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Take a Walk down Memory Lane with These Old-Time Candies

By Patricia Ryan Subscribe to RSS | June 1st 2012 | Views:
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The diet of ancient peoples was not a particularly interesting or appetizing one. They ate what they could grow, what they could forage, and what they could kill. Their food sources varied from region to region as the result of climate and landscape. But one thing holds true for most of our ancestors—they ate candy! No, not the candy we know today. There were no chocolate bars or lollipops in ancient times, since sugar was not readily available. So, they made do with what they had on hand.

The first types of sweet treats were undoubtedly made of honey. The Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans all used honey to create an early form of candy, as did the people of the Middle East and the Chinese. When mixed with dried fruits and nuts, they developed an early version of the granola bar.

Etymologists have traced the word “candy” back through Middle English, Old French, and finally to a Persian word that means “cane sugar,” which may have derived from an even older Sanskrit word. Not only was it enjoyed as a dessert or snack, it was also prescribed as a medicine, since it was believed to have a soothing effect on the digestive system.

Modern candy is available in a wide range of forms and taste sensations, including salty, bitter, and of course, sweet. Though chocolate is easily the most popular ingredient, nuts, fruits, taffies, gelatin, marshmallow, and licorice are also quite common.

Candy in America

The single most important event in the history of candy occurred when Spanish explorers in Mexico re-discovered cacao, from which chocolate is made. Before this date, only the rich could afford confectioneries, since sugar was a luxury. Candy making would soon become a respected profession after chocolatiers invented such things as the coco powder and boxes of chocolates. However, it was in U.S. that candy would become a major industry.

As the price of manufacturing sugar continued to fall through the Industrial Revolution, candy factories multiplied on both sides of the Atlantic. There were over four hundred of them in the United States by the middle of the 19th century! One of the reasons candy appealed to Americans is that it was a quick and inexpensive snack that could be enjoyed by the working class, and their children. Penny candies were sold in most general stores.

According to candy historians (yes, there are such people), the golden age of candy began sometime in the early 20th century. Most agree that the release of the Hershey bar in 1900 began a fecund period in the candy industry that would last through two world wars. Though most manufactures produced other products, it was the candy bar that would take center stage. More than 40,000 different candy bars appeared on the scene during this “golden era.”

A short list of the most popular candy bars of the age include: The Health Bar, the O’Henry! Bar, The Mounds Chocolate Bar, The Baby Ruth, The Milk Way Candy Bar, Mr. Goodbar, the Snickers Bar, the 3 Musketeers Bar, the 5th Avenue Candy Bar, and Charleston Chew. Smaller candies like Tootsie Rolls, Hersey’s Kisses, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were also quite popular during the era.

Where are we now?

Candy remains one of the most popular snack foods in the U.S. The average American eats approximately 26 pounds of it each year. Since chocolate is easily our favorite flavor, chocolate covered candies and bars are top sellers. Often attacked as unhealthy, new studies and tests have revealed surprising health benefits that most candy consumers enjoy.

Of course, like all things moderation is the key. Eating too much candy, or sugar in general, is not good for our teeth. Yes, your dentist was right! Sugar causes cavities which result in tooth decay. Sweets may also be unsafe for people who have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or obesity. With that said, there is evidence that the cocoa in chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease in adults. Those who consume candy a few times a week may actually increase their life longevity!

Nostalgic Candies

Even if they no longer eat sweets, older people often remain fiercely loyal to the candy brands they enjoyed as kids. They buy these tasty treats to hand out on Halloween, or to give to their grandkids. It reminds them, in a very personal way, of what it was like to be young and to enjoy the simple pleasure of a piece of candy. What do they buy?

Hersey’s Kisses, Charleston Chew, Skybar, and Tootsies Rolls were all introduced during that golden age of candy we discuss earlier. This was the time most old folks would have consumed them. As a result, they continue to buy these candies to share with the younger generation.

One easy and reliable way to save money on nostalgic candies, either in bulk or package form, is to purchase them from candy stores on the internet. Most offer discounts on large and seasonal orders for new customers.

Patricia Ryan - About Author:

Patricia Ryan is a freelance writer who writes about shopping and food products including nostalgic candy.

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