National Cotton Candy Day is celebrated twice during the year, July 31st and December 7th.
I fondly remember standing in a crowd of joyful onlookers at the amusement park, smelling the sweet, warm smell of melting sugar while I watched strands of pink floss flying around the inside of a large metal bowl. As the cotton candy man spun pink clouds of sweetness onto long paper cones I cheerfully anticipated his candy filament covered arm handing the yummy treat to me.
Cotton Candy is a sweet, fluffy, soft candy confection made mostly from sugar, with food coloring and flavoring added. I like the way Christine Venzon of TLC Cooking describes it as "pillows of wool [that] melts in your mouth like a snowflake". You can read her excellent article about the science of making cotton candy here, at howstuffworks.com
A precursor to cotton candy, was spun sugar, made back in the 15th century. Pastry chefs from Venice drizzled caramelized sugar syrup with a fork around broom handles, and then worked the warm pliable threads into various shapes. But these sugar masterpieces were not for commoners. Sugar was very rare and expensive at the time and was considered a luxury, only for wealthy aristocrats.
Here, at sugarstand.com you will find a recipe on how to make your own homemade cotton candy, which I imagine is similar to the spun sugar made in the 15th century.
In 1897, machine spun cotton candy was invented by William Morrison and John C. Wharton. The machine had a small bowl in which sugar was poured and then food coloring added. The sugar reserve bowl was then spun at high speed while heaters near the rim melted the sugar, which squeezed out through tiny holes by centrifugal force.The molten sugar would then solidify in the air and be caught in a large metal bowl surrounding the central sugar reservoir bowl. The operator of the machine then twirled a stick or cone around the rim of the large catching bowl gathering the sugar strands into portions.
Morrison and Wharton introduced "Fairy Floss" to a wide audience at the 1904 St. Louis World's fair and met with great success. "Fairy Floss" was scooped up into a box and sold for 25 cents, half the admission price to the fair. Despite it's high price, the pair were able to sell 68,655 boxes of the fluffy candy, making $17,163.75 during the 6 month duration of the fair, quite a lot of money for that time. (It's nothing to sneeze at now either!)
The name was later changed from "Fairy Floss" to "Cotton Candy", but people in the industry refer to it simply as "floss".
Cotton candy machines work much the same way now as they did back then. And you don't have to wait for the local fair to open to buy this yummy nostalgic treat, you can now buy cotton candy at many stores and online, and it comes in various colors and flavors, such as blue raspberry, bubble gum, watermelon, and still the favorite - classic (pink) vanilla.
Sources: wikipedia.com howstuffworks.com
Image: Photobucket samiandlove321