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Sweets for the Sweet

Sweets for the Sweet
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (th... (by )
  • Hansel and Gretel and Other Stories (by )
  • Our Candy Recipes (by )
  • The Art of Home Candy Making, With Illus... (by )
  • Candy Making in the Home (by )
  • Home Candy Making (by )
  • Candy Making at Home (by )
  • Candy-Making Revolutionized; Confectione... (by )
  • Candy-making at Home (by )
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[A]nd as for the sweets, I won’t tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain.

From The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis
Those sweets familiar to us today bear little resemblance to the candies of yesteryear. Candy may not hold a prominent place in literary themes, but it does figure in children’s literature, such as the Turkish delights that lure Edmund Pevensie to his downfall at the hands of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and to the gingerbread house decorated with frosting and candies that trap unwary children in the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Reserved for holidays and special occasions, children and adults looked forward to these sweet treats that you can make at home.

Candies originated as medicine used to calm digestive upset or soothe sore throats. Because of the rarity of its main ingredient—sugar and spices—such sweets were reserved for the wealthy who could afford their high cost. Before sugar became widely available in the 1830s, people coated edible flowers and fruits with honey to preserve them. Advances in sugar production led to wider availability and accessibility, such that even the working classes could afford themselves upon occasion. In less civilized areas, candy making such as taffy pulling became featured activities at family and community gatherings.

Candies can be divided into two general groups: sugar candies and chocolate candies. Sugar candies include hard and soft candies, caramels, marshmallows, and taffy. Sugar is the principle ingredient. Chocolate is the main ingredient in chocolate-based candies, which exclude hot cocoa, cocoa-based drinks, and white chocolate which actually has no cocoa solids. Chocolate does not commonly feature in confectionery until the late 19th century due to its relative rarity and high price.

May Belle Van Arsdale, Day Monroe, and Mary I. Barber collaborated on an extensive cookbook of candy recipes, aptly titled Our Candy Recipes (1922) in response to “the constant requests of housewives and students for good recipes for homemade candies.” Their book presents recipes that “have been tested in the classroom many times, and much effort has been spent in making them simple and accurate, yet sufficiently details to prevent failures.”

In 1915, the Home Candy Makers of Canton, Ohio produced The Art of Home Candy Making, with Illustrations. In the introduction, Mrs. R. W. Hadley writes,

[A]nyone, from the youngest member in the family who can read, to the oldest, experienced or inexperienced, can make the most delicious candy with the art of a professional. … This book is the life secret of one of the best candy makers in this country and as we have the exclusive right to his recipes they cannot be found or secured from any other source. (p. 3)

Not to be outdone in the task of satisfying humanity’s collective sweet tooth, other authors added their tried and true recipes for confectionery: Candy-Making at Home by Mary M. Wright (1870), Candy Making in the Home by Christine Terhune Herrick, Home Candy Making by Sarah Tyson Heston Rorer, Candy Making at Home by Isabel W. Blake, and, for a healthful twist, Candy-Making Revolutionized; Confectionery from Vegetables by Mary Elizabeth Hall.

By Karen M. Smith

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