The Origins of 15 Delightful Snacks

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ThinkStock

Knowing the origins of these tasty treats is pretty sweet.

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. WHOPPIE 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.

Thursday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Guitar Kits, Memory-Foam Pillows, and Smartwatches

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 3. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Anti-Pasta: When Italian Futurists Tried to Ban Pasta in Italy

A pasta vendor in Naples during the late 19th or early 20th century.
A pasta vendor in Naples during the late 19th or early 20th century.
Carlo Brogi, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

While speaking at a multi-course banquet in Milan on November 15, 1930, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti presented his fellow Italians with an incendiary call to action. Pasta, he said, was a “passéist food” that “[deluded people] into thinking it [was] nutritious” and made them “heavy, brutish,” “skeptical, slow, [and] pessimistic.” As such, it should be abolished and replaced with rice.

So began an outrageous crusade against the country’s most beloved carbohydrate. Not only did Marinetti's movement elicit passionate reactions on both sides, but it also had some less-than-tenuous ties to Benito Mussolini's fascist regime.

Mr. Rice Guy

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (center) and his fellow Italian Futurists in Paris in 1912.Proa, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Marinetti’s initial statement spread so widely because he himself loomed large over society at the time. His 1909 “Manifesto of Futurism” launched the Futurist movement, which championed a shift away from the slow, outmoded processes of the past and toward the sleek technologies of the future. Though originally specific to art, Futurism was a nationalist cause at heart—a way for the newly unified country to catch up to other world powers—and it aligned with Mussolini’s fledgling political campaign. In fact, the two men collaborated closely while establishing their respective political parties (Marinetti’s Fasci Politici Futuristi and Mussolini’s Fasci di Combattimento) as World War I came to a close. Marinetti had distanced himself from Mussolini by the early 1920s, but he still invoked Il Duce’s policies when they served his goals.

For the pasta prohibition, they did. To make Italy less reliant on imported wheat, Mussolini’s administration had started promoting rice—which was much easier to produce domestically—over pasta. In the late 1920s, he established the “National Rice Board” and even declared November 1 to be “National Rice Day.” As Philip McCouat writes for the Journal of Art History, the dictator never went so far as to ban macaroni, but citizens were already familiar with anti-pasta sentiment by the time Marinetti began his smear campaign.

On December 28, 1930, the Futurist followed up his dinner speech with the “Manifesto of Futurist Cooking,” co-written with the artist Luigi Colombo (known as “Fillìa”) and published in Turin’s Gazzetta del popolo. In it, they described pasta itself as an “absurd Italian gastronomic religion” and pasta lovers as being “shackled by its ball and chain like convicted lifers or [carrying] its ruins in their stomachs like archaeologists.”

In short, they believed that pasta weighed Italians down and prevented them from achieving any kind of greatness. The ultimate solution was for the government to replace all food with nutritional pills, powders, and other artificial substitutes, but until the chemists could create such innovations, the Futurists would settle for swapping out pasta with rice. “And remember too,” they wrote, “that the abolition of pasta will free Italy from expensive foreign wheat and promote the Italian rice industry.”

Starch Enemies and Allies

While Marinetti’s initial speech had incited a small uprising among Italians, his written manifesto gave the issue a global audience. “Fascist Writer, All Wound Up in Health Subject, Begs Countrymen to Swallow New Theory,” the Chicago Tribune summarized in an article titled “Italy May Down Spaghetti,” which hit newsstands just two days after Marinetti’s manifesto.

Smaller presses covered the bombshell, too. “No, signor. We beseech you, call off your holy war,” Ernest L. Meyer pontificated in Madison, Wisconsin’s The Capital Times. “Would you abolish macaroni and all its tunefully christened cousins—macaroncelli, foratini, maglietti, ditalini, vermicelli—and reduce Italians to the ugly dissonances of beans, cabbage, chops, chard, and chewing gum? Fie, signor, there is no poetry in your soul, and your palate lacks wit.”

Pasta drying in the streets of Naples in 1897.J.F. Jarvis, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

People living everywhere from France to Australia commented on the matter, but nowhere was the response more impassioned than in Italy. Women in the city of L’Aquila sent Marinetti a protest letter, and the mayor of Naples went so far as to proclaim that “the Angels in Paradise eat nothing but vermicelli with tomato sauce.” (Marinetti later retorted that this was simply proof of “the unappetizing monotony of Paradise and of the life of the Angels.”) But Futurism wasn’t unpopular, and the pasta ban had ardent advocates of its own. Italian writer Marco Ramperti, for example, lambasted the beloved repast in a highly imaginative op-ed.

“[Pasta] puffs out our cheeks like grotesque masks on a fountain, it stuffs our gullets as if we were Christmas turkeys, it ties up our insides with its flabby strings; it nails us to the chair, gorged and stupefied, apoplectic and gasping, with [a] sensation of uselessness …” he wrote. “Our thoughts wind round each other, get mixed up and tangled like the vermicelli we’ve taken in.”

The Movement Loses Steam

Marinetti collected the best testimonies from scientists, chefs, and literary firebrands like Ramperti and reproduced them in 1932’s La Cucina Futurista (“The Futurist Cookbook”), which also contained Futurist recipes and instructions for hosting various kinds of Futurist dinner parties. But the 1930s were an exceptionally tumultuous decade for the country—which faced the Great Depression, Adolf Hitler’s growing influence, a war with Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War, and eventually World War II—and Italian citizens were focused less on what they were eating and more on simply eating.

Two Neapolitan boys eating plates of pasta, date unknown.Bain News Service, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Furthermore, Futurism soon ran afoul of fascism. In 1937, Hitler decried modern art as “degenerate,” anti-nationalist, and somehow inherently Jewish. Though Marinetti spoke out against these associations, anti-Semitism had already infected Italy, and fascists started condemning the Futurist movement. Since Mussolini was courting Hitler as an ally, his regime’s ties to Futurism could easily have become a political liability. In 1939, when Marinetti published a fiery denial of Hitler’s accusations in a Futurist journal called Artecrazia, the government forced it to shutter.

So, by the 1940s, Marinetti was no longer spewing consistent vitriol against pasta, Il Duce was no longer supporting the Futurist movement, and the world at large was consumed with much greater threats than linguini-induced languor. And if Marinetti ever entertained fantasies about resurrecting the cause after the war, he never got the chance—he died of a heart attack in December 1944, just months before the deaths of both Mussolini and Hitler the following April.