The Origins of 15 Delightful Snacks

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by Amanda Green

Nothing’s more delightful than GEICO’s customer service, but knowing the origins of these tasty treats is pretty sweet, too.

1. S'mores

It's a s'mystery who invented this chocolate-marshmallow-graham cracker treat. The first published recipe appears in the 1927 scouting handbook, and "s'more" made the cut to join the dictionary in 1974.

2. Candy Corn

Love it or hate it, candy corn might be the most famous Halloween candy of all time. A Philadelphia confectioner introduced the sugary kernels in the 1880s, cooking the ingredients into a slurry and pouring the three individually colored sections into a mold by hand. No wonder it was a seasonal treat! Now machines do all the work, so you can find candy corn in various color combinations all year long.

3. Snow Cones

Children discovered the crunchy-cold refreshment of snow cones when ice became commercially available in the 1850s and their moms added eggs, vanilla, and sugar to sweeten it. By the 1870s, theater patrons could order hand-shaved ice in a variety of flavors. The treat went mainstream when ice shavers took their melting blocks to the streets and messily served snow cones in newspapers. Various electric ice shavers were patented in the 1890s, making snow cone production quick and easy during the Great Depression, when the inexpensive dessert was called the Hard Times Sundae.

4. Neapolitan Ice Cream

Italian immigrants did us all a favor when they brought their delicious recipes to America. No surprise, Neapolitan ice cream is named after the city of Naples, though it was originally introduced as spumoni. Written references to the layered block of ice cream —a sweet homage to the Italian flag—first appeared in the 1870s. The flavors weren't always chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, but those were so popular that they became the standard.

5. Cupcakes

New York's boutique bakeries have fueled the cupcake craze that's gripped the nation since the late '90s. But the tiny, frosted cakes go further back, all the way to the 1796 American Cookery cookbook by one Amelia Simmons. She called her recipe "cake to be baked in small cups." The more succinct "cupcake" first appeared in an 1828 Receipts cookbook by Eliza Leslie.

6. Caramel Apples

The sugar-coated candy apple is said to have originated in a Newark, New Jersey candy shop in 1908. But the softer, gooier caramel version is credited to a salesman in the 1950s. Of course, many people claim that the salesman didn't invent the treat himself. He just made it stick.

7. Whoopie Pie

A number of U.S. states have whooped and hollered over who gets credit for this soft cookie sandwich. According to Pennsylvania legend, an Amish woman made the first whoopie pies with leftover cake batter and icing and served them to her farmer husband and children, who all exclaimed, "Whoopie!" Residents of Maine tell the same story—except they credit the creation to an unnamed Bangor bakery owner. In Boston, some people claim a defunct local bakery invented the treat in 1931. Let's just all agree to eat whoopie pie.

8. Cotton Candy

Spun sugar was a rare—and very labor-intensive—treat when it was first introduced in the 18th century. Cotton candy couldn't have been introduced to the masses at the 1904 World's Fair without the mechanical help of a dentist. That's right, Dr. William Morrison teamed up with confectioner John C. Wharton in 1897 to invent the first cotton candy machine. Then, in 1921, another dentist patented his own machine, along with the term "cotton candy." Did these dentists think cotton candy was better than other confections, because it's mostly air? Or did they anticipate that cavity-causing snacks would ultimately lead to more business? We'll never know for sure.

9. Jawbreakers

The word "jawbreaker" first appeared in a dictionary in 1839. By the 1850s, hundreds of companies produced the large round candy. The selling point wasn't necessarily layers of changing flavors, as in gobstoppers. Even single-flavored jawbreakers lasted longer than other candies—some took weeks to finish!

10. French Toast

The French have called it pain perdu or "lost bread" since the 15th century, but French toast isn't necessarily from France. The earliest French toast recipe—albeit one that calls for soaking bread in milk, not eggs—dates back to a collection of Latin recipes from the fourth or fifth century. Germans in the 14th century called it Arme Ritter, or "poor knights." Austrians use the term Pavese. Whatever you or your ancestors want to call French toast, we recommend topping it with some fresh fruit.

11. Macarons

The meringue-based macaron has come to epitomize French charm, but there's talk that it might not be French either. Some sources that macarons were created in 791 in a convent near the commune of Cormery. Others speculate that the first macarons were whipped up by the Italian pastry chefs who served Henry II of France after he married Catherine de' Medici.

12. Macaroons

Yes, it looks like the word "macaron," due to the same Italian word origin maccarone, meaning "paste." But this meringue-like cookie is a treat all its own, and it also has a connection to Catherine de' Medici. The first macaroon, baked in a ninth century Italian monastery, was a small almond cake similar to amaretti. The monks later went to France with the same Italian pastry chefs who may have invented the macaron. The first macaroon recipe was printed in 1725.

13. Jelly Beans

Long before incredibly precise modern flavors debuted, Boston confectioner William Schrafft sold jelly beans and encouraged customers to send them to soldiers fighting in the Civil War. But jelly beans weren't mentioned in print until 1905. By 1920, the slang term "jellybean" referred to dandies who attracted the ladies by dressing well and offering little else. Of course, you couldn't have the jelly bean without its confectionery predecessor, the Middle Eastern Turkish Delight. It's said to have originated in Istanbul in 1776.

14. Ice Cream Sandwich

Before ice cream trucks drove through Manhattan streets, there was the hokey-pokey vendor, a peddler selling single slabs of ice cream. In 1899, one vendor sandwiched the ice cream between two water wafers to make it easier to eat and carry. Soon chocolate wafers on either side of vanilla ice cream became the norm.

15. Salt Water Taffy

Atlantic City's most famous treat wasn't just an accident, it was a disaster. When a candy store flooded after a storm in 1883, its entire stock of taffy was ruined ... or so the owner thought. A little girl bought the "saltwater taffy" anyway and loved the sweet and salty combination. Adults and children alike started requesting it, and eventually the taffy became a boardwalk staple. In 1923, a businessman trademarked "salt water taffy" and tried to sue other candy companies using the term. The Supreme Court ruled against him.

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November 15, 2013 - 5:15pm
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