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, Aug 25, 2014
by Ned Wazowski

Summertime Treats: Cotton Candy

Curio & Co. looks at nostalgia for summertime treats from childhood with cotton candy. Image of children very excited to be served cotton candy. Source, Heinz Family Fund/Carnegie Museum of Art. www.curioandco.com

Nostalgia at its stickiest.

Cotton Candy is a delightful summertime treat, and one that seems to sum up a lot of summer experiences. From a distance, it’s big and bold and commands a lot of attention – the same way summer vacations loom large in our anticipation and are the subjects of so many of our daydreams. It is available at so many summer destinations and it’s perfect for sharing. But alas, just like summer trips to the beach or summer tans or even a summer fling, the cotton candy melts away too soon and you’re left with air where your summer dreams once were.

Spun sugar, the precursor to cotton candy, was high class when it first appeared in Europe in the 18th century. It was spun by hand back then and was so labor intensive that it wasn’t available to us common folks. However, once machine-spun cotton candy was invented in 1897 – by a dentist no less – wider audiences got a taste of the sweet stuff.

At the St. Louis World’s Fair where cotton candy was first introduced in 1904, a box of the stuff (then called fairy floss) cost nearly half the price of admission to the fair itself. Today you can find cotton candy at county fairs, circus tents, amusement parks and vendors along the boardwalk in a variety of colors. And sure, you’re just eating pure sugar, but it’s far less sugar than a soft drink, so as summertime treats go, it’s not that bad.

Cotton candy contains summer magic. How else can you explain that it looks like cotton wool but melts on your tongue like a snowflake?

Image:Heinz Family Fund/Carnegie Museum of Art

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