In honor of yesterday’s candy-laden holiday, it seems appropriate to feature, well, candy. And what good culinary history collection doesn’t have material on that subject? Sure, there are traditional chocolates, candy hearts, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and chocolate cherries. But what if there was something better…something healthier? Enter Candy -Making Revolutionized: Confectionery from Vegetables, a book about making candy from vegetables. Seriously.
Published in 1912, this little book takes a novel approach to the sweet. Ranging from root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets, and carrots) to fruits (tomatoes and dates) to spices (ginger), the book includes recipes for candies of all sorts. In addition simply crystallizing or candying pieces, there are specific directions on making marshmallows, puffs, creams, bon-bons, nutlettes, and pastilles. There are instructions for making basic candy you can shape into anything (note the table spread in the image gallery above with its pigs, flowers, and boutonnieres). The book includes several chapters on the techniques, as well information for caterers looking to expand their menus and teachers looking to add that little something extra to a class. And, like every good recipe book, it contains at least one treatment for sickness–onion tablets! You can read about those in the pages above.
Mary Elizabeth Hall’s introduction includes her reasons for touting vegetable confectioneries: the healthy nature of vegetables, the ease with which anyone with a garden has access to ingredients, the fact that beautiful items can be made with simple kitchen tools. However, good reasons aside, it is well worth sharing the start of the introduction:
The years of work in candy-making that have made possible this book, I now look back upon with a certain feeling of satisfaction. The satisfaction comes from the knowledge that because of the discovery that is here recorded, the candy of the future will be purer, more wholesome, more nourishing than that of the past has been. Even if the processes that are here set forth fail of the widest adoption, I have still the satisfaction of knowing that just so far as they are adopted will there be greater healthfulness of confectionery. (vi)
While no one really grabbed hold of Mary Hall’s philosophy, and a majority of our candy is a lot less healthier than it was in her day, there is still some hope. Organic, local, and healthy trends in eating may very well bring us to something close to the green bean taffy and potato caramel of 1912.
Besides, when you think about it, is there better way to say “I Love You” than with a decorative box filled with beet puffs, tomato marshmallows, and potato mocha walnuts? Yes, plenty (perhaps but NOT giving someone that box in the first place?)! On the one hand, this book could be a reminder that just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. On the other hand, you could do a lot worse than a candied green bean and gingered carrots…right?
On a final note, if you can’t come here to see our copy, this book is out of copyright and you can find is online in a number of formats.