If you visit any Atlantic seaside resort area from New Jersey down to Florida, you’re sure to find an old-fashioned candy store where you can watch candy makers pull salt water taffy. I’ve seen a few, but none were as forthcoming and friendly as the young man we watched at Wee R Sweetz in Myrtle Beach. I felt like we were getting a combination show/tour/candy-making lesson that ended with a sample of soft, gooey salt water taffy at the end.
As he guided the huge wad of sugary goodness through the machine, he told us the brief history of salt water taffy. There’s actually no salt water in taffy. It got it’s name when a candy store in Atlantic City, New Jersey was flooded during a hurricane. All the taffy got soaked with ocean water, but the store owner sold it, jokingly calling it “salt water taffy.” The name stuck and may be part of why taffy is sold at so many beachside towns. Roam any boardwalk along the Atlantic and you’re sure to find someone selling salt water taffy.
We watched our guy thread the taffy through the machines that aerate it and mix the food coloring in. It reminded my mother of her childhood days when people pulled taffy at home. I tried to visualize how you’d handle a sticky mess like the one on the machines. I didn’t think I’d like to try it, but at the same time, could imagine a family talking and socializing as they folded the taffy together and pulled it apart. Maybe I would have liked to do it after all.
We were watching a batch of strawberry taffy being made. What set this candy maker apart from others I’ve seen (aside from his engaging presentation), was that he decided to add black “seeds” into the strawberry taffy pieces by rolling out thin strips of black-colored taffy onto the sheet of pink-colored strawberry taffy he’d made. Then he rolled it all up and loaded it into the machine that cuts it off into bite-sized pieces and wraps it. He tossed out pieces to everyone in the crowd and we all swooned over the still warm, fresh piece of delectable taffy that we popped into our mouths.
If you’ve never had salt water taffy, it’s made of corn syrup, sugar, cornstarch, glycerine, water, butter and salt. It’s consistency is something between bubble gum and caramel. I ended up buying bags of salt water taffy to bring home in flavors such as root beer, cookies & cream, apple, butterscotch, cherry, pina colada, peach, chocolate, and key lime pie. Every piece I’ve eaten has been soft and sweet and instantly takes me back to Myrtle Beach. I wish I’d bought more!
Is there a certain food you associate with a place?