Today is National Candy Day. It is every child’s dream and most parents’ nightmare! The word candy actually comes from Middle England around the 13th century. That came from Old French, “culre candi”, which came from the Persian “Qand” or “Qandi”, which means sugar cane. The first “candy” was made from honey that was used to preserve fruit and flowers. The honey coated the fruit which happened to make a nice tasting treat. It also helped the digestive track and soothed sore throats.
It is believed that the first “candy” to reach America came from either Britain or France, or perhaps both, in the form of “Rock Candy”. Rock Candy was basically nothing but crystallized sugar, all of which was clear. That would have been in the 18th century and the process to make Rock Candy was so expensive that only the very wealthiest could afford it. Over the years we have learned how to add food dyes and flavoring to Rock Candy to make it somewhat more popular.
Chocolate did not come into the picture until centuries later even though Columbus took the cocoa plant back to Europe after his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. Other milestones for the candy industry came in the 1800’s when candy was made cheaper by production lines and crude machines. This candy was known as “Penny Candy” and for the first time in history, everyone could afford a sweet, at least on special occasions. By 1847 a candy press was invented making candy as cheap as it had ever been and in quantities that made it available even in remote locations. In 1851 the steam pan became available to melt down the sugar even faster and an industry was born.
In 1928 Hershey’s introduced Reese’s peanut butter cups, the first real sign that chocolate could be mass produced as well and sold in a package to consumers. The peanut butter filling was something new for the industry but was extremely well received.
During World War 2, soldiers were given M&M’s made by Mars Inc., for a pick me up because they were coated in a hard candy shell that did not melt while they were in the field. The first real use of M&M’s was actually reported during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s where Ernest Hemingway noted seeing soldiers with a hard shelled candy they carried around with them for an energy burst.
How to celebrate – Whatever type of candy you like best, today is the day to enjoy a piece or two. Try to invent your own new candy! Go back to the basics with this recipe for Rock Candy and make your own!