Just about everyone has their favorite fall traditions, whether it be roasting marshmallows over a bonfire, carving Jack-O-Lanterns and trick or treating, munching on juicy and sweet caramel apples or running through haunted houses and corn mazes. Though many enjoy these activities and foods, most do not know where these traditions came from. Here is a list of nostalgic foods that have age-old origins.
S’mores, now often enjoyed by a bonfire, were once used as a medicinal treatment by the ancient Greeks and Romans. When the French were sold the health treatment marketed as a candy, they mixed in eggs and sugar to form the foam that creates the marshmallow consistency, which further evolved into a gelatin mixture in the 19th century. Around the time marshmallows were being marketed and produced, New Jersey Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham was sharing his beliefs surrounding the destruction of morality due to sexual desire. Graham strongly believed that foods could not only spark sexual arousal, but also that food could curb and “cure” it. Graham began baking bland crackers named after himself, which was marketed to limit sex drives and eventually developed into what we know as the Graham cracker. In 1927, the Girl Scout’s Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts guidebook provided families with the first recipe for the sweet treat. The messy and chocolatey combination was deemed to be so good, you would be asking for “some more,” which later shortened to be s’more.
These sweet and sticky treats are said to have originated from Newark candy-maker William Kolb. Kolb created the candy apple when practicing with possible treats to market for the Christmas season in 1908. He dipped his apples into a red cinnamon mixture and sold them in batches for 5 cents. The candied fruit quickly gained popularity, and when Kolb began selling out each year, other bakers began selling them across the United States. Other spin-offs of the candied apple have been created over the years, such as caramel, chocolate and toffee apples covered in a variety of toppings. Many other countries have also developed versions of candied fruits in Brazil, China, Germany and others.
This sweet and tangy drink available at fall festivals, farmers markets and even your local grocery store during the cooler months originated as an alcoholic drink brewed from apples that were too bitter to eat. When these apples were pressed, and their juice was fermented, a hard cider formed. While evidence suggests apple trees grew in places all over the world, such as in ancient Egypt, it was the Romans who made note of the drink enjoyed by locals of the British Isles in 55 B.C. during their travels. The Romans shared the drink throughout Europe, and soon enough apple orchards were being used for the spiked drink. Colonists also brought the drink to America, and drank it often in replace of beer, due to the lack of good growing conditions for grains and barley needed to create it. The drink is now available for non-alcoholic drinkers as well, and is a staple at most holiday and fall gatherings.
Some love it, some hate it, but it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t recognize it. The bright white, orange and yellow candy has its own day of celebration on Oct. 31. The day honors the 9 billion pieces made each year. The tiny treat was invented by a Wunderlee Candy Company employee in the 1880s named George Renninger. Soon after, the Jelly Belly Candy Company picked up the candy idea and has been making it ever since. The colorful candy was made by heating sugar and corn syrup together and stretching the batch into molds shaped like corn kernels. While the process for manufacturing these candies is much faster today due to automated machines for coloring and stretching, the candies still resemble a shape, color and taste similar to the original candy corn.
Many of us like to ring in the new colorful season with the many flavors of fall. One popular food many are familiar with is pumpkin pie. Pumpkins can be traced back to 5,500 B.C. in Central America, and when they were eventually brought back from European explorers traveling the New World, they were dubbed “pumpions,” after the French word referencing their round and plump shape. Though the exact date of the food's origin is difficult to pinpoint, it is estimated to be as early as 1621, with American settlers at the Plymouth Plantation stewing pumpkins with milk, honey and available spices. Today’s pumpkin pie has evolved to include a flaky crust and spices that may have not been available to the early settlers, who used the hollow pumpkin as a pot to cook the dish in.
No matter what fall foods you choose to enjoy, make sure to fill the autumn season with foods and traditions that remind you of home.