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 🙂 .
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Links to lost-and-now-found movies, candy ads, photos, and more.
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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:
Buttercreams are usually not first-in-mind for chocolate-lovers when deciding on just-the-right chocolatey snack. But, at one time, buttercreams and other cream candies, were the pièces de résistance of the chocolate world. Their story begins, of course, with chocolate itself and culminates in the heyday of chocolate innovations – the mid-1800s through the 1920s.
Before there were buttercreams, there was the cacao tree which originated in Mesoamerica…and from this tree grew the cacao bean. The bean, by the way, springs directly from the trunk of the tree – a true sight to behold!
The cacao’s route was circuitous, to say the least, having left Mesoamerica for Mexico, to, variously, Native Americans of the Southwest and Spain with Spanish conquerors, then elsewhere in Europe, via the marriage of royalty from one chocolate-loving nation to another, THEN back on British ships to North America where European settlers got hold of it.
Chocolate in the “New World”
The first sighting of the cacao amongst European immigrants appeared in a petition drafted in 1670 by Dorothy Jones and Jane Barnard “to keepe a house of publique Entertainment for the selling of Coffee and Chucalettoe [sic].” The officials agreed although, as in Europe, chocolate had its detractors, primarily those who considered it a sin.
About 100 years later, an Irish immigrant, John Hannon, started the first chocolate mill, turning the cacao bean and its internal “nibs” into the ingredients for a coveted, if not bitter, drink. Hannon was brilliant but not entirely business-like and not at all wealthy. So, he brought in James Baker, a wealthy Harvard College graduate and businessman, for help.
The Birth of Baker’s Chocolate
After literal nose-to-the-grindstone, the company was producing 900 pounds of chocolate for the Colonists. Not all 18th century inhabitants were equal, of course, and neither was their chocolate. Baker’s shamelessly made three varieties: “No. 1 Premium” or “Best Chocolate” the purest, and most expensive line for the wealthy few; “No. 2” or “Common Chocolate,” was a grade below, and used by workers of European descent; and “No. 3,” known as “Inferior Chocolate” used by enslaved workers in the South and West Indies. This version was thick with rice – more a gelatinous brew than a satisfying drink.
The Hannon-Baker partnership ended for reasons unknown, but one thing is certain: Hannon went on a trip, possibly to the West Indies in search of cacao, and was never heard from again, likely killed in a shipwreck. The business was called “Baker’s Chocolate’, forever misleading people to believe the brand was just for bakers.
Card for Baker’s Chocolate
Baker’s Chocolate Logo, 1873
Early Chocolate Enthusiasts
Then, as now, chocolate had many fans, some illustrious. One was Judge Samuel Sewall, who, from 1674 to 1729, kept a journal where he recorded uniquely commonplace goings-on, giving historians access to the lives of the Puritans and candy enthusiasts a glimpse of the early life of chocolate.
In his diary, Sewall wrote in 1697 about having “chockalett” and venison for a breakfast where “Massachuset and Mixco meet.” In 1702, he recorded bringing Minister Samuel Whiting “2 balls of Chockalett and a pound of figs,” because he was “languishing” and Mrs. Stoddard “two half pounds of chockalett” instead of Commencement Cake. Chocolate as medicine and gift was common, as were its alleged aphrodisiac properties. Today, in that regard, little has changed.
By the way – Sewall was a prominent merchant, and one of the judges who bestowed the tortuous sentences at the Salem Witch Trials. Within five years, he was wracked with shame and guilt, publicly apologized, fasted yearly in repentance, and became an early and ardent abolitionist.
Chocolate and the American Revolution
Other celebrated chocolate enthusiasts included Benjamin Franklin. He admired the exotic bean for its alleged health and medicinal value which included curing smallpox. His shipments to officers in the French and Indian War included “6 lbs. of chocolate” (plus sugar, tea, coffee, vinegar, cheese, Madeira, Jamaican spirits, and mustard). His friend and fellow Revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson, said: “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America, which it has in Spain.”
Another benefit: chocolate was a great alternative to British tea.
How did Chocolate Taste?
This early chocolate was a bitter drink that wealthy New Englanders enjoyed at various times, particularly at breakfast or, possibly, instead of breakfast. They had to work to get it, too, first by boiling water which they poured over a cake of chocolate, then stirred constantly in a chocolate pot until the chocolate had dissolved, and, at last, the liquid was rich and frothy. (This process changed little from the original where chocolate was poured back-and-forth to create a frothy consistency.) Depending on the hour and purpose, they may have added sugar, spices, milk, or even wine, which they probably needed after all that effort.
Starting in the early 1800s, the Industrial Revolution was on the march and innovations were on the rise. While the U.S. was embroiled in a Civil War, Europeans were creating innovations in the world of chocolate. Among the leaders were the British Quakers with such familiar names as the Cadburys, Rowntrees, and Frys who went on to pioneer the use of factory methods for making chocolate and the steam engine for grinding beans. They also invented the candy bar!
The new possibilities for chocolate were endless, producing enrobed creations be they chocolate bonbons, truffles with gnash centers, or creams including “buttercreams.” They were voluptuous, yes, and the best ones of all were French. By French, the chocolates weren’t necessary fromFrance, but were in the “French style,” such as the French style cream-filled candy, introduced in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London. It won an adoring audience in the US, who had long been enamored in all things French.
The “French-style” creams and other chocolates were marvelous, sweet, yet gritty. Things changed in 1879 when Swiss chocolatier Adolphe Lindt (yes – that Lindt of Lindt chocolate) invented a “conching” machine, which massaged the gritty chocolate into soft and supple submission.
Buttercreams in the U.S.
So popular were these chocolates that some post-war U.S. “chocolatiers” devoted themselves to their existence. Others, such as the illustrious Shrafft’s Confectionary of Boston, made them en masse then wholesaled them to smaller companies. Schrafft also carried chocolates in their own retail shops, complete with the French-ish names such as “D’Or Elegante,” and distinct gold-hued packaging. Their ads said:
“From the French comes the motif for this distinguished package, but only Schrafft could have supplied such chocolates. Search among the most exclusive shops of London, Paris, Rome-you will find nothing to compare to them. The golden box of chocolates is now offered for the first time. It contains the daintiest of our French truffle, nuts, fruits, and cream centers.”
Not all creams were touted as being “French” but all did have upscale sounding assortments with names like “Society Chocolates,” “Lady Fairfax Chocolates,” and “Paradise Chocolate.” Their advertising was sensual and sublime. Here’s one from Mead Chocolate in 1920: “A box of Belle Mead chocolates is an open door to the magic realms of chocolatery where all’s delicious. Made from the purest ingredients moulded into sweets of rare delight-into bon bons and raspberry creams, into peppermint and orange paste, mapled creams and caramels, and many other luscious morsels.”
Belle Mead Advertisement, December 19, 1920
Gradually, creams, as well as other glamourous chocolates, found a new home in daily settings. During Prohibition, restauranteurs sold them as an after-dinner replacement for alcohol. During WWI and World War II, chocolate-makers recommended that families at home send packages to the troops – while supplies lasted.
Whitman’s Ad, World War II
Today, creams have returned to their status as the perfect punctuation for events, tucked in Valentine’s Day collections, given as gifts – be it thank-you’s or birthdays, or bought and saved for just-the-right moment. As before, they’re still luxuriously sweet and flavorful.…with roots reaching deep into Mesoamerica.
Love tea? If you do, it’s an excellent background flavor to enhance others. It’s 50-times sweeter than sugar, but not with the subtle, overly sweet taste of many sweeteners today. You may be eating licorice and not even know that’s what it was.
Is Licorice Good For me?
The licorice plant arrived in North America in the 16th century with John Josselyn who carried it from England to Boston. He listed licorice as one of the “precious herbs” among his cargo. Previous to that licorice has Licorice has a long history as a remedy used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Among its many benefits: relieve stress, improve the respiratory system, relieve stomach distress, and more.
In North America, the root was used as a tea, a medicine, and a toothbrush of sorts – people chewed it as they went about their day, moving a piece around their mouths to clean their teeth. Best of all – licorice is 50-times sweeter than sugar and was used as a flavoring. No more now, though. Maybe it’s time we got back!
Licorice Tea Recipe
For a strong tea add one-fourth cup of licorice root to a medium pot of boiling water. Simmer for at least 10 minutes then drain out the root. OR: Add a teaspoon or two of licorice tea to a cup of hot water. Let it sit for around 5 minutes or later.
– Have aches and pains? Why not a rag in your licorice tea and make a compress for the painful area.
Pate de Reglisse noir
Liquorice Paste [aka Jujubes]. The best refined liquorice one pound, gum Arabic four pounds, loaf sugar two pounds, Florence orris-root [root of the Iris] one ounce. Dissolve the gum and liquorice in seven pints of water, keeping it stirred over a slow fire; add the sugar in syrup [mixture] with the orris-root, evaporate to a paste, and finish as jujubes.
Other licorice Ideas
Put licorice root in hot water or add to other teas and serve it with honey.
Use shredded licorice or a piece of root in compote or other desserts, stews.
A weird one! OK, not exactly licorice root, but licorice candy. Kids used it in the late 1800s, early 1900s. There’s no formal recipe that I could determine but lots of mention in stories and articles.
SO – put a piece of licorice candy, black, of course (red wasn’t invented yet), add honey or lemon or anything else you like. Carry it around when you hang out with your friends. Give the cup or canteen a shake before drinking. Sharing with fi=riends is at your discretion.
To truly appreciate the importance – yes, importance – of candy, we have to look at the importance of fun. The idea of fun seems simple… we enjoy ourselves! And fun should be simple, but like everything else, it isn’t. Americans have a difficult time accepting and, even, enjoying fun without an overlay of guilt or the need to justify that having fun, in that particular instance, is okay. We compartmentalize fun in increments of time such as that paltry break, or vacation time, or the odd festive occasions such as a wedding.
Puritans – Our Anti-Fun Ancestors
This ethos is brought to you by the Puritan aka Protestant ethic from which our nation was founded: work, discipline, and adherence to strict laws of behavior were more than a good idea. They were the difference between the likelihood of being one of God’s Elect, meaning you would be gifted with eternal life, or not. Many consider capitalism, the bedrock of our economic system, a product of the Puritan work ethic: make money and reinvest the money you have made into making more money and – by the way – borrow money to make money which you pay back by making money to make more money…
All Work & No Play…
Of course, some fun events offer hard work-related perks. For kids, playing games such as soccer or baseball is fun and that’s the primary reason they do it. Other perks include a stronger, healthier body thanks to all that running around, and skills such as being a team-player or developing a competitive nature, both of which, I must add, make them better workers and make their parents ever happier that they’re doing it.
Conversely, many people have fun at work. But even these activities, aren’t fun per se. There’s a difference. We have fun doing them, yes, but we don’t do them just because they’re fun. These activities are justifiable and manageable, with an end-result which is not to have a great time. Not that there’s anything wrong with these activities. I for one, can testify to their importance – I love work. Even writing this blog makes me happy!
So, What is Fun?
Fun, the opposite of work – it’s something we do simply because we enjoy it. Going to parties – fun. Going to plays, movies – fun. Carnivals and fairs – fun. The beach, a cabin in the woods, a vacation, any vacation, fun, fun, fun. Candy? Oh yeah, fun. The quintessential embodiment of fun. That being the case – when it comes to candy, we’re suspicious.
And Now… A Slice of Reality…
Here’s the reality: we need fun. Just about any health care worker from a massage therapist to a surgeon knows that a positive attitude, a sense of joy or well-being keeps the surgical knife away. And should the worst happen, it makes the bumpy road to recovery that much faster. The world of thinking, i.e., books, articles, and blogs, are avalanched with messages about the power of positive thinking, the importance of de-stressing, and thousands of ways to help yourself feel good.
As for candy-fun, here are a few reality checks:
Depending on the source, candy accounts for roughly 10% of the calories and sugar we ingest. The rest comes from those other things we eat where we don’t feel guilty.
We know that candy is a fun-food and, like fun, we modulate. We enjoy it in predetermined quantities. No one actually eats a full meal of candy. No one. Even kids.
Candy contains sugar. We know this. That’s the problem with candy… we think. The problem isn’t sugar – it’s too much sugar. See above. THEN, see below.
Our bodies need sugar. Without sugar we die. The first taste we have as humans is mother’s milk and all its nourishing sugar. When babies are in pain, the get an IV or dropper of sugar to ease the pain. As people get older and head for natural death, the flavor they can taste as other flavors fade is sweetness. Hence their love of – yes – candy.
Candy is a visceral holder of memories. I don’t have to tell you – those retro candies you love. TheBit O’ Honey, hard candies, chocolate bars, even jelly beans. Mostly everyone has a memory of the parent, teacher, grandparent, friend, who enjoyed them.
Candy gives us a break from the effort of hard work. THINK: candy bowls at work. You stop. Relax. Enjoy. Portions so small you don’t even feel guilty. LIFE IS GOOD!
Still Feel Bad About Feeling Good When It Comes to Candy?
People who regularly eat candy live longer than those who don’t according to a multi-decade study from the Harvard School of Public Health.
A shot of sugar can restore your willpower. Studies show that consuming sugar makes people persevere longer on difficult task, better able to focus, and more likely to delay gratification.
Chewing gum can improve your mood, reduce stress, increase your mental focus, and block pain. The act of repetitive chewing shifts the state of your brain… Areas related to attention and self-control become more active, while areas related to stress and pain processing become less active. Chewing gum also seems to increase serotonin levels… chewing Teaberry Gum, Black Jack Gum, or Beemans Gum can improve your mood!
Chocolate may decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Family Heart Study analyzed the chocolate habits of 4970 participants aged 25-93 years. Those who regularly consumed chocolate had a lower risk of heart disease, and higher “doses” resulted in greater protection. Those who ate chocolate five or more times a week were 60% less likely to have heart disease.
Cotton candy can help you grow new blood vessels…. A finding of researchers at Cornell University and Cornell Medical Center. Amazing!
So, What Candies Do Mothers Really Want For Mother’s Day?
A good question seeing that just about all of us are buying or receiving Mother’s Day gifts now. Is candy among them? Should it be? If so, what kinds? Being a research-based candy company, we decided to dig deep. We looked up stats online, compared sales of clothes, flowers, jewelry and, of course, candy. The findings are clear – flowers, jewelry and candy are at the top. Of course, plenty of other favorites were in the mix… some not presents exactly, but ideas like time off! A day of freedom, as in time away from the kids. That came up a lot.
True Treats for Mother’s Day
For obvious reasons, we decided to focus on candy. So, we turned to our Facebook friends for the most reliable data possible about what their mothers’ favorites. Now remember – we didn’t ask our friends’ ages – or for that matter, their mothers’ ages which may have changed the response. We guessed, given the age of our average customer, their moms are likely in their 50s and 60s.
Regardless – the results were surprising to say the least. Here’s what we found…
Our Favorite Response:
Our favorite response comes from David Mills who said: “She liked everything. Seriously, there was nothing that she didn’t like.” We love knowing that. Melanie Mills, a relative, weighed in, indicating David’s Mom was not only a candy lover, but a candy influencer. Melanie said: “She loved circus peanuts and she was the one who made me try black licorice. She even got my sister to like black licorice. She and my mom would share a box of, I think it was, Good and Plenty.” Hey David and Melanie – did you know Good n’ Plenty is the nation’s oldest brand, made in 1893?
Moms Love Old Time Licorice
Our friends’ list included lots of licorice – a total surprise as licorice isn’t on the horizon of most loved candies for anyone. Good n’ Plenty (circa 1893), as David and Mel told us, plus black jelly beans, general black licorice anything and Twizzlers. When you think about Twizzlers, you probably think 1970s. But this company outdates even Good n’ Plenty. It started in 1845!
Retro Candy – the Big Surprise!
We could have guessed Moms like retro candy – most people lean in that direction. But the kinds of retro were a surprise. For the most part, our friends’ mothers skewed old school. No late 1900s favorites such as Jelly Belly Beans, Zotz or even Gummies (only one mention of these). These Moms went 1800s including the most controversial candy ever – Circus Peanuts, made in the late 1800s for…you guessed it … circuses. Also – Candy Corn, which also started life in the late 1800s. Originally called Chicken Feed, it was a summertime snack at first – not made for Halloween! Gwen Wyttenbach told us her Mom would mix them in a dish with “Spanish” peanuts. Interesting.
What about CHOCOLATE for Mother’s Day?
Industry experts all point to chocolate as women’s preferred flavor. Not so in our Mother’s Day findings. Of all 78 responses, less than half mentioned chocolate and of that number, only a few mentioned chocolate as the only, or most preferred, candy. Is that because chocolate has historically been a man’s food? Remember: chocolate originated as a drink, dating back to Mesoamerica where it was esteemed by men – namely soldiers and tyrannical leaders – who enjoyed the drink for virility and strength. Hmmmm…
Mothers Do Love Chocolate… But Not What You Might Think!
OK – we expected to hear a lot about fancy chocolates – the type that started in the late 1800s when eating chocolate became quite the thing. This line-up includes sumptuous truffles, creams, and other varieties still around today. But our Facebook friends told us about classic candy bars, which got their start as energy bars and part of the first rations in World War I. Among the names named – Snickers, Rocky Road, 1000 Grand, and Almond Roca. Several did mention Cherry Cordials – made popular by the now defunct Brach’s in the early 1930s and chocolate covered raisins, a favorite of yours truly, and a hit in the early movie theater concession stands.
Lots o’ Outliers, TOO!!
We love outliers and are happy to say these included sea foam (from Lucile Allen, a True Treats alumni) and chocolate covered honeycomb – another version of sea foam; halva (we carry this – ancient and Middle Eastern); the gummy-esque Wisconsin Raisins from, that’s right, Wisconsin, little known but shouldn’t be; and my friend and neighbor Karen McMullen’s mom’s favorite – Bit O’ Honey from the 1920s.
Our Facebook friend Peg Norton Foster told us about “…white nougat things with little pieces of gumdrops in them. Peg added: “I know mom had them around a lot in the late 50s and 60s. I am a chocolate freak so she got them mostly to herself.” Peg – we actually carry your Mom’s favorite, although the gum drops have been replaced by it’s candy cousin, jelly beans!
We Asked Some of Our True Treats Employees… What’s Mom’s Favorite Candy?
Susan Benjamin, True Treats President – “My mother actually didn’t like candy! But if I had to pick, I’d say the peanut butter cup. She ate one maybe every other year!”
MaryAnn Fisher, Social Media & Outreach Coordinator- “Hershey Milk Chocolate Bars!”
Jackie Woods, Packer – “My mother’s a donut and cookie person… but I’m a momma and I love anything chocolate or All-American Caramel.”
Pam, Packer – “Hershey kisses, Hershey with almond… Always Hershey. My favorite candy is Payday, but I love Mounds too.”
Jess, Packer – “Peanut M&M’s and that’s about it!”
Here’s the Full List of Mother’s Day Favorites From Facebook
THANKS EVERONE!! We LOVE your Feedback. And Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!!
French gums, gummy hearts, chocolate covered raisins, and halva. – Andrea Blavat
She liked everything. Seriously, there was nothing that she didn’t like. Hilarious… she loved circus peanuts and she was the one who made me try black licorice. She even got my sister to like black licorice. Her and my mom would share a box of I think it was good and plenty, and I always got the good and fruity for at the drive in. – Melanie Mills
Believe it or not … circus peanuts! – Jennie Gist
My mother’s favorite “of all things” … Candy Corn at Halloween! – Gwen Wyttenbach
My mom would mix them in a dish with “Spanish” peanuts (in reference to candy corn) – Jan Rayl Kierstead
It’s candy raisins from Wisconsin and I’m blessed that she’s still around! – Jennifer Wyatt
Caramels and those white nougat things with little pieces of gumdrops in them. – Peg Norton Foster
Almond Joy – Denise Braithwaite
10000 Grand candy bars. – Laura Lee Bear Lemmon
Probably those cream drops, my mother loved them – Angela Zimmerman
Moth balls (cream filberts) and Opera Creams – Claire Mojave
Black Licorice – Dwayne Richards
Godiva. If they weren’t available Hershey Special Dark. She was a dark chocolate fiend.- Krissi Bainbridge
Almond Joys and chocolate – Heidi Rohrer
Russel Stovers Caramels in particular – Suzanne Healy Barnhart
Black licorice – Mary T
Coconut cream egg – Shelly Williams
Lemon drops and chocolate covered raisins. – Nell McCollum Tedder Bit o Honey – Cathy Kisovec Rodgers
Chocolate. Just, all of the chocolate. – Crystal Cruz
I still get her dark chocolate and heath bars – Jennifer Bortman
My mom wasn’t a candy person. Black licorice, I suppose, or Coffee Nips. My dad had the sweet tooth. – Amy Wax Storyteller
Chocolate covered cherries – Josephine Ann Calderone
Black Licorice and black jellybeans! – Brenda Sue Payne Peanut Brittle – Tabitha Falls
Almond Joy maybe – Kelly Preziosi
Black licorice – Rick Doty
Almond Roca – Randy Hanenburg
Chocolate, peppermint, & lemon drops.- Sandra Lewis
Chocolate-covered cherries and sea foam – Lucile Allen
Snickers candy bars was her favorite. She’s not really a candy fan. Ice cream is where it’s at – Elizabeth Bennett
Snickers but can’t eat them unless it sugar free which I don’t they have it n take one if sugar low due to I am a diabetic – Selina Dion
Black licorice – Marylouise McKillip
Fannie Mae turtles – Anne Marie Trumbla
Chocolate covered cherries. – Karen McMullen
Mary Janes and Fannie May turtles. – Allison May
Rocky road or those mountain bars if she could find them – Jaye Ahkinga Heath bars… black jelly beans – Patricia Smith Violett
Almond Roca – Linda Mitchell
Black Jelly beans – Francine Rybarczyk Clouse
Almond Roca – Debbie Coman
I don’t think she has a favorite- Matthew Ryan Neely
Coconut watermelon slices. – Carla Johnson Kanthak Chocolate fudge – Karen Schultz
Candy corn and cinnamon gummy bears – Dana Perkins
Whitman’s cream filled candies – Marilyn Hennessey
Chocolate gingers and cherry cordials – Elizabeth Ford Starlight mints – Julie Burke
Chocolate covered honeycomb – Bella Kittrell
Hard candy – Betty Jagodzinski Rybarczyk
Baby Ruth – Larry Berkman Circus marshmallows – Natalie Kreitzman
Chocolate covered cherries, marshmallow peanuts, creme drops, and orange slices – Mary Earp
Chocolates! – Pam Howard
Butterfinger – Marchia Kirkland
Reese’s peanut butter cups – Victoria Ordonez
Butterfinger – Debra Hatcher
Orange slices – Patsy Dickson
Anything Fannie May – Dave Mead
Three Musketeer Bar – Lia Rock-Wright
Butterscotch – Libby Wilson
Reese’s Peanut butter cups – Nancy Shaffer Thiele
Caramels with white filling! (Goetze’s Caramel Creams!) – Rodney Thomas
Everything – Linnet Guidry Lewis Malted Milk Balls – Karen Lynne
Mike & Ike – Lee Andrews Lawson Satellite wafers – Sarah Côté
Nestle crunch – Peggy Lynch Verville
Cordial – Amber Nichole
Scorched peanuts – Gail Hart
Wintergreen – Elaine Moore
She is alive, and at last check, a big fan of Whitmans Samplers. – Jasmyn Dawn
Orange Slices – Donnette Sligar Sibille
Hershey bar – Jeannie Clement
Cherry cordials – Donna Marie Reynolds
Twizzlers – Ellen Patterson
Fudge – Martha D Clark Balser
Mother’s Day – most certainly not the commercial Hallmark event most people think. It’s about history, controversy, war and peace – and women’s role in all of it. It also underscores the reality of women and, in particular, mothers, as more integral and significant to our nation’s history, whether in the home or on-the-road, than women get credit for.
Grafton, West Virginia – Birthplace of Mother’s Day
The story began for me years ago, when I traveled to Grafton, West Virginia, the home of Mother’s Day. I took a stomach-flipping albeit beautiful mountainous road to get there, ending in a small former railroad town. My meeting was in a modest Methodist church on a modest street with one decent place to eat. Things may have changed in Grafton since I visited 20 some odd years ago, but one thing remains: the church was where Mother’s Day began. The women of the community were proud of that fact and had plenty of literature and stories to prove it.
Ann Jarvis & “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs”
The primary player in the story was activist Ann Jarvis. Initially, Ms. Jarvis helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. This was around the time of the rising Domestic Science movement – a women-led initiative to ensure food was clean and properly prepared, and the household managed with mathematical precision. If you cook anything that requires measurements, timing, and specific cooking utensils, you have Domestic Science, later called Home Economics, to thank.
Mothers’ Day Work Clubs During the Civil War
When the Civil War hit, West Virginia was part of Virginia. The state succeeded in 1863, less because of conviction and more because they went with the presumed winner. West Virginia remained torn in its identity during that time and, at some levels, still is today. Regardless, during the war, women of the Mother’s Day Work Clubs shifted their focus to bettering the sanitary conditions for Civil War soldiers in encampments on both sides of the war, stricken by such devastating problems as typhoid outbreaks.
Gifts From Home – Mothers of the Civil War
At home, women cooked food according to availability, which they sent to their sons and others fighting the war. What exactly they sent is hard to say – the goings on of women during war time, or, in fact any time, is hard to come by. We do get clues, though, from such places as Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular 19th century magazine. The magazine sought out recipes from women on both sides of the war which they published in an effort to unify mothers with a common, excruciating concern. Other clues come from the diaries of soldiers and the odd letter that surfaces now and then.
Godey’s Lady’s Book
Sugar was certainly part of the equation – it was a critical component of medicine and a core ingred ient in preserving life. So, molasses in various form, including pulled molasses, a version of taffy, was likely among these sweets as was cane sugar in various forms. Godey’s Lady’s Book contains a recipe for candied orange peels and mentions sugar-rich fruits as varied as coconuts and strawberries. These foods were certainly sent to the soldiers when supplies held out. Whether the intended recipient received them is another matter.
“Mother’s Friendship Day”
After the war, Ann Jarvis established a “Mother’s Friendship Day” to reunite war-separated families and create reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers. She was determined to create a national Mother-based holiday but died in 1905 before she achieved it. Enter her daughter Anna Jarvis – a single woman who never had children but was intent on making her mother’s vision a reality. Among her early efforts was to receive funding and support from John Wanamaker, whose Philadelphia department store was the first in the nation. Wanamaker’s participation in the event, while welcome, also foreshadowed the future of Mother’s Day as a commercial bonanza for retailers and restaurateurs today.
The First Mother’s Day
In May 1908, Anna Jarvis held the first official Mother’s Day celebration at the Methodist Church which I visited and where Ann Jarvis taught Sunday School. Two aspects of Anna Jarvis’ efforts are lost today but well-worth remembering. First is the spelling of Mother’s Day. Not “Mothers’ Day” for all women, as a group, but the day honoring individual mothers, in particular those who lost sons at war. Then there’s the carnation, long a symbol of purity and faithfulness. Ms. Jarvis sent 500 carnations to the church event – carnations remain a Mother’s Day symbol to this day. The Grafton event was significant albeit modest compared to the parallel event at Wannamaker’s Philadelphia store, drawing in thousands of guests.
Her Mother’s Legacy
Anna Jarvis then launched an aggressive campaign to further fulfill her mother’s vision including establishing the Mother’s Day International Association, publishing letters in newspapers, and lobbing political figures and other influencers. She argued, among other matters, that most holidays focused on men and women deserved a share of acknowledgement and appreciation. Of course, we must acknowledge the irony that Mother’s Day focused on the grief mothers felt over the loss of their sons with no mention of the many daughters who also served in a variety of capacities on the battlefields.
Anna Jarvis’ Surprising Campaign… to End Mother’s Day?
By 1912, numerous states and other communities were commemorating Mother’s Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis was victorious. Well…she was victorious but ultimately disillusioned. Anna Jarvis protested the commercial side to Mother’s Day and, by the end of her life, lobbied for an end to the Mother’s Day celebration. In a sense, the road to Mother’s Day was as windy and remarkable as the road I travelled on my trip to Grafton. After I arrived, someone at the church informed me that I could have taken a smoother and faster alternative road on a highway. Not to stretch the metaphor too far, but the ease of Mother’s Day today – and the opportunity to connect families across the country as Ann Jarvis originally intended – is relatively smooth, straight-forward and something to celebrate. Today, Mother’s Day is an international event.
Activists, Abolitionists, and Mother’s Day
As Ann Jarvis and Anna Jarvis were working to make Mother’s Day official, other activists shared their mission. Abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the poem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” was active in promoting a version of Mother’s Day dedicated to peace efforts in the 1800s. Similarly in the 19th and 20th century temperance activists Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering advocated for an anti-war version of Mother’s Day.
These days, we’ve been thinking a lot about retro candy. The reason is pretty simple – people like… make that love… retro candy more than any other category of confections. But what is retro candy? We searched the Web and found that most candy sellers believe retro candy is either a “trip down memory lane” – or a “walk through the 1900s.” In other words, retro old is relatively new.
Make sense? Not to us. So, we took the matter to our Facebook friends and the customers at our brick-and-mortar store in Harpers Ferry. We asked two questions – what is your favorite retro candy? and what date was it invented? The responses varied.
Wait, Pixy Stix Were a Drink Mix?!
Jeremy Butler, for example, said his favorite candy was SweeTarts, circa 1980. The actual date was the 1960s, but close enough. The SweeTart story goes back to the late 1920s and a drink mix that became a candy known as Pixy Stix. In the 1960s, Pixy Stix makers created a neater version of this favorite treat … which was the SweeTart.
NECCO Wafers & Taffy – Older Than You Think…
Others bucked conventional thinking saying the 1800s was the start date for their retro favorites think: NECCO Wafers which originated in 1847. Kirsten Renee Campbell guessed her favorite, salt water taffy, was from the 1800s and she was right. Late 1800s, to be precise. By the way, salt water taffy was never actually made with salt water. It did originate on the Atlantic City boardwalk, but saltwater taffy doesn’t differ much from what you can get, say, in Colorado. Which is a good thing if you happen to live in Colorado.
Is Peanut Brittle Retro?
The answer I love the best, though, is from Andrea Blavat. Her favorite is peanut brittle. As for the date – she said “pre-historic times maybe?” And right she was! Well, more or less. Brittle is one of the oldest candies around, dating back thousands of years to a mixture of honey and sesame seeds. This candy, which originated in the Middle East and Mediterranean, likely contained cane sugar as well, which grew freely in India, an apex of the ancient Spice Trade. As for sesame seeds – yes – but this early brittle likely contained other nuts as well.
Does this make brittle truly “retro”? By the common definition that retro signifies a 20th century treat, probably not. But then, plenty of other candies would be bumped off the list as we said, such as the NECCO Wafer, Kirsten’s taffy, and other “retro” favs such as 1800s candy corn, circus peanuts(keep reading for a retro recipe using this controversial candy), cotton candy, Black Jack Gum, fruit drops, marshmallows, caramels, and more. Some, such as candy sticks and Altoids (yes! Altoids), go back even further (OK – Altoids originated in the 1780s) such as Jordan Almonds which go back to the ancient Romans – marzipan, too.
Spangler’s Circus Peanut Salad
Looking for a new way to eat the surprisingly old circus peanut? Try this recipe, submitted by Mrs. Kay Larson for the 1976 Stump Creek Resident’s Cookbook and let us know what you think!
1 package of orange jello
1 no. 2 can crushed pineapple
2 cups cold water
30 circus peanuts
2 cups hot water
1 container Cool Whip
Dissolve jello in hot water. Cut up circus peanuts and dissolve in this. Drain pineapple and add liquid to cold water. Add to the first mixture. Allow to partially set. Add Cool Whip and crushed pineapple. Chill until set.
So here’s the point: let’s redefine retro and in doing so acknowledge a link to the past that taps all our senses. Taste the candy. Smell it. Hear the crunch and so on and on. With each bite you’ll be connected to lives and locations you never imagined. As for the purpose of eating these treats? Well, that varied, depending on the candy (some, for example, were medicines) but the underlying value was always sweet.
Here’s to Redefining Retro! From 2,000 BC to 2000 AD. Timelessly delicious.
Last week, we asked our Facebook friends about the candies their grandmothers kept in their purses. The response was amazing! Not that I was surprised. For generations, Grandmothers have given kids candies always appreciated and rarely forgotten. Some were retro. Some were even older than retro. Some have vanished. Some remain. As for the reasons why candy was so
The Unexpected Reasons Grandmothers Gave Kids Candy
Grandmothers and grandfathers, too, gave candy for a few surprising – and poignant – reasons. First candy had long been used as a treat, a medicine, or both.
So, grandparents considered those butterscotch drops, Lifesavers, and other hard candies good for sore throats. Canada Mints, once known as “soft paste” medicines, were considered good for upset stomachs – my Grandfather
used them to treat his ulcers. Chewing gum, from Teaberry to Double Mint, freshened the breath, cleaned the teeth, and also alleviated stomach distress. Others, such as Circus Peanuts, were made for fun, fun, fun (later to be morphed into Lucky Charm cereal!).
Reason #2: People living in the first half of the 20th century had to deal with sugar shortages due to the Great Depression and two World Wars. No sugar – no candy. When candy returned after years of absence, it became a symbol of affluence, well-being, and a sign that all was right in the world. When grandparents gave their grandchildren candy it was a gift of all that and a symbol of love.
Sour Balls, Peppermint Swirls, and Lifesavers – The Candy in My Grandmother’s Purse
I remember trips to visit my grandmother and her sisters in Boston. We usually started at my
great-Aunt Eunice’s, whose apartment was on the third floor of a brick building, an immense
and wonderfully sophisticated amount of steps for a suburban kid such as me. My grandmother
and her sisters would sit on a couch, knitting and chatting, while the kids – my cousins, my
brothers, and I – did our kid things, frequently involving comic books, bubble gum, and secrets.
The living room, actually the living room couch, was the place to visit. Without exception, I’d
ask my grandmother and her sisters for candy. The response was always the same: “Get my
purse.” The purse was inevitably black, with a clasp, and within it a handkerchief, wallet, and
plenty of who-knows-whats, and more to the point, sour balls, Starlight Mints, and Lifesavers.
They’d reach in and hand us as much as we wanted, with one, of course, for each of them. Then, with candy in mouth, I would snuggle in beside my grandmother or my great-aunt Helen. The knitting would stop so she could rub my back, my arm, or smooth my hair. And all in the world was right and all in the world was good.
The Candies Grandmothers Gave Our Facebook Friends
We heard about a lot of candies from our Facebook friends, and even a bit about grandmothers
who didn’t give candy! Milania Pearl said “No candy. She always gave me money.” All was well
– Milania “…bought cassette tapes for my radio and shoes -lunch money, too, for Burger King.”
Some of the responses were sad, such as Barbara C. “Don’t know, never went anywhere with
one Grandmother and the other one passed away when I was very young.”
Said Karen Lester Flynn: “I don’t believe my grandmother had any sweets in her purse….
However she had a cookie drawer with those cookies in the blue tin sometimes she would have
sugar wafers” We say: Yum!
Sorry to hear this from Molly K. Varley: Cigarettes and bitterness.
The #1 Candy Flavor Was BUTTERSCOTCH!
Butterscotch was made in England, as a kind of toffee… made with lots of butter!
Grandma’s Candy Comments!
Peggy Warren: She always had butterscotch lifesavers in the roll. I used to love when she pulled
it out to give me one. And she had wrapped peppermints and Werther’s caramels. They bring
back wonderful memories of her. Lovely!
Paula Mallory. Angel Mints, Granny always had them in her purse. If I got fidgety while out
shopping, visiting family and friends, after dinner in a restaurant or in church, she’d start doling
out the Angel Mints Found them. Still around, made in Texas, but only sold wholesale. We’ll get some – can’t wait to start selling them.
Nola Coons. Usually gum in her purse. But best was the candy dish on the dining room buffet
that was always full of small candies, usually a variety of Brachs! We’d always head to the
candy dish to see what Grandma had filled it with! Candy bowls were immensely popular, usually fancy, and always full.A testament for the importance of candy. Brachs is still around, although no longer owned by the Brach family.
Molly Dewees Brockett: My grandfather always had hard butterscotch candies and the blue
mints in his glove compartment and he called them scratchy throat medicine. Yes! Medicine!
Andrea Blavat: My big sister always had the tropical fruit assorted Lifesavers in her purse. They
were so good! Lifesavers were originally made in 1912 and used as a breath cleanser in saloons.
Thomas Miess- Mc Donald: My Grandfather always had Sen Sens and Hard Licorice Stick. Both licorice flavored – sad to say Sen Sen is no longer around. It might come back. We hope they do!
Heather Scott Penselin: As a grandma I have no candy in my purse but I do have mints in my car
and lots of ice cream in my freezer. Cool Grandma!!
Jennifer Wyatt. Gum or mints. She had the aqua blue mints that were wrapped in clear
cellophane in a candy dish in her house, always! Thanks Jenifer! Those are the blue ice candies. We never carried them, but will now!
Heather Scott-Penselin: Usually Ice Breakers but I can’t find the peppermint flavor anymore so
Altoids at the moment. Sometimes Green Tea ones from Trader Joes. Altoids – originated in 1780. Who knew??
Wax Lips and Bottles
Jennie Gist. Mine didn’t carry candy in her purse, but whenever we visited her, she’d send us kids
to the corner store where they had everything from Nik-L-Nips to wax lips to Atomic Fireballs.
A bagful of fun! YES! Nik L Nip was made in the lead-up years to Prohibition. Nik – for a nickel a bag. Nip for a nip of whiskey.
Jennie Gist True Treats Historic Candy there were 5 of us kids and someone must have been
eating the wax, but not me! Now, wax lips … that’s a different story! First made in Pennsylvania using Paraffin Wax, the remains of the petroleum industry, which started in Titusville, PA. in 1859.
These gums were made in the late 1800s- to early-ish 1900s. ALL made with tree resin until World War 2 when supplies diminished and companies shifted to latex.
Sue Pace Grau: A pack of Juicy Fruit gum. We (her grandkids) each got a half piece. To this day
I think of her when I see that gum in the stores.
Jeanna Burdette: Chiclet gum and lifesavers.
Dani Rose Perez: Peppermint, tamarind and double mint gum.
Cindy Neel: Not candy but chicklet gum.
What about Grandpa?
Janet Latimer: None that I remember, but granddad had lemon drops in his truck that the cousins
and I would sneak.
Amanda Vierling: My grandfather kept butterscotch candies on hand.
Patricia McGinn: Never my grandma. My grandfather always had a roll of butter rum Lifesavers
in his suit pocket.
Strawberry Soft Candy
Katrinna Rich: Those little strawberries with the soft center!
Dana Perkins. My great grandmother always had those hard strawberry filled drops in the
wrapper that looked like a strawberry! Good memories!
A top seller for us today! A true classic.
And More Candy…
Carol Cross-Hooper: Wrigley’s peppermint. But she’d give you a half of stick.
Michelle Hum: Peppermints, or some call them starlight mints
Dare Nettles: Nothing but at home she had a tin full of black licorice
Betty Bunting: Crystal Mints. They used to be a flavor of Life Saver and came in a roll. I haven’t
seen them in years and years… I’m sure they’re not made anymore.
Marylouise McKillip: Butterscotch hard candy. Every so often, I buy a wee bag and I think of
her when eating each piece.
Cathleen Norris: Peppermint lifesavers… always.
Allison Dame Ryan: Brach’s Butterscotch candies or peppermint ones!
And The Candies Are…
Butterscotch Hard Candy
Strawberry Filled Candy
Butter Rum Lifesavers
Ice Blue Mints
Pink Wintergreen Mints
Watermelon Hard Candy
Cream Cheese Mints
Double Mint Gum
Root Beer Balls
This Easter, why not discover the Easter candies you may have missed. They taste great and are rich with meaning. One of my favorites is St. John’s bread, thought to be the food that nourished John the Baptist while in the desert. Here’s what’s amazing – and delicious! Saint John’s bread is actually carob which we use as a healthful snack and low cal and nutritious replacement for chocolate. The “bread” is actually the pod which you can eat as-is for a unique culinary experience (not the seeds! they’re impossible to digest). Other favorites are chopped carob pieces mixed with another ancient fruit – dried grapes, aka raisins, the most often mentioned fruit in the Bible. Or try carob chips, mixed with another ancient food and symbol of spring – pomegranate seeds. AND – don’t forget…carob tea. The possibilities are almost endless…as is the history of this wonderful food.
Here are some other important Easter treats you may have missed:
Date, fig, and pomegranate syrup, are among the “honeys” mentioned in the Bible. Great in tea, in baked Easter goods
Stuffed dates, stuffed with ancient nuts and simple syrup or a dash on bee’s honey – both known to the ancient palate.
Marzipan, and ancient candy made with almonds, a true spring nut. In fact, almonds were long valued as they represented good beginnings. And why? Because almonds were the first tree to flower in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Cinnamon almonds – a tasty duo with ancient roots, familiar and traditional, both cited in the Bible.
Mann Salwa. This ancient sweet is rich with flavor, texture, and meaning. Made over 2,000 years ago, many consider it the food God gifted to Moses and the people of Israel to sate their hunger. Perfect with tea, coffee or as a snack. A personal favorite.
Turkish delight – a favorite worldwide under many guises. Vegan, all-natural, and rich with association with its starring role in Chronicles of Narnia. Turkish is also a best-seller here at True Treats. This is a wonderful quote from one of our customers: “Rose Turkish Delight is something I leave with every time I visit!” – Ashley G.
It’s Valentine’s Day and maybe you’re hoping to spark a little romance in your sweetie with a gift of some stimulating chocolate. Not to thwart your plans, but scientific research shows it’s not really an aphrodisiac. However, one candy historian was eager to take us back to a time when Americans consumed copious amounts of warm, decadent chocolate that she posits had some hidden sensual powers.
Susan Benjamin, owner of True Treats Historic Candy in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, said early New Englanders were gaga for chocolate, but they weren’t eating it…
From WBUR – Listen to the whole story or read the rest of the article here.
Image: A silver serving pot, made in Boston circa 1760. (Courtesy Historic Deerfield)
If you’re looking for something interesting to make for the many celebrations ahead this spring, head to Feeding America library at the Michigan State University’s Website. There you’ll find 76 cookbooks spanning North American history, posted in readable formats. My favorite is Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Starting in the late 1800s, Miss Farmer introduced the nation to new concepts of cooking at home -weighing, measuring, and using calculations so every recipe turned out right. We found tempting delights– Boston Cream Pies, chocolates, and hard candies. Of course, there’s plenty more. My suggestion – check out the other fascinating cookbooks on the site, as well and don’t be intimated! The recipes are great and prove the point: everything old is new again.
Want to hear my interview on WBUR – Boston’s NPR affiliate – about Fanny Farmer? Head for my recent blog!