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50 Sweet Facts About Your Favorite Halloween Candies

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It’s no surprise that candy delights kids and adults alike. We love sweets so much that the average American eats about 22 pounds of candy each year. Whether you’re looking to impress your friends or simply brush up on your candy trivia, check out these 50 sweet facts about your favorite candies.

1. THE MOST POPULAR HALLOWEEN CANDY VARIES BY STATE.

A bowl of candy corn on a piece of burlap.
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Candy corn takes the title in Alabama, while Swedish fish win in Georgia. But Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Milky Ways, and M&Ms are a few of the most consistently popular candies in all 50 states.

2. THE CREATOR OF REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS NAMED THE TREAT AFTER HIMSELF.

A partial shot of a peanut butter cup on a blue background.
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Harry Burnett Reese sold the Lizzie Bar and Johnny Bar, candy bars he named after his daughter and son, respectively. But his chocolate-covered peanut butter cup creation, which he named after himself and called Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, was his real hit.

3. THE INVENTOR OF THE TOOTSIE ROLL ALSO CREATED A PRECURSOR TO JELL-O.

A photo of giant tootsie rolls in old-fashioned packaging.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Leo Hirschfield, the inventor of Tootsie Rolls, also invented Bromangelon Jelly Powder, a gelatin dessert that was a precursor to Jell-O.

4. A DENTIST INVENTED COTTON CANDY.

Bags of brightly colored cotton candy in various hues.
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You wouldn’t expect a dentist to be responsible for helping to pioneer a new type of candy, although maybe he was hoping it would drum up some cavity-related business. In 1897, dentist William Morrison partnered with confectioner John C. Wharton to devise a machine that used centrifugal force to turn sugar into cotton-like strands. The result was cotton candy, but that name didn’t come until the 1920s. Morrison and Wharton called their treat “Fairy Floss.” And who says this treat is just for summer carnivals? These days, you can buy cotton candy in several Halloween varieties, including Werewolf Hair and Pumpkin Guts.

5. IN JAPAN, ADULTS CAN BUY SAKE-FLAVORED KIT KATS.

A person holding a package of sake-flavored kit kats.
Nelo Hotsuma, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

They’re enveloped in white chocolate and contain sake powder (0.8 percent alcohol). The Japanese can also snack on whiskey-flavored Pocky sticks, which are covered in chocolate and flavored with malt.

6. THE TRUE ORIGIN OF THE BABY RUTH BAR HAS BEEN DEBATED FOR DECADES.

A stack of Baby Ruth bars in a box.
Justin Sullivan // Getty Images

Introduced in 1921, when baseball player Babe Ruth was a national hero, the Curtiss Candy Company reformulated their Kandy Kake confection and gave it a name reminiscent of sports royalty: Baby Ruth. But when Ruth licensed his name for another bar in 1926, Curtiss cried foul, claiming it would cause consumer confusion and swearing that they had named their bar not after the baseball legend but after Ruth Cleveland, the deceased daughter of President Grover Cleveland. Even though “Baby Ruth” had died of diphtheria in 1904 and would be an odd choice for a candy bar name, the courts agreed; Ruth never got in on the treat trade.

7. THE MILKY WAY BAR WAS INSPIRED BY A MALTED MILKSHAKE.

A Milky Way bar on a black background.
Erin McCarthy

Milky Way was meant to mimic the taste of a malted milkshake, which was popular in the 1920s.

8. WHITE CHOCOLATE ISN’T ACTUALLY CHOCOLATE.

Squares of white chocolate stacked on top of each other.
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Lovers of white chocolate, beware: Because white chocolate doesn’t contain cocoa solids, it's not real chocolate.

9. TOBLERONE CUSTOMERS ARE A PASSIONATE, VOCAL BUNCH.

Boxes of Toblerone chocolates stacked on top of each other.
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When the chocolate bar company decided to cut costs by reducing the weight of two of their bars sold in the UK, fans loudly expressed their disappointment and mocked the new bar’s fewer triangular chocolate peaks.

10. THE TWO M'S IN M&M’S STAND FOR MARS AND MURRIE.

A pile of M&Ms candies.
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Those are the surnames of the two businessmen—Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie—who developed and financed the candy-coated chocolates.

11. LIFE SAVERS GOT THEIR ROUND SHAPE AFTER THE CANDY’S INVENTOR VISITED A PHARMACY.

An orange-spotted Life Saver on a black background.
gosheshe, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Clarence Crane, the creator of Life Savers, made his candies round rather than square, which was the typical shape for most mints at the time, after visiting a pharmacy. Inspiration struck when he saw a machine making pills that were round and flat, and the rest is history.

12. IT TAKES LICKING MACHINES (YES, THEY’RE A REAL THING) ANYWHERE FROM 364 TO 411 LICKS TO REACH THE CENTER OF A TOOTSIE POP.

Tootsie Pops in a bale of hay.
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Human lickers, on the other hand, averaged just 144 to 252 licks.

13. E.T. COULD HAVE EATEN M&M’S INSTEAD OF REESE’S PIECES.

A wax figure of the alien from 'E.T. the Extraterrestrial.'
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds

The iconic scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, in which Elliott entices the alien with Reese's Pieces, almost didn't happen. Steven Spielberg’s first two choices of candy were M&M’s and Hershey’s Kisses, but when the Hershey Company offered to pay $1 million to showcase their candy creation, Reese’s Pieces became E.T.'s favorite sweet.

14. YOU CAN PAIR YOUR FAVORITE HALLOWEEN CANDY WITH WINE.

Two classes of red wine on a table with some chocolate.
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Based on criteria including flavor, acidity, bitterness, and sweetness, wine experts recommend pairing Whoppers with Cabernet Sauvignon, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with Sherry, and Hershey’s Kisses with Zinfandel.

15. M&M’S COME IN A LOT MORE FLAVORS THAT MILK CHOCOLATE, PEANUT, AND CRISPY.

A bag of coffee nut m&ms.
Erin McCarthy

You can also snack on M&M’s in more esoteric flavors (some are limited-edition): pecan pie, peanut butter, pumpkin spice latte, pretzel, white cheesecake, coffee nut, dark mint, and caramel, for starters.

16. THE WORD PEZ COMES FROM THE GERMAN WORD FOR PEPPERMINT: PFEFFERMINZ.

Photos of Pez dispensers, including Mickey Mouse, Kermit, and Batman.
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Invented by anti-smoking advocate Eduard Haas III, PEZ were originally marketed as mints to help smokers kick the habit. The candy’s slogan in the 1920s? "Smoking prohibited, PEZing allowed."

17. NAMING THE SNICKERS BAR HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH LAUGHING AT A GOOD JOKE.

Snickers bars piled up on each other.
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Franklin Mars, the patriarch of the Mars company, named the candy bar after a beloved racehorse his family owned that had just passed away. Snickers was raised on his family’s farm, the Milky Way, in Tennessee.

18. DUNKIN’ DONUTS AND HERSHEY ONCE TEAMED UP TO CREATE CANDY-FLAVORED COFFEE.

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They offered Heath bar and Almond Joy flavored options.

19. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS EATING TOO MUCH CANDY.

An orange pail with filled with, and surrounded by, Halloween candy.
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According to the American Chemical Society, eating 262 fun-sized Halloween candy bars would poison a 180-pound person. But don't worry about death by candy: You'd vomit before you’d be able to down that many candy bars in one sitting.

20. THE RIVALRY BETWEEN FANS OF TWIZZLERS AND RED VINES IS FIERCE AND DEEP-SEATED.

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Candy fans have heated online debates about which licorice product has a better taste, texture, and appearance.

21. IT'S NOT CHOCOLATE BETWEEN THE LAYERS OF WAFER IN A KIT KAT BAR.

A Kat Kat bar in a red wrapper.
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

It’s actually recycled Kit Kats. Technicians pull any imperfect Kit Kats—with off-center wafers or not enough shine, for example—and then grind them into a paste.

22. PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN REALLY LOVED JELLY BELLY JELLY BEANS.

President Ronald Reagan presents president-elect Bill Clinton with a jar of red, white, and blue jelly beans.
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He loved eating them so much that Air Force One was outfitted with special jelly bean holders, lest turbulence cause his beloved beans to spill.

23. THE GOELITZ CANDY COMPANY’S BRAND OF CANDY CORN HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 1898.

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It was called "chicken feed," since real corn kernels were usually only fed to livestock. (In 2001, the Herman Goelitz Candy Company changed its name to the Jelly Belly Candy Company.)

24. ASTRONAUTS LOVE M&MS.

An open bag of plain M&Ms on a white background.
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M&Ms have proven to be among the more popular candy requests for astronauts on space missions. Because they’re bite-sized and candy coated, they don’t make much of a mess. They can also be released in the air and gobbled up, Pac-Man style, by space travelers.

25. THE PHRASE TOOTSIE ROLLS MEANT SOMETHING OTHER THAN CANDY DURING THE KOREAN WAR.

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U.S. soldiers in the First Marine Division used the phrase as a codename for mortar shells. But the real candy came in handy when the soldiers used chewed-up Tootsie Rolls to patch holes in their vehicles' fuel lines.

26. BUTTERFINGER ONCE HAD AN ENERGY BAR.

Someone holding up a butterfinger bar.
djpoblete09, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In 2009, Butterfinger debuted Butterfinger Buzz, a candy bar containing 80 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of a can of Red Bull). But due to low sales, the product was discontinued.

27. UP UNTIL 1990, UK FANS OF SNICKERS HAD TO ASK FOR MARATHON BARS.

A Marathon bar.
John Jones, Flickr // CC BY ND 2.0

That was the name given to the candy bar in England because Snickers rhymed with “knickers,” a popular slang term for women’s underwear. (The Marathon brand made a comeback in 2008.)

28. JUNIOR MINTS WERE NAMED AFTER A BROADWAY PLAY.

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Junior Miss ran from 1941 to 1943.

29. TO APPEAL TO KIDS, PEZ TURNED CANDY DISPENSERS INTO TOYS.

A Garfield Pez dispenser.
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The first dispensers geared toward children were shaped like Santa Claus, a robot, and a space gun.

30. EVERY DAY, 64 MILLION TOOTSIE ROLLS ARE MADE.

A close-up view of a bunch of Tootsie Rolls.
Erin McCarthy

That means that over 44,440 Tootsie Rolls are created per minute!

31. HARIBO, THE CANDY COMPANY FAMOUS FOR ITS GUMMY BEARS, IS A PORTMANTEAU.

A bag of Haribo gummy bears.
PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Creator Hans Riegel combined the first two letters of his first and last name with the first two letters of his hometown: Bonn, Germany.

32. JELLY BELLY MAKES A LINE OF ENERGY BEANS.

Two bags of Jelly Belly Sport Beans.
Joel Kramer, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Sport Beans contain carbohydrates, electrolytes, B vitamins, and Vitamin C. Who says you can’t eat candy while exercising?

33. CANDY CORN ISN’T JUST FOR HALLOWEEN.

A bag of valentine's themed candy corn.
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There are varieties for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.

34. THE DESIGN OF MARY JANE CANDIES—A YELLOW WRAPPER WITH A RED STRIPE AND A DRAWING OF A YOUNG GIRL—HAS STAYED THE SAME FOR MORE THAN 100 YEARS.

A stack of Mary Jane candies.
Cathy Stanley-Erickson, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The inside of the candies, a mixture of peanut butter and molasses, is also virtually unchanged.

35. DOTS GUMDROPS ARE GLUTEN-FREE AND VEGAN-FRIENDLY.

A box of DOTS gumdrops on a black background.
Erin McCarthy

They may also be one of the most pervasive non-chocolate candies on the market: More than 4 billion DOTS are rolled out annually.

36. 3 MUSKETEERS WAS SO-NAMED BECAUSE IT ORIGINALLY FEATURED CHOCOLATE, STRAWBERRY, AND VANILLA PIECES OF CANDY.

A 3 Musketeers bar on a black background.
Erin McCarthy

But vanilla and strawberry (as well as sugar) were scarce during World War II, so 3 Musketeers ditched the vanilla and strawberry to focus on chocolate.

37. SAM BORN FOUNDED THE JUST BORN CANDY COMPANY IN 1923.

The exterior of Just Born, Inc.
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

The guy behind the company that makes Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales originally made his fortune by inventing the Born Sucker Machine—a device that would insert sticks into lollipops.

38. IT USED TO TAKE 27 HOURS TO MAKE ONE PEEP.

A tray of pumpkin peeps.
Erin McCarthy

After automation, now it only takes six minutes. That means the Pennsylvania factory can pump out 5.5 million Peeps a day!

39. NORTH DAKOTANS IN SEARCH OF CANDY CIGARETTES BETWEEN 1953 AND 1967 WERE OUT OF LUCK.

A carton of candy cigarettes.
zombieite, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The state banned the candy due to concerns that it would encourage kids to smoke real cigarettes.

40. PEZ HAS FEATURED SOME UNUSUAL FLAVORS THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY.

A group of green and blue Pez.
Dave Lawler, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

They’ve ranged from the intriguing (cola, pineapple) to the worrisome (chlorophyll, offering a plant-flavored experience). Flavors will also vary depending on region: PEZ enthusiasts in the U.S. can’t get peach.

41. CUSTOMERS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM CAN BUY JARS OF TWIX SPREAD.

A Twix bar on a white background.
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It’s a Nutella-like spreadable that contains chocolate, caramel, and crunchy pieces of biscuit.

42. AFTER ITS BAG IS OPENED, CANDY CORN CAN LAST FOR THREE TO SIX MONTHS.

An open bag of candy corn.
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Just make sure to store it at room temperature away from heat and light.

43. EVEN THOUGH TWIZZLERS ARE KNOWN AS A “LICORICE CANDY,” ONLY THE BLACK LICORICE PACKAGES CONTAIN LICORICE EXTRACT.

A pile of black and red Twizzlers.
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The standard strawberry ones are made with corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, and artificial flavoring.

44. IF YOU LOVE SNACKING ON EVERLASTING GOBSTOPPERS, RUNTS, AND LAFFY TAFFY, YOU CAN PARTIALLY THANK ROALD DAHL.

A pile of laffy taffy candies.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, the film based on Roald Dahl's book Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, was the impetus for Quaker Oats, who agreed to help finance the film, to launch a candy line (which later became The Willy Wonka Candy Company) to bring the imaginative candy creations to life.

45. EVERY EIGHT HOURS, MARS’S NEW JERSEY FACTORY PRODUCES 2 BILLION M&MS.

A machine packaging M&M's candies at a Mars factory in France.
PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images

That works out to 4 million M&Ms a minute. That’s almost enough made each day to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, which would need about 2.4 billion M&Ms in order to become a deliciously eccentric Olympic event.

46. THE KIT KAT JINGLE WILL GET STUCK IN YOUR HEAD.

A woman with her hands over her ears, looking annoyed.
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Researchers determined that the Kit Kat jingle—"Gimme a break / Gimme a break / Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar"—is one of the most common earworms.

47. MIKE AND IKE CANDY DEBUTED IN 1940.

A bunch of Mike and Ike candies.
Erin McCarthy

Since then, the candy has been made in almost 40 different flavors, from the original fruit mix (orange, cherry, lemon, and lime) to more unusual ones such as cotton candy and root beer float.

48. SALT WATER TAFFY IS GENERALLY NOT SALTY, WATERY, OR MADE FROM SALTWATER.

A few pieces of salt water taffy.
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So why the name? According to New Jersey legend: In 1883, a storm hit the Atlantic City boardwalk, flooding several candy shops in the process. When a girl went up to a candy counter afterward looking for a treat, the disgruntled proprietor jokingly told her only “saltwater taffy” was left. The name stuck, and today’s salt water taffy still echoes the store owner’s sarcastic comment. These days, you can buy Halloween flavors from some retailers.

49. OTTO SCHNERING INVENTED BOTH THE BABY RUTH AND THE BUTTERFINGER.

A bunch of Butterfinger candy bars in a box.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As owner of the Curtiss Candy Company, Otto "U.S. Candy Bar King" Schnering achieved success with the Baby Ruth candy bar first; he followed it up with Butterfinger, which got its name from a public contest and was another smash hit.

50. HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA—HOME TO THE WORLD HEADQUARTERS OF THE HERSHEY CHOCOLATE COMPANY—WAS NAMED FOLLOWING A FAILED NAMING CONTEST.

A street light shaped like a Hershey Kiss in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
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In 1904, the newly created town hosted a contest to pick its new name, and the winner was "Hersheykoko." The post office (and many locals, including founder Milton Hershey's wife) rejected the name, and they eventually went with the more straightforward "Hershey."

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Food
The History Behind Why We Eat 10 Dishes at Thanksgiving
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Halloween is for candy comas, and on Independence Day we grill, but no holiday is as completely defined by its cuisine as Thanksgiving. No matter what part of the country you're in, it's a safe bet that at least a few of the below dishes will be making an appearance on your table this week. But what makes these specific entrees and side dishes so emblematic of Thanksgiving? Read on to discover the sometimes-surprising history behind your favorite fall comfort foods.

1. TURKEY

A roasted turkey on a platter.
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Turkey has become so synonymous with Thanksgiving that most of us probably imagine the pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe of Native Americans chowing down on a roast bird in 1621. Although we don't know the exact menu of that first Plymouth Colony feast, a first-person account of the year's harvest from governor William Bradford does reference "a great store of wild turkeys," and another first-person account, from colonist Edward Winslow, confirms that the settlers "killed as much fowl as…served the company almost a week." However, culinary historian Kathleen Wall believes that, although turkeys were available, it's likely that duck, goose, or even passenger pigeons were the more prominent poultry options at the first Thanksgiving. Given their proximity to the Atlantic, local seafood like oysters and lobsters were likely on the menu as well.

As the holiday grew in popularity, however, turkey became the main course for reasons more practical than symbolic. English settlers were accustomed to eating fowl on holidays, but for early Americans, chickens were more valued for their eggs than their meat, and rooster was tough and unappetizing. Meanwhile, turkeys were easy to keep, big enough to feed a whole family, and cheaper than ducks or geese. Even before Thanksgiving was recognized as a national holiday, Alexander Hamilton himself remarked that "No citizen of the U.S. shall refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day." The country followed his advice: according to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey in some form on Thanksgiving Day—an estimated 44 million birds!

2. STUFFING

Pan of breaded stuffing.
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Stuffing would have been a familiar concept to those early settlers as well, although their version was likely quite different from what we're used to. We know that the first Plymouth colonists didn't have access to white flour or butter, so traditional bread stuffing wouldn't have been possible yet. Instead, according to Wall, they may have used chestnuts, herbs, and chunks of onion to flavor the birds, all of which were already part of the local fare. Centuries later, we're still stuffing turkeys as a way to keep the bird moist through the roasting process and add extra flavor.

3. CRANBERRIES

Dish of cranberry sauce.
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Like turkeys, cranberries were widely available in the area, but cranberry sauce almost certainly did not make an appearance at the first Thanksgiving. Why not? The sugar reserves the colonists would have had were almost completely depleted after their long sea journey, and thus they didn't have the means to sweeten the terrifically tart berries.

So how did cranberries become such an autumnal staple? For starters, they're a truly American food, as one of only a few fruits—along with Concord grapes, blueberries, and pawpaws—that originated in North America. They grow in such abundance in the northeast that colonists quickly began incorporating cranberries into various dishes, such as pemmican, which mixed mashed cranberries with lard and dried venison. By the Civil War, they were such a holiday staple that General Ulysses S. Grant famously demanded his soldiers be provided cranberries for their Thanksgiving Day meal.

4. MASHED POTATOES

Bowl of mashed potatoes.
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Potatoes weren't yet available in 17th-century Plymouth, so how did mashed potatoes become another Thanksgiving superstar? The answer lies in the history of the holiday itself. In America’s earliest years, it was common for the sitting President to declare a "national day of thanks," but these were sporadic and irregular. In 1817, New York became the first state to officially adopt the holiday, and others soon followed suit, but Thanksgiving wasn't a national day of celebration until Abraham Lincoln declared it so in 1863.

Why did Lincoln—hands full with an ongoing war—take up the cause? Largely due to a 36-year campaign from Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific novelist, poet, and editor, who saw in Thanksgiving a moral benefit for families and communities. In addition to her frequent appeals to officials and presidents, Hale wrote compellingly about the holiday in her 1827 novel Northwood, as well as in the womens' magazine she edited, Godey's Lady's Book. Her writing included recipes and descriptions of idealized Thanksgiving meals, which often featured—you guessed it—mashed potatoes.

5. GRAVY

Plate of turkey and potatoes covered in gravy.
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Despite a dearth of potatoes, it's likely that some type of gravy accompanied the turkey or venison at the earliest Thanksgiving gatherings. The concept of cooking meat in sauce dates back hundreds of years, and the word "gravy" itself can be found in a cookbook from 1390. Because that first celebration extended over three days, historian Wall speculates: "I have no doubt whatsoever that birds that are roasted one day, the remains of them are all thrown in a pot and boiled up to make broth the next day." That broth would then be thickened with grains to created a gravy to liven day-old meat. And, if Wall's correct, that broth sounds suspiciously like the beginning of another great Thanksgiving tradition: leftovers!

6. CORN

Plate of corn.
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Corn is a natural symbol of harvest season—even if you're not serving it as a side dish, you might have a few colorful ears as a table centerpiece. We know that corn was a staple of the Native American diet and would have been nearly as plentiful in the 17th century as today. But according to the History Channel, their version would have been prepared quite differently: corn was either made into a cornmeal bread or mashed and boiled into a thick porridge-like consistency, and perhaps sweetened with molasses. Today, we eat corn in part to remember those Wampanoag hosts, who famously taught the newcomers how to cultivate crops in the unfamiliar American soil.

7. SWEET POTATOES

Bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.
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In the midst of so many New England traditions, the sweet potatoes on your table represent a dash of African-American culture. The tasty taters originally became popular in the south—while pumpkins grew well in the north, sweet potatoes (and the pies they could make) became a standard in southern homes and with enslaved plantation workers, who used them as a substitution for the yams they'd loved in their homeland. Sweet potato pie was also lovingly described in Hale's various Thanksgiving epistles, solidifying the regional favorite as a holiday go-to. More recently, some families further sweeten the dish by adding toasted marshmallows, a love-it-or-hate-it suggestion that dates to a 1917 recipe booklet published by the Cracker Jack company.

8. GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE

Plate of green bean casserole.
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Beans have been cultivated since ancient times, but green bean casserole is a decidedly modern contribution to the classic Thanksgiving canon. The recipe you love was whipped up in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a home economist working in the Campbell's Soup Company test kitchens in Camden, New Jersey. Reilly's job was to create limited-ingredient recipes that housewives could quickly replicate (using Campbell's products, of course). Her original recipe (still available at Campbells.com), contains just six ingredients: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, green beans, milk, soy sauce, pepper, and French's French Fried Onions. Her recipe was featured in a 1955 Associated Press feature about Thanksgiving, and the association has proven surprisingly durable—Campbell’s now estimates that 30 percent of their Cream of Mushroom soup is bought specifically for use in a green bean casserole.

9. PUMPKIN PIE

Slice of pumpkin pie.
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Like cranberries, pumpkin pie does have ties to the original Thanksgiving, albeit in a much different format. The colonists certainly knew how to make pie pastry, but couldn't have replicated it without wheat flour, and might have been a bit perplexed by pumpkins, which were bigger than the gourds they knew in Europe. According to Eating in America: A History, however, Native Americans were already using the orange treats as a dessert meal: "Both squash and pumpkin were baked, usually by being placed whole in the ashes or embers of a dying fire and they were moistened afterwards with some form of animal fat, or maple syrup, or honey." It's likely that Hale was inspired by those stories when pumpkin pie appeared in her culinary descriptions.

10. WINE

Two glasses of wine.
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Chances are good that a few glasses of wine will be clinked around your table this November, but did the pilgrims share a tipsy toast with their new friends? Kathleen Wall thinks that water was probably the beverage of choice, considering that the small amount of wine the settlers had brought with them was likely long gone. Beer was a possibility, but since barley hadn't been cultivated yet, the pilgrims had to make do with a concoction that included pumpkins and parsnips. Considering the availability of apples in what would become Massachusetts, however, other historians think it's possible that hard apple cider was on hand for the revelers to enjoy. Whether or not the original feast was a boozy affair, cider rapidly became the drink of choice for English settlers in the area, along with applejack, apple brandy, and other fruit-based spirits. New England cider thus indirectly led to a less-beloved Thanksgiving tradition: your drunk uncle's annual political rant. Bottoms up!

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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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