Why is it Called Salt Water Taffy?

iStock / supitchamcsdam
iStock / supitchamcsdam

Reader Charlotte asks, “Why do they call it salt water taffy?”

Salt water taffy, contrary to what I believed as a kid, contains no saltwater from the ocean. In fact, my preferred salt water taffy, from Shriver’s in Ocean City, New Jersey, contains no salt at all and very little water. Other versions do use salt and water, but they’re not notably salty, and certainly not watery. So how did the candy get that name?

It’s not entirely clear, but according to Jersey Shore legend, it went something like this: In 1883, a storm hit Atlantic City. The boardwalk at the time was smaller and lower than it is today. During the storm, waves easily cleared the boardwalk and flooded several businesses with sea water, including a candy shop owned by David Bradley. When a young girl came in to the shop to buy some taffy after the storm, Bradley looked around his soggy store and jokingly told her all he had was “salt water taffy.” Not understanding the sarcasm, she bought some and went on her way. Bradley’s mom overheard the exchange and suggested that the name was catchy and that Bradley keep calling the candy that. 

In Fast Food and Junk Food: An Encyclopedia of What We Love to Eat—which gives a different variation of the story centered around Bradley’s boss—food historian Andrew Smith says that calling it “salt water” taffy was “simply a marketing ploy—and a very successful one, at that. The name was picked up by other vendors in Atlantic City, and then borrowed by candy makers in other coastal towns from Florida to Massachusetts. By the 1920s, saltwater taffy had become a big business, with more than 450 companies manufacturing it.”

A Romantic Toast: Waffle House Is Taking Reservations for Valentine’s Day

For many people, paltry portions of food and a budget-busting restaurant bill can kill the Valentine’s Day mood just as quickly as a nasty bout of the flu. But this year, you can have your pancake and eat it, too—Waffle House is accepting reservations for February 14.

According to Southern Living, the breakfast chain will offer special menu items and even cover its tables with candles and white tablecloths, creating the ideal ambience for romance and giving your nervous hands a free pass to spill syrup everywhere without feeling too bad.

The tradition started back in 2008 at a Waffle House in Johns Creek, Georgia, where an annual rush of couples on Valentine’s Day inspired the manager to embrace the spirit of love and make the restaurant a little more romantic.

February 14 is now the only day you can make a reservation at a Waffle House—after all, an overcrowded foyer full of people waiting for a table doesn’t quite scream “That’s Amore!” A belly full of bacon and waffles, on the other hand, most definitely does.

This year, almost 200 restaurants across 21 states are participating in the promotion. You can find the full list of locations (along with phone numbers to call to make your reservation) here.

And prepare to dazzle your date with 11 fascinating facts about Waffle House here.

[h/t Southern Living]

We May Have the Ancient Romans to Thank for Hamburgers

vvmich, iStock via Getty Images
vvmich, iStock via Getty Images

Before the Whopper and the Big Mac, there was isicia omentata. Seasoned with white wine and fish sauce, the ancient Roman recipe hardly resembles fast food, but experts believe it could be history's earliest example of a hamburger, IFL Science reports.

The cookbook Apicius, which dates from the fourth or fifth century and was likely named for the famously gluttonous Roman foodie Marcus Gavius Apicius, provides a glimpse into the extravagant diets of early Rome's upper class. One of the more familiar recipes in the tome is a minced meat patty served with a bread roll—in other words, a burger in the barest sense of the term.

Isicia omentata wasn't intended to be a cheap bite for the hungry commoner like today's burgers are. The meat was flavored with ingredients like pine nuts, peppercorns, and a fermented fish sauce called garum. (Though adding seafood to your burger may seem strange today, garum wasn't that different from the Chinese fish sauce that eventually evolved into present-day ketchup.) The roll that came with it was soaked in white wine—a departure from your average sesame seed bun.

It's unclear if this dish had any influence on the modern hamburger. Many experts credit German immigrants with bringing minced meat patties from Hamburg to the United States. Known as "Hamburg steaks," those first patties were served without buns, and they were also considered gourmet cuisine. The hamburger's affordability is a relatively recent development in the food's history.

If you're interested in dining as the Romans did, you can find the recipe for isicia omentata online. Fries are optional.

[h/t IFL Science]