Anyone, everyone, toddler to nonagenarian, no matter where in the world they live, love candy. Is it the sweetness? The taste? Texture? Hardness? Softness? Or all of the above?
Sweet foods, whether they be an intricately executed six-layer wedding cake or a single piece of hard candy from a paper tube, eaten on the run, are a necessity of life, if not physically then definitely psychologically. The need to eat candy, with its inherent sweetness, must, somewhere in the passage of time, have become part of of man’s evolution. Sweet treats are a great motivation. What would some people, especially women, do for a taste of that most sublime candy of all, chocolate?
Historically speaking, the first sweet food, honey, was dug out from the depths of bee hives by cavemen but the first recorded history credits candy to the Egyptians of 3,500 years ago. Honey popped its head up during the ancient times when Egyptians, Arabs, and Chinese used it to prepare delicacies made of fruit and nuts candied in honey.
During the Middle Ages, the astronomically high price of sugar forced sugar candy to become a true delicacy, afforded by only the wealthiest Europeans.
Chocolate is made of cacao, a botanical discovered, in 1519, by Spaniards exploring Mexico. The Latin name for the fruit of the cacao tree is Theobrama Cacao which translates to “food of the gods. " I certainly won’t argue with that. Yum!
The seventeenth century brought a new treat in the guise of boiled hard candy to England and the American colonies.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, candy production was becoming an industry. There were at least 380 American factories working to satisfy America’s sweet tooth. Most of the candy was called “penny candy, " so named because a person could go into a general store, point at the glass cases, and come away with a penny’s worth of this candy and a penny’s worth of that candy and so forth. Children could spend many an hour gazing upon which glorious candies they should buy with their hard-earned allowance.
The discovery of sugar beet juice and the benefit of mechanical appliances during the early nineteenth century pushed the production of sweets to untold numbers. During that era, Americans ate homemade hard candies, such as lemon drops and peppermints.
Speaking of such candies, candy is prepared by merely melting sugar in water. How hot the water is determines the variety of candy:
- Hard candy is made with hot temperatures
- Soft candy is made with medium heat
- Chewy candy is made with cool temperatures
One final thought: During World War II (1942 - 1945), the women on the production line of Whitman’s Sampler did much for soldier morale. They surreptitiously slipped notes to soldiers in boxes marked for military shipment. Love must have been in the air because this sentimental act brought to light many long-term relationships and even a few weddings.
Making candy at home can be a great family activity. All you need are the sugar, flavorings, a good recipe and, of course, the proper tools such as an accurate candy thermometer and good heat-resistant oven mitts.
Terry Kaufman is Chief Editorial Writer for Niftykitchen.com , Niftyhomebar.com , and Niftygarden.com .
©2006 Terry Kaufman.