The Gooey History of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

Open any pantry in New England and chances are you’ll find at least one jar of Marshmallow Fluff. Not just any old marshmallow crème, but Fluff; the one manufactured by Durkee-Mower of Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, and the preferred brand of the northeast. With its familiar red lid and classic blue label, it's long been a favorite guilty pleasure and a kitchen staple beloved throughout the region.

This gooey, spreadable, marshmallow-infused confection is used in countless recipes and found in a variety of baked goods—from whoopie pies and Rice Krispies Treats to chocolate fudge and beyond. And in the beyond lies perhaps the most treasured concoction of all: the Fluffernutter sandwich—a classic New England treat made with white bread, peanut butter, and, you guessed it, Fluff. No jelly required. Or wanted.

 

There are several claims to the origin of the sandwich. The first begins with Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere—or, not Paul exactly, but his great-great-great-grandchildren Emma and Amory Curtis of Melrose, Massachusetts. Both siblings were highly intelligent and forward-thinkers, and Amory was even accepted into MIT. But when the family couldn’t afford to send him, he founded a Boston-based company in the 1890s that specialized in soda fountain equipment.

He sold the business in 1901 and used the proceeds to buy the entire east side of Crystal Street in Melrose. Soon after he built a house and, in his basement, he created a marshmallow spread known as Snowflake Marshmallow Crème (later called SMAC), which actually predated Fluff. By the early 1910s, the Curtis Marshmallow Factory was established and Snowflake became the first commercially successful shelf-stable marshmallow crème.

Although other companies were manufacturing similar products, it was Emma who set the Curtis brand apart from the rest. She had a knack for marketing and thought up many different ways to popularize their marshmallow crème, including the creation of one-of-a-kind recipes, like sandwiches that featured nuts and marshmallow crème. She shared her culinary gems in a weekly newspaper column and radio show. By 1915, Snowflake was selling nationwide.

During World War I, when Americans were urged to sacrifice meat one day a week, Emma published a recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. She named her creation the "Liberty Sandwich," as a person could still obtain his or her daily nutrients while simultaneously supporting the wartime cause. Some have pointed to Emma’s 1918 published recipe as the earliest known example of a Fluffernutter, but the earliest recipe mental_floss can find comes from three years prior. In 1915, the confectioners trade journal Candy and Ice Cream published a list of lunch offerings that candy shops could advertise beyond hot soup. One of them was the "Mallonut Sandwich," which involved peanut butter and "marshmallow whip or mallo topping," spread on lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

 

Another origin story comes from Somerville, Massachusetts, home to entrepreneur Archibald Query. Query began making his own version of marshmallow crème and selling it door-to-door in 1917. Due to sugar shortages during World War I, his business began to fail. Query quickly sold the rights to his recipe to candy makers H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower in 1920. The cost? A modest $500 for what would go on to become the Marshmallow Fluff empire.

Although the business partners promoted the sandwich treat early in the company’s history, the delicious snack wasn’t officially called the Fluffernutter until the 1960s, when Durkee-Mower hired a PR firm to help them market the sandwich, which resulted in a particularly catchy jingle explaining the recipe.

So who owns the bragging rights? While some anonymous candy shop owner was likely the first to actually put the two together, Emma Curtis created the early precursors and brought the concept to a national audience, and Durkee-Mower added the now-ubiquitous crème and catchy name. And the Fluffernutter has never lost its popularity.

In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature spent a full week deliberating over whether or not the Fluffernutter should be named the official state sandwich. On one side, some argued that marshmallow crème and peanut butter added to the epidemic of childhood obesity. The history-bound fanatics that stood against them contended that the Fluffernutter was a proud culinary legacy. One state representative even proclaimed, "I’m going to fight to the death for Fluff." True dedication, but the bill has been stalled for more than a decade despite several revivals and subsequent petitions from loyal fans.

But Fluff lovers needn’t despair. There’s a National Fluffernutter Day (October 8) for hardcore fans, and the town of Somerville, Massachusetts still celebrates its Fluff pride with an annual What the Fluff? festival.

 

"Everyone feels like Fluff is part of their childhood," said self-proclaimed Fluff expert and the festival's executive director, Mimi Graney, in an interview with Boston Magazine. "Whether born in the 1940s or '50s, or '60s, or later—everyone feels nostalgic for Fluff. I think New Englanders in general have a particular fondness for it."

A Fluffernutter sandwich
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

Today, the Fluffernutter sandwich is as much of a part of New England cuisine as baked beans or blueberry pie. While some people live and die by the traditional combination, the sandwich now comes in all shapes and sizes, with the addition of salty and savory toppings as a favorite twist. Wheat bread is as popular as white, and many like to grill their sandwiches for a touch of bistro flair. But don't ask a New Englander to swap out their favorite brand of marshmallow crème. That’s just asking too Fluffing much.

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]

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