Reuters blogger Jessica Wohl reported a few months ago on a Brand Keys survey whose results tell us, among other things, that men eat a good deal more chocolate when times get tough. A cursory survey of the average man’s expanding waistline could have told us as much!

At any rate, the survey of 750 American men aged 25 to 65 reports that the urge to munch on some chocolatey comfort is very common in just about every demographic therein. The most popular items are, naturally, candy bars, with the top 10 occupied exclusively by the Big Three (Mars, Hershey and Nestle). Snickers reigns supreme, with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kats nipping at its chewy heels.

Now, the survey was concerned with gauging men’s chocolate-eating habits and how they compare with past surveys. The survey did not take into account how many men were eating more chips, say, or fast food. Shameless cocoa cravings were exclusive. On the whole, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume empty calorie consumption is on the rise overall. Research scientists say that there’s no longterm benefit to gorging on candies and other snacks, but everyone knows we can’t resist a little ill-advised splurge when things get rough.

The report claims that there are no physiological payoffs to eating an increased amount of chocolate, though there are possible short-term boosts in pleasure centers in the brain. My theory: Men reach for treats that have been with them all their lives, from carefree childhood to today. Just like favorite songs and old friends, chocolate and other candies provide a tangible link to simpler, less stressful times.

Courtesy Neatorama, another stroll through the graveyard of long-gone candy bars. These deceased treats were found in the research and Candy Bar Gazebo zine of, of course, Ray Broekel.

THE AIR MAIL BAR. Introduced in 1930 to honor the first airmail flight in the U.S. – in 1918, from Washington, D.C. to New York City. Ironically, the first flight never made it to New York. After takeoff, the pilot noticed someone had forgotten to fill the fuel tank. Then he got lost over Maryland and had to land in a cow pasture. The Air Mail candy bar had a similar fate.

FAT EMMA. In the early 1920s, the Pendergast Candy Company in Minneapolis introduced a candy bar with a nougat center. They planned to call it the Emma bar. But when it wound up twice as thick as expected (they accidentally put too much egg white in the mixture), they changed the name to Fat Emma. Later, Frank Mars copied the idea to create the Milky Way bar.

THE SAL-LE-DANDE BAR. The first candy bar named after a stripper – Sally Rand, whose “fan dance” at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair shocked and titillated the nation. In the 1960s, another stripper bar was available briefly: the Gypsy bar, named after Gypsy Rose Lee.

The Red Grange Bar

THE RED GRANGE BAR. Endorsed by Red Grange, the most popular football player of his day. After starring at the University of Illinois, he joined the Chicago Bears in 1925 and helped keep the National Football League in business. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do the same for his candy bar.

THE VEGETABLE SANDWICH BAR. One of the weirdest “health” bar ever made, this 1920s vegetable concoction contained cabbage, celery, peppers, and tomatoes. Its makers claimed that it aided digestion and “will not constipate.”

THE ZEP CANDY BAR. “Sky-High Quality.” One of several candy bars that capitalized on the popularity of “lighter-than-air” dirigibles in the 1930s. This one featured a sketch of a Graf Zeppelin on the wrapper. It was taken off the market after the Hindenburg exploded in 1937.

THE CHICKEN DINNER BAR. One of the bestselling bars you’ve never heard of. It was introduced in the 1920s and remained on the market for about 50 years. The original wrapper featured a picture of a roasting chicken on a dinner plate – a bizarre way of suggesting it was a nourishing meal and encouraging customers to associate it with prosperity (“a chicken in every pot”). The manufacturer, Sperry Candy Co., even dispatched a fleet of Model A trucks disguised as giant sheet-metal chickens to deliver the candy to stores. Several years after the bar’s debut, Sperry dropped the chicken from the wrapper. But it kept the name.

THE BIG-HEARTED “AL” BAR. George Williamson, owner of the Williamson Candy Company, was a good Democrat and a good friend of New York governor Al Smith, Democratic nominee for president in 1928. Smith lost in a landslide to Herbert Hoover, and his candy bar soon followed.

Seven Up

THE SEVEN UP CANDY BAR. Got its name from having seven connected pieces, each with a different center. The bar came out in the 1930s, before the 7-Up Bottling Company began production of its soft drink – so the Trudeau Candy Company owned the trademark rights to the name. Eventually the 7-Up Bottling Company bought the bar and retired it, so they had exclusive use of the name no matter how it was spelled – Seven Up or 7-Up.

THE “IT” BAR. The #1 female sex symbol of the silent movie era was Clara Bow – known as the “It Girl.” (She had that special quality her movie studio called “It.”) In 1927 the McDonald Candy Company of Salt Lake City tried cashing in on her popularity with a candy bar featuring her face on the wrapper. It did well for a few years, then disappeared along with Bow. (She wasn’t able to make the switch to talkies, because although she was lovely to look at, her Brooklyn accent made her impossible to listen to.)

Also Gone: The Betsy Ross bar, the Lindy (for Charles Lindbergh), Amos ‘n’ Andy, Poor Prune, Vita Sert, and Doctor’s Orders.

As promised, the remainder of Ray Broekel’s 1986 American Heritage article. Read the rest of this entry »

Below is an article the late candy historian Ray Broekel wrote for American Heritage waaaaay back in 1986. Its amusing sidebar, “Ten Immortals”, will appear in a subsequent post. Read the rest of this entry »

Sweet Greetings!

September 4, 2008

Just a quick post to say hello and let any potential readers know what I’m up to here.

Candies, confections, treats… Novelties and sweets, chips, snacks and munchies… In our modern age of mass consumption and sensory gratification, it’s easy to decry our base impulses, particularly when the majority of them drive us to gobble up a boggling variety of nutritionally vacant, ultra-processed foodstuffs. In lieu of vigorous exercise or inner reflection, we too commonly seek comfort in the multi-hued gluttony of candy temptresses. It figures largely, no doubt, in our booming rates of obesity and other determinants of poor health. Sugary and salty snacks, much like television, temporarily distract us from the larger scope of the world around us, but ultimately we come crashing back down and feel we have no option but to seek that cheap euphoria again.

But…! But…they’re so gooooooood! A little flirtation with caramel or bright orange cheese now and then adds a cheery escapist fling to hum-drum days and late-night insomnia. The tastes and textures toy with our tummies so terrifically! Like surrendering to the strains of a touching melody or giggling at an improbably tiny toy dog, treats lift our spirits and add dimension to the human experience. When engaged with conscious effort free of distraction, all five senses come to life and the mind does little backflips of glee. A candy bar can be as stimulating to the primary hunger impulse as pot roast or fresh-baked bread.

Junk food: Stuff we shovel hand over fist which has practically no nutritive value whatsoever. I use the term with affection but wariness. I don’t intend to promote excessive consumption of junk over much more responsible choices like fruit and veggies. What I’m promoting is responsible consumption (i.e., in small doses and not as a replacement for a wholesome meal) of foods engineering to entertain and add a bit of levity to daily life.

And so I’ve started this blog to indulge my curiosity of and appreciation for the foods that delight and amuse. It’s all on the table, and I can scarcely pick a direction before wanting to dart off in another. I’m no junk food junkie, but I’m easily overwhelmed by the staggering volume of products we Americans have developed to satiate our hunger and desire for expression. So many niches are packed chock-a-block with countless opportunities to becalm every taste bud several times over. At a determined pace, I hope to explore this bright, shiny world. From the ubiquitous candy bars and chips, to regional specialties, to even alcoholic beverages and other tasty things mom would frown on, I’m casting my eyes all about for fun, fantastic food fodder. I’ll try tossing in a good measure of confectionary history, news, trivia and nostalgia, too.

I hope you’ll pick up on the Confectionarium and join me in my search for the absurd, the sublime and the timeless treats that ravage diets with utter abandon.