Cotton Candy

Ever wonder where cotton candy came from?

Whenever you go to the fair, amusement park, or circus, you’re likely to see food vendors with blue and pink fluffy cotton candy, some in packages as large as a young child. The texture is soft, but sticks to the moisture of your fingers or tongue. In your mouth, it melts down to almost nothing, leaving a pure sweetness behind.

Cotton candy has been around for a long time, although not in its current form. The Iranians created a confection called “Pashmak” from sugar and sesame oil, which was probably the predecessor to our modern day cotton candy. Pashmak means “like wool.”

Recipes for spun sugar are found in European cookbooks back to the mid-eighteenth century. Confectioners would go to great lengths to carefully melt sugar and fling the floss like strands into carefully crafted shapes. They would create spun sugar nests for Easter and sugar webs to decorate desserts.

In 1897 William Morrison and John Wharton patented a candy machine that produced what we know as cotton candy. Thomas Patton used his own patented machine to serve cotton candy at the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1900. Morrison and Wharton sold their candy, which they called fairy floss, at the 1904 World’s Fair for 25 cents a box, the cost of a child’s admission. Josef Lascaux, a dentist, also claims to have created the confection around the same time, but holds no patent.

Gold Medal Products perfected the cotton candy machine in 1949, making it widely available. Even home cotton candy machines can be purchased today. Cotton candy is made by heating granulated sugar and then forcing it through tiny holes by spinning it. Once forced through the holes, the sugar cools when it hits the air and collects on the outside of the container in light, fluffy, strands.

Recently, Dr. John Spector and Leon Bellan have discovered a new use for the fluffy sweet stuff. By pouring a liquid chemical over cotton candy, allowing the liquid to harden, and then washing the sugar away, tiny vessels and passageways remain in the hardened liquid. Cells are placed in these tiny passageways, creating artificial blood vessels. This may become a new method to create new tissues for injured people.

Next time you purchase a package of cotton candy, think about how far it’s come and how far it may still go. Eat it quickly, especially if it’s humid. Share it with someone you love, and make sure you pass it on to the next generation.



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