The History of Classic Carnival Foods

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The CNE brings us the anticipated weird and the wacky eats each year.  They bring us food truck events and cooking demos.  Yet a truly genuine experience to any town fair and carnival is only complete with gallons of freshly squeezed lemonade, hands sticky from spun sugar and faces dripping in caramel, cinnamon or frozen milk products (or all of the above). While our stomach are roiling with a cacophony of indulgences let’s consider how our nostalgic favourites came to be?

Cotton Candy

Invented back in 1899 and introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Fairy Floss, Candy Floss or as Canadians know it, Cotton Candy began simply as finely ground sugar melted and spun in a large centrifuge with holes to create fine threads of sweetness. During that fair boxes were sold for an expensive 25 cents yet people were so enamoured with the concept a total of 68,655 boxes were sold, equaling  a massive profit back then of $17,163.75.

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Mini Donuts

A lot of unconfirmed theories surround where the mini donut started. Of course they evolved from the their larger counterpart much like the cupcakes coming from cakes, yet the most common thread of speculation was that  they were created during the Spanish-American War when rations were tight and smaller portions were given out. Thanks heavens that is no longer the case as most people today can easily throw back a dozen or more.

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Funnel Cakes

Fried dough can never be a bad thing and the long history of funnel cakes, dating back to Anglo-Norman Medieval times, supports our love for it.  And while the current techniques and recipe are thanks to the Pennsylvanian Dutch, any grade school child in Ontario can be equally grateful to both since no trip to Canada’s Wonderland is complete without a massive plate of Funnel cake.

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The first snow cone making machine was invented in 1920, however the popular treat was already being enjoyed at home where cheap ice and mom’s homemade syrup made for an affordable summer treat. Simply shaved iced doused with flavoured sugar water, the world’s most popular  taste continues to be the classic fruity “rainbow” flavour.

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Ice Cream Waffle Sandwich

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Ice Cream Waffle Sandwich at The Ex.  Another confection with an unconfirmed history it is believed to have been the brain child of Sharole Levan and her other Conklin Carnival employees  on route to the CNE where it made its International Debut. Hot fluffy waffles sandwiching cold, vanilla ice cream; can’t go wrong with that idea.

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Candy Apples

In the case of my favorite carnival treat, the candy came before the fruit.  In 1908, William Kolb wanted a way to promote his hard cinnamon candy.  By coating an apple on a stick with the bright red sugary treat he hoped to bring in more customers who in turn would ask about the candy and purchase it.  Little did he anticipate that while customers did in fact asked about it, they wanted it with the apple.  Variations with caramel, toffee and nuts are just as popular but it’s the classic fire engine red that started it all.

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Corn Dog

It seems that everyone wants a piece of glory in the creation of the corn dog.  Whether it’s the mom and pop shop in Oregon or the creative father in Springfield, Illinois that can be credited, the corn dogs short history matters little when you get a hankering for a deep fried battered hot on a stick. But why “corn”? The batter consists of the smallest amount of cornmeal therefore giving its famous moniker.

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Deep fired chocolate bars or anything on a stick has becoming more and more popular at carnivals and fairs, it’s the classics that we can never resist.  And while their history are varied, the pleasure they bring children and adults alike never changes.

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