Cotton Candy - Then And Now

When you were just a little kid at the fair or baseball game, chances are you were not thinking about what cotton candy is made of.  All you knew was that it was colorful, fluffy, and tasted like sugar.  What more excuse did you need to bug your parents to buy it for you?


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But maybe, just maybe, as you have grown older, you have began to wonder about some of the foods you put it into your body.  Certainly cotton candy probably isn't good for you.  And seriously, what's it made of?  Are you putting a bunch of processed chemicals into your body?  Should you stop eating the soft stuff, or buying it for your children?  Oh, the horror!

Luckily, the short answer is that most of these negative rumors are simply not true.  And in actuality, eating the world's most common fluffy food is actually a lot healthier than a lot of the other crap they sell at the grocery store today.  In fact, most of what's in cotton candy is is actually just air and spun sugar.  And while sugar probably isn't what you want to hear as far as your health goes, it is still a whole lot better than many other chemicals or bad-for-your-body agents that you could be consuming.  In fact, the only serious additives are those that are used for flavoring.  After all, simply throwing in blue or pink food coloring won't make one taste better than another!

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The treat was first introduced in the 1700s in Europe, where it was considered a delicacy, because it was tricky and expensive to make.  In 1897, it was brought closer to the common man by a dentist named William Morrison, and an expert with confectionary sugar, John C. Warton.  Together, the two invented a machine-spun process to make the tasty snack, making it cheaper and more affordable.  It made a big debut at the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis, selling for the equivalent of 6 USD today.[1]

Although the food was popular among those who tried in 1904, it wasn't until 1921 when it really began to spread across the country.  A man in Louisiana invented a similar machine-spun process, and started selling it.  This is where the name cotton candy first came into play, as opposed to "fairy floss" which it had been called before.  Even today, it is still referred to as fairy floss in Australia.  What's particularly interesting, is that this process has remained largely unchanged since its inception.  Making cotton candy today is incredibly similar to a hundred years ago, the only difference being the scale, as it is produced en masse, mostly by the world's largest manufacturer, Tootsie Roll.  If you want the small, traditional feel, it is also now possible to buy a machine to make your own at home.[2]

Finally, the most important thing is that you remember to mark your calendars and celebrate National Cotton Candy Day on December 7th!