Pink clouds of sugar wrapped around a cardboard cone; a familiar childhood memory for many who spent time at the beach strolling the boardwalk or enjoying time at the county fair. Cotton candy has been the subject of poems and in the title of books like, Nikki Giovanni’s Cotton candy on a Rainy Day, a metaphor for the yummy things we love, that disappear so quickly. Its’ a simple concoction, an easy recipe, that brings so much joy and smiles to the eyes of kids and adults; yet, it is one of the few food items we rarely, if ever, attempt to make at home. Cotton candy is magic. That is why we love it so much.
Cotton candy, one of the most popular concession stand items, is deliciously flavored spun sugar, called “candy floss” in Europe and the UK. It is best known in the United States and Canada, as cotton candy and its bubble gum colors come from the use of food coloring. Over the years, this sweetest of the sweets, has come in many flavors, from strawberry and watermelon to more recent exotic flavors like mango and pink lemonade. Many times the flavors of cotton candy reflects the culture and environment of those who make it; for example in Canada, maple flavored cotton candy is a very popular flavor.
The making of cotton candy dates back to the 16th century and was considered somewhat of a luxury because of the expensive process it took to make the confection. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that cotton candy was spun on a machine. This made the process much less labor intensive and cheaper to create, making it a treat that became available to the everyday person. Ironically, it was a dentist by
the name of William Morrison who partnered with confectioner John C. Wharton, who invented machine-spun cotton candy; hence the name, ‘candy floss” or “Fairy Floss”, which it was called at the 1904 World’s Fair.
In more recent times, in 1921, another dentist, Joseph Lascaux, from New Orleans, Louisiana, updated the machine that is now used to make this magical airy treat and officially named it “cotton candy”. In the 70’s this same machine was updated and automated again so that it now creates and also packages the cotton candy product.
In spite of cotton candy’s somewhat complex history, this very simply made, sweet and sticky treat is still creating sparkles in the eyes of every child at birthday parties, carnivals and fairs today; and in more exotic flavors than ever imagined. Cotton candy is still making fans after all these years.