One contender for the title of “First Candy in History”

It seems so obvious now. The (admittedly) circumstantial evidence seems pretty compelling. The earliest candy that we would recognize is –

Brittle.

Most of us recognize brittle in the form of peanut brittle, with an ingredient list containing something along the lines of baking soda, sugar, corn syrup, butter, and peanuts. The first brittles would have been much different – probably nothing more than thick seeds, whatever nuts were on hand, mixed into honey and then dried on a hot rock (from either sunlight or next to a fire).

It’s quite possible that brittle would have been closer in composition to that of a granola bar rather than that of the bark-like candy we know and enjoy today. Think of a “rolled ball” of nuts and seeds, and you’ll get an idea of what it might have been like. Coating (aka preserving, depending upon your point of view) fruits, nuts, and seeds with honey was well known in Egypt. Rolling a combination of these ingredients together was both logistically and technically possible.

As per usual, this is pure supposition on my part. There is little to no actual evidence that I am aware of (yet) that says “yes, brittle would have been one of the first candies”.

However – and it’s a big however – timing here is important. For about the time that the Mediterranean world was getting its act together culturally, the area that we know of today as India was getting the sugar cane. Additionally, citizens of Arya, an ethnic group that lived over three thousand years ago in what today would be the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, would offer guests to their home a treat called madhuparka, a mixture of honey, curds, and clarified butter. Timing seems to be in the Egyptians favor, but there is just no way to know for certain.

Welcome to the world of food history – a place where most people didn’t have the means to write stuff like this down.