? Looking for something unexpected? As True Treats is the only research-based historic candy and snacks company, you’re bound to find something old that’s entirely new!
Popcorn is the second snack food in U.S. history (the first was peanuts). It’s tasty, crunchy…well, you know the rest. AND – just about all Americans agree on one thing: They like popcorn. BUT, we modern Americans may be missing the popcorn boat. Not only is popcorn a great snack, but it is more versatile than you can imagine. Here are some recipes – we’ll supply the popcorn, ground or freshly popped.
This lunchtime popcorn delight is perfect for the kid – or even grown-up – who wants to add fun to function mid-day, with just the right health benefits. This recipe is from 1915 – you can definitely change the filling.
Recipe: Put the popped corn through the food chopper and make a paste of it mixed with cream cheese or peanut butter. Spread this paste between thin slices of bread.
TIP: Forget the paste and chopper – it’s too much work. Just chop up popcorn and mix it in the peanut butter or cream cheese for a satisfying crunch. Don’t be shy – add raisins, tiny marshmallows, even chocolate chips to the mix, as the spirit moves you.
Comment: THIS IS DELICIOUS! I couldn’t stop eating the peanut butter sample. You can use other breads – even wholegrain would be great.
For Old Souls (from 1915). You’ll want to call this porridge it’s so old school.
Recipe: Use the finest blade of the chopper and put through enough popped corn to make two cupful’s. Cover the corn with three soak an hour. Beat three eggs. Add half a teaspoonful of salt, a tablespoonful of butter and half a cupful of brown sugar. Stir in the corn and milk, and cook in a slow oven forty minutes. Serve hot.
TIP: In the days of old, recipes changed depending on who was making them, often passed down orally. So this perfect comfort food may be even more perfect with a dash of vanilla extract (new and hard to find at the time) or a sprinkling of cinnamon. Or both. I vote for raisins here, too – they’ll plump up nicely and…mmmmm.
Sounds great, but you don’t want to chop the popcorn? Why not get some our Popcorn Cereal, where we do the chopping for you! If you have extra you can use it for the recipe just below.
From the 1940s, precisely like the ones starting in the late 1800s.
DO NOT scoff at this! It’s WONDERFUL – just like oatmeal but with more texture! You might be thinking it would be too soggy. Soggy? Think about Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies after about 15 seconds swimming in milk. Soggy? No – mushy. Popcorn cereal – textured, with a very subtle crunch. If you don’t like it, we’ll double your money back! Just kidding. That’s what they used to say – not now.
Recipe: The cereal recipe goes like this: Pop the corn, run it through a food chopper and add four cups of the corn to two cups of boiling water. Then cook until thickened. They say the cereal will come up fluffy, something like oatmeal that isn’t over wet or underdone. What’s left over you can slice and fry for next morning’s breakfast.
Tip:We provide the cereal – you add the water. PS: this is really good with butter, salt and sugar. Eat while hot.
Popcorn – the Garnish
Simple, but true! Esteemed Master chef Louis P. DeGouy of the acclaimed New York Waldorf-Astoria (1930s to 1950s) recommended popcorn as a garnish for salad and soup. For soup, he explains: “Serve the soup in heated soup plates, each plate garnished with a little popcorn, lightly toasted.” From: The Gold Cookbook, 1947.
Tip: Get some of our Baker’s Popcorn. It’s only slightly salted so it won’t interfere with other flavors. OR go all in and get…maybe… Breakfast Crunch? But don’t use that on Tomato Soup 🙂 .
Welcome to the True Treats Experience! The club for discerning, curious and fun-loving folks who love history.
BECOME PART OF THE TRUE TREATS EXPERIENCE!
Coming your way via our email correspondences and social media appearances:
Opportunities to be a True Treats taster, whether one of our historic candies, teas or snack foods. We send the sample – you tell us what you think!
Contests with hardly any rules and a tasty prize.
Interesting, hard-to-find recipes, many undiscovered and primarily made by women at home.
An insider’s view of True Treats EXCLUSIVE gift boxes and collections – with first dibs on limited edition products.
Unique historic cards, perfect for birthdays, congratulations messages, & more.
Links to lost-and-now-found movies, candy ads, photos, and more.
PLUS – a special email address for our True Treats Experience friends, so you can contact us about finding hard-to-find recipes, candies that your Grandma loved, and candies, snacks, even drink mixes that you’d like us to carry.
All about True Treats
True Treats is unique. YES! We carry old time and retro candy – but our timeline is older than that! Our sweets, snack foods, teas, and cookbooks span the FIRST in history to the 20th century. True Treats has 500+ products for you to discover, try, and share!!
Since Susan Benjamin opened True Treats in 2010, we have been the nation’s ONLY research-based historic sweets, treats and candy store. You can find our products in museum gifts, specialty shops, AND, of course — on our Web site and at our brick-and-mortar stores. No matter where you find True Treats, you’ll find the product’s story on the label, box, and tag with an historic image to match.
True Treats Chocolate Table Mid-1800s-Mid-1900s
Meet our Founder, Food Historian Susan Benjamin
A nationally recognized food historian, Ms. Benjamin, has devoted her time to researching the history of candy, snack foods, teas and treats since 2010. A former academic, cultural researcher, and communications strategist, Ms. Benjamin digs deep into American food culture from kitchens to fields to the frontlines of American history. You may know Ms. Benjamin from one of her many media appearances from the History Channel, PBS, and Vice.com, on radio shows ranging from ABC news to NPR affiliates, or publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or through TV productions such as Jeopardy, which featured her store on one of their questions.
As an author, Ms. Benjamin has written ten books which have sold internationally and been translated into five language. Her most recent book, “Sweet as Sin,” was on the Smithsonian’s list of “Best Books about Food.” AND she is working on #11 – due out in 2024! Always – she brings her findings to visitors at her brick-and-mortar and online stores and, as part of the True Treats Experience – TO YOU!
The Many Faces of Our True Treats Experience Tasters
Our First Ever Grapefruit-Ade Tasting!!
****LOOKING for the perfect -and perfectly unique- gift? Looking for lost candy? An important recipe? As part of the True Treats’ experience, you get an exclusive connection. Reach us by phone, email, or Facebook and we’ll get right back to you with answers and ideas***
We offer other historic experiences such as teas – the origin of medicine which was the origin of…. CANDY: Here are a few of them:
We gave our tasters a variety of things starting with grapefruit-ade, then we gave them some vanilla sugar, a pulled cream candy, a grapefruit slice, AND a cream filbert. Here are some of the things they said.
“My mom served cut grapefruit with a lot of sugar on it for breakfast.”
“I was most surprised by the grapefruit powder. Very good flavor but too sour even with the contents of the vanilla sugar.”
“Most surprised with the grapefruit powder! Smelled like fresca, but then I took a sip and it was not sweet at all! puckered me up!”
“It would be nice to add to water when water gets boring and as an afternoon pick me up if I’m getting sleepy!”
” Loved the taste! Was more authentic tasting than the comparable product from True Lemon. However, it was soooo strong I had to use half of what was recommended and add all of the vanilla sugar provided plus a dash of stevia. Once the ratio was correct for me I loved it. Side note my sour-loving 13 year old could do the powder straight in only a little water!”
“The grapefruit powder was the biggest surprise. It was surprisingly strong and had a nice grapefruit flavor”
“lovely opal color when mixed, fast dissolve time, strong citrus smell without being overpowering, as a drink it has a nice bite but it doesn’t linger on the tongue.”
“I will from now and always want this to make mimosas with, equal parts OJ, Champagne, and a 1⁄4 tsp of grapefruit powder. (I’m weird like that)”
“I used it to top blueberry muffins (put on before baking) and it added a nice crunch and hint of vanilla.”
“My three year old LOVED this on its own. She tasted some on her finger and her eyes lit up! I liked how it sweetened the grapefruit drink without making it too sweet.”
“the surprising part was not the taste, but the velvety texture to it when eating it, and the feel of the candy. Aesthetically, looks very homemade. I have never tried this candy or type of candy, and was pleasantly surprised. The taste was sweet with a little tart twist, but neither overpowered either one and combined very well.”
“The household favorite. It tastes like the center of a Carmel cream candy!”
“has a much more complex flavor than the simple sugar taste I was expecting!”
“Whoa! I did not expect this to taste so much like frosting and have such a great texture. It’s softer than a normal buttermint that most people are probably used to, and has a very cooked flavor, indicative of homemade candy. It’s very rich and sweet – just one is very satisfying!”
“they look so innocent! The texture is a surprise of sweet creaminess after a light outer coating. They are perfect!”
“May have to buy some and try it in a hot beverage like coffee!”
“Creamy after the crunchy exterior with a great flavor- a resounding hit here”
“I’ve been wanting to try one of these for so long! I was so happy to see it in the box. It truly gives you context to “visions of sugar plums dance in their heads”. I can imagine kids rolling the nuts in sugar for days, just waiting for Christmas when they could finally eat the treats! I couldn’t bring myself to try this in the grapefruit drink because I wanted to taste it in it’s pure state. Delicious! I recommend popping the whole thing in your mouth at once instead of nibbling at the ball. The texture and flavors combined in it’s entirety really make this treat shine.”
“a citrus squishy delight for the gummy aficionado!”
“The slice was extra thick and very juicy. It had a very satisfying and fresh tooth feel when biting into it, and the initial “burst” of grapefruit flavor really got my taste buds awake.”
“I do need to stop by soon and get those grapefruit jelly slices”
People, Raise Your Spoons: It’s Time to Bring the Grapefruit Back
Let’s talk about grapefruit. These days, who cares about grapefruit? In the mid-1970s, it was a huge hit. One of the most popular fruits around. Then, sales plummeted by 70%, never to recover. Never meaning NOT YET! So, let’s bring the grapefruit back! As Americans, it’s our duty. And if you’re not American? Care about it, anyway. In celebrating, loving, and eating grapefruit, you’re opening the door to a universe of new taste sensations, enjoyed in a day when dinner parties were a social requirement; meals started with an appetizer; and grapefruit-recipes were more than all the rage… they were a proclamation of culinary innovation and good taste.
Besides, grapefruits are eclectic. They make a great dessert, are perfect in salad, are a must in certain cocktails, have high health value, what with all the Vitamin C, and had jaw-dropping medicinal attributes when they rose to significance in the late 1800s. These attributes, I should add, have been ignored by modern science but, they’ve been so ignored, they’ve never been disproven. Modern science does give us a few warnings about grapefruit, however, especially when it interacts with modern drugs. Don’t worry. More about that to come.
Grapefruit History: A Remarkably Murky, Mystery-Infused Story
Question: Where did grapefruit originate? Answer: Hummmm…Like all things, grapefruit, the answer is shrouded in mystery. Here’s what we know. All citrus plants evolved in Asia. Except grapefruit. That was spawned in the Caribbean, most likely Barbados, as recorded in 1664 by a Dutch physician visiting Barbados, or possibly in Jamaica, as witnessed by one Patrick Browne in 1789. Were these trees actually the grapefruit? Yes, they were or maybe they were, and possibly they morphed into today’s grapefruit.
The mystery hinges on the fact that grapefruit, while neatly presented in grocery shelves, is a wild plant at heart. It spread, was ignored, cut down, and possibly disparaged in the Caribbean where it originated. Certainly other citrus plants were growing on the islands at that time…which makes the grapefruit’s origin story even harder to define. Citrus plants cross-pollenate easily and it’s likely that untold varieties appeared and vanished over the centuries. And one of them was the grapefruit.
That said, here are a few facts to give you comfort: Grapefruits, like most citruses, developed from a single plant that grew five, maybe 6 million years ago in today’s Asia. The earliest citrus broke into numerous other citruses. Three of them compose the DNA of today’s citrus favorites: citrons, a lumpy, lemon-looking fruit; mandarins, the sweet (literally) orange-ish fruit most Americans usually buy in tins; and the pomelo, that overgrown grapefruit-looking specimen we see in markets and believe is an off-shoot of the grapefruit, not the parent. We have the pomelo to thank for the bitterness in citrus fruits today.
Eventually explorers, among them botanists, brought citrus plants to the warm, humid soils of the Caribbean where they ran wild and somehow spawned the grapefruit we know today. Or, they were scientifically developed. See – it’s a mystery.
Why the Name? Grapefruit?
Why “grapefruit?” It seems the name could come from two places: The taste which early explorers thought tasted like a grape. As it happens, that was in the Caribbean where, at the time grapes did not grow. Another possibility: baby grapefruit grows in clusters much like grapes. Ok – either possibility merits speculation. A previous name, which makes even less sense, is the “Forbidden Fruit” and, early on, the “shaddock,” possibly for Captain Philip Chaddock, who may or may not have introduced the pomelo to the Caribbean. The problem is “shaddock” was, in fact, also the name of the pomelo.
Grapefruit in the US: The Ascension of a WILD Fruit Tree
You will not be surprised to know that no one knows exactly how the grapefruit wound up in the U.S. It seems a Frenchman brought the first grapefruit to Florida in 1823, where an American transplant to Florida planted the seeds and established the first grapefruit nursery in 1870. In 1892, Kimball Chase Atwood, a successful insurance guy from Maine, bought 265 acres of forest, burned it down, and planted 16,000 grapefruit trees. Meanwhile, groves sprouted up in Texas and Arizona where they are cultivated today.
The end. Almost. Because, remember, the grapefruit tree wild at heart. In 1910, one of Atwood’s workers discovered that a tree was producing pink grapefruits. They started selling pink grapefruits, people loved them, and in 1929, the official Ruby Red grapefruit was born.
The U.S. is now the #2 grower of grapefruit in the world (China is #1) and the largest consumer of the mysterious fruit. But its standing is nothing like it was in the mid-1900s!
Grapefruit in the US: The Glory Days
Grapefruit lurched into popularity in the early 1900s, became the most decadent and multi-faceted fruit around, reached a crescendo in the 1970s, (helped in part by the “grapefruit diet” a wonder of modern marketing if nothing else) and suddenly went downhill. But why? That question to be discussed.
Throughout the first half of the 1900s, grapefruit was enjoyed as a breakfast food, a dessert, an appetizer, and a drink mix. But its presence was more – so much more. I remember visits to my grandmother in her rented apartment in Brookline, Mass, just outside of Boston. This was in the 1960s and early ‘70s. Before the meal she served an appetizer of a grapefruit half. But NOT any grapefruit half! It was neatly segmented with a grapefruit cutter, the individual pieces rising from the shell, and sprinkled deliciously with sugar. My Nana, who lived in a good-sized house with plenty of gold picture frames and a sunken living room, served the same, although hers was on a bed of lettuce. I later found a version at a she-she restaurant in Brooklyn – the sugar on top burnt a la crème brulee, served in a shapely bowl and costing well over $10.00.
But even that doesn’t rival the originals. The renowned Boston Cooking School Cookbook, written by the renowned Fannie Merritt Farmer, offers us this for broiled or baked grapefruit in the 1941 edition: Put one tablespoon brown sugar, and, if desired one tablespoon of French dressing or, (as commonly suggested in other recipes) one tablespoon or sherry or brandy in each half. Bake or broil and serve as a first course or dessert.
Then there’s the Grapefruit a la Russe: Wipe three grapefruits, cut in halves crosswise, and remove seeds and tough portions. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and chill in refrigerator. Beat 1 cup of heavy cream until stiff and add two tablespoons of powdered sugar, a few grains of salt, and ½ a teaspoon of maraschino. Make a border of the cream (using a pastry bag and tube) on top of each half in the form of a square. Garnish at each corner with a glace or maraschino cherry. Serve in double cocktail glasses, having the larger ones filled with crushed ice. Makes 16.
See what I mean? Grapefruit is way more complex than one would imagine. But wait until you see what’s in the Gold Cookbook (1947). Master Chef Louis P. DeGouy recommends four grapefruit recipes – the Grapefruit Rainbow alone takes a page to describe. The Grapefruit Aspic Annette is shorter, albeit complicated. Even the name is hard to pronounce. Here’s what he recommends:
“Soak 2 tablespoons of granulated gelatin in ½ cup cold grapefruit juice and dissolve in 2 cups of grapefruit juice that has been heated to boiling point. Decorate the bottom with an oiled straight mold (oir individual ones) with sections of grapefruit from which all the white membranes have been carefully removed; cut each section in tow crosswise. Pour in gently enough of the cooled gelatin mixture barely to cover the grapefruit. Chill and arrange another layer of the grapefruit sections. Repeat with the gelatin mixture barely to cover; let set and cover with a thin layer (about 1 inch) of peeled, cored, cubed apples. Cover with more gelatin then let set, then fill entirely with grapefruit sections. Pour into gelatin mixture to completely fill the mold and place in the refrigerator to set. Unmold on a large, chilled platter on a bed of crisp, young watercress, dipped in French dressing and thoroughly shake. Decorate with small designs of mayonnaise forced through a pastry bag, using a small, fancy tube. Serve at once.”
Author’s note: Exhausted? Once finished, make this refreshing grapefruit drink from 1912, and you’ll recover – being sure to keep the last ingredient!
Or how about this recipe from 1945 – VERY Fancy, VERY Post – Prohibition. Reminds me of a Bloody Mary…only better (if that’s possible):
The Current End of the Grapefruit Craze
Why has the grapefruit craze ended? Like everything else, the answer is somewhat of a mystery. A Washington Post article (2015) tells us that in 1976, grapefruit was among the most popular fruits in the U.S. with the average American eating about 25 pounds of grapefruit a year. Today, that number has dropped 70%. Add in grapefruit processed for such things as juice, the number nose-dives to almost 80 percent.
One reason may be related to health. Grapefruit can trigger negative reactions to certain drugs such as Nifediac, which lowers blood pressure, Buspar, used for anxiety, and Allegra, an antihistamine. Still lots of people need to avoid lots of foods. For example, peanuts can create a deadly toxic reaction in some people, but they remain popular in everything from candy bars to Thai food.
Unlike peanuts, grapefruit was thought to have near miraculous health benefits. An article in the Monroe Journal of 1896 sings the grapefruit’s praises while adding to the confusion. They say: “The grape-fruit or shaddock, so called for its discoverer Lieutenant Shaddock, – or to mention its soft Chinese name – pumelo… is highly prized by those who live in malarial localities.” They add: “…if you are of a bilious temperament eat grapefruit… if fevers threaten, eat grapefruit.” Grapefruit vs grape-fruit, Lieutenant Shaddock vs Captain Philip Chaddock, Pumelo VS Pomelo and Pomelo as Grapefruit vs Pomelo as part of grapefruit and. Who cares? The health benefits (or not) are the same.
Perhaps the problem lies in the juice aisle. People are drinking less juice, which contains a high quantity of sugar, and have more juice choices. As a kid growing up in the ‘60s, I never thought of drinking pomegranate juice. I don’t believe I even knew what a pomegranate was. Today, we have organic and sugar-free pomegranate juice, pomegranate-grape juice, and pomegranate juice cocktail. How can grapefruit compete?
Besides, trends in food are an inexplicable and ever-shifting phenomena. People rarely smoke cigars. Eat hardly any Jell-O. And consider the Waldorf salad a retro picnic product. Marshmallow salads with mandarin oranges and coconut? Oh, please. But for us at true Treats the grapefruit is distinct. It was served by legends of mothers and grandmothers for untold years. It is relatively inexpensive and people from high-fashion New Yorkers to farm families in the mid-West have loved and required it. Plus – the possibilities of grapefruit are boundless!
Let’s roll out the mystery and get our grapefruit spoons at the ready. We’re bringing grapefruit back!
Ice Cream is by far an all-American favorite – ever-present at birthday parties, summer vacations, miniature golf “courses” and at the end of hard days when a break is definitely in order. I remember my father running out on an occasional evening to Friendly Ice Cream Store, a chain that started in Massachusetts, to buy take-out SUNDAES!
The very mention was enough to make the heart pound…then the choice. What kind of ice cream? Dish or cone? And THEN – the TOOPPPINNGS! So many to chose from. BUT WAIT – why choose? For me, it was marshmallow plus hot fudge plus whipped cream
Ice Cream Toppings
So, when I considered the best way to celebrate summer this month, I thought what better way than to research ice cream. But not JUST ice cream. Ice cream toppings, that, let’s face it, make the ice cream experience complete. What I found was, in some ways surprising, in other ways, well, as it should be.
Before I start, though, a few words about ice cream cones and sundaes, the quintessential treats. These wonders of Americana were actually newcomers in the fun food scenes –the cone and sundae were invented somewhere between the 1890s and early 1900s – no one knows for sure. At the time, chewing gums, chocolates, and hard candies, not to mention cakes and pies, were old news.
Popular Flavors of Ice Cream Toppings
Popular flavors of both ice cream and toppings around that time were fruit-based – pineapple and strawberries prime among them. Many of the fruits were turned into syrups, others chunks of actual fruit that cascaded from the ice cream to the dish or napkin. That was, of course, mainly for sundaes.
Ice cream cones had another claim to toppings – sprinkles aka nonpareils, which had a venerable, centuries-old history and the “jimmies” a more recent Massachusetts contribution. Today the lines between the two are blurred, but just to be clear – sprinkles, little colorful round sugar balls that crunch in your mouth and jimmies, longer and softer but equally rainbow colors (except chocolate) for maximum effect.
One way or another nuts played a part, as well – either in the ice cream or on it, with peanuts, especially Spanish peanuts, almonds, and cashews among the favorites. Of course, some were on the fancy side, think: cinnamon almonds, and pecan pralines, both established treats at the time. Marshmallow – especially marshmallow topping – was relatively new, made from a mid-1800s invention, instant gelatin.
What I found so surprising –yet not unexpected – was the prevalence of fruit and nuts. Not, like today, an afterthought, but the pièce de résistance. At the time, these natural items were actually to the universe of candy and ice cream, sold together on shelves, in displays – one loving family of food. The advertisements used descriptive words, worthy of embarrassment – “sumptuous,” “mouth-watering” and “tantalizing” about fruits. The nuts were “jumbo”, and “fresh”, just off the boat from some far-off land.
Likewise, the toppings were fruit and nut-based, even chocolate syrup was described as the product of the exotic Central American cacao tree.
Much has changed about ice cream over the years, what with the outrageous colors and unheard-of flavors, imposters of the natural selections that came before. But the toppings, I am proud to say, have stayed the same.