What’s in a normal serving of cotton candy? Two tablespoons of sugar and a lot of air. Nutrition: 96 calories and no fat. And that’s not all. Here are some strange and interesting facts about cotton candy.
- Who introduced cotton candy to the world? Dentists. The first was Dr. William Morrison of Nashville. In 1897 he and candy maker John C. Wharton invented a device that melted sugar and blew it through a fine screen to create “Fairy Floss.” He introduced it at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and sold 68,000 boxes for 25¢ each ($6.75 in today’s money).
- Another dentist, Dr. Josef Lascaux of New Orleans, improved the design in 1921 and trademarked the name “Cotton Candy.”
- What Americans call cotton candy is called “candyfloss” in the UK and India, “fairy floss” in Australia and Finland, “papa’s beard” (barbe à papa) in France, and “old ladies’ hair” in Greece.
- Modern cotton candy machines melt the sugar and spin it at thousands of revolutions per minute, using centrifugal force to shoot the molten liquid through tiny holes. When it hits the air, it immediately hardens into miles of fine threads.
- Threads of cotton candy are thinner than a human hair.
- Spun sugar has been around since the 17th century. Chefs whisk melted sugar into thin strands with a fork, using them to decorate cakes and pastries.
- Other versions of candy floss: Iran has pashmak (Persian for “wool-like”) with sesame added to the sugar before melting; the Himalayan nation of Bhutan has ngathrek golop lhakpa—spun sugar with butter tea and chili pepper; China has “dragon’s beard candy,” with peanuts and coconut (and a texture like horsehair); and Turkey has Pi˛smaniye—spun sugar blended with buttered flour.
- National Cotton Candy Day is December 7. Fabric makers use a similar melting-and-spinning process to make polyester thread for weaving into cloth.
Click on for more strange and interesting facts about food and drinks. This story originally published in Uncle John’s Canoramic Bathroom Reader.