Candy speaks to the times in interesting ways. By looking at the confections enjoyed over America’s history, it is possible to see how people lived and what they aspired to in life. Whether it is candy canes in a glass jar, astronaut-centered snacks or sour candy, the tastes of the nation bespeak the fads and the people who make up the country.
Taking a tour of candy’s pull on the nation’s affections, there is a particular unwinding of history in the introduction of each new delight. For instance, candy cigarettes were quite popular in the early 1900’s and lasted into the 1950’s. They were packaged like real cigarettes and had a beautiful chalky taste, complete with a pink tip. Children were flamboyantly joyous as they puffed on their faux smokes. Of course today, they would be considered a faux pas.
One characteristic of candy in early American times, was that of being a hard candy. Root beer barrels, sarsaparilla canes, horehound, and lemon drops flowed, and lasted a long time. It was a tough country with tougher candy. The soft stuff was licorice and chocolates – more a lady’s choice.
Now, candy is “chewy.” Chewy sweet tarts, chewy gummy worms, and chewy jelly belly beans…and sour! The candy today is much easier to swallow, but would set middle-agers on edge with the sour taste. It reflects a softer, but more cynical generation.
In olden times, candy had a limited distribution, to drug stores, candy stores or specialty shops. It was a treat for children, rather than for adults, except on Valentine’s Day. Now, candy is sold everywhere and is consumed by people of all ages, all the time.
Packaging has gone from bagged, to individually wrapped, and back to loosely bagged again over the course of candy history. It follows less concern about hygiene to super-hygienic days and then to conservation days. The individual wrap proponents have been taken over by the “green” groups.
The memory of travels to the moon in the late 60’s reminds one of astronauts and brings up wonderful memories of fizzy drink tablets, freeze-dried ice cream, and even Tang. They were all sweet and fruity treats that were inspired by the Apollo missions. Whatever the astronauts were eating in space was adapted in candy form. Space food sticks, ( a chewy candy), were a favorite with American children. Peanut butter was the best flavor of space stick ever.
Candy companies are now producing some of these old favorites, and packaging them in 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s collections. The history of our great nation is thus reduced to the sweets adored over the decades.
If going back in time is a sweet-lover’s mission, just go to specialty shops or to a Cracker Barrel restaurant to view and purchase old-fashioned treats. When shoppers can satisfy their hard candy crushes it brings not only satisfaction, but memories of past confections.
Just a warning to the youngsters out there: A Zero candy bar is not devoid of calories, atomic fireballs are not really all that hot, and despite what has been heard about Zotz, they will not explode on contact with cola drinks.
Enjoy a trip down American candy history lane. It will educate and inform about the candy days of yore.
Humor/Opinion By Lisa M Pickering
The Space Store