You might just take a cotton to today’s sweet food holiday. December 7 is National Cotton Candy Day!
For a day that will live in infamy, you’d think we’d celebrate with something a little classier. Besides, isn’t cotton candy associated with fairs and carnivals, and don’t those typically occur during the summer months? Oh well, it’s already been well established that if we were in charge of these food holidays, the calendar would look very different than it does.
Cotton candy – also known as candy floss (UK, Ireland, New Zealand, India and South Africa) and fairy floss (Australia) – is simply spun sugar. That’s the only ingredient. And surprisingly, it doesn’t even contain all that much sugar – about the same as you’d consume drinking a can of soda. Food color is added to give it that vibrant pink or blue hue. It first appeared in Europe in the 18th century, but at that time spun sugar was an expensive and labor-intensive process, and few could afford the treat. In 1897 machine-spun cotton candy was invented by a dentist (of all people!), William Morrison, and confectioner John C. Wharton. It was introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair as “fairy floss” and was a huge hit. Joseph Lascaux, another dentist (really?! I’m beginning to think this was all a big conspiracy to increase business) in New Orleans invented a similar machine in 1921 and called his product cotton candy, a name he patented. Fairy floss faded into obscurity except in Australia, where it’s still called that to this day. Good on you, mates! In 1972, an automated cotton candy machine was introduced, making it easier to package and mass market the stuff.
I wasn’t sure that we’d even be able to find cotton candy this time of year, but WinCo sells a packaged version year-round. You don’t get the stick like you find at circuses and fairs, but otherwise, it’s exactly the same. Sugary and sweet and melts in your mouth. A little odd in December, but hey – these holidays don’t always make sense.