Tag Archives: Circus Peanuts

Tree Sap, Science, and Bazooka Joe’s Real Name (Chewing Gum)
We ruminate on (but don't swallow) the history of our most favorite inedible hydrocarbon polymer.

Chewing gum is a soft, flavored confectionery designed for maximum adherence to minivan carpets. It is also used for freshening breath, blowing bubbles, popping bubbles in order to annoy coworkers, and for reminding smokers that their doctor was right: nicotine is really addictive.

Tree sap vs. Manilkara zapota van Royen

[x_pullquote type=”right”]The first gum chewers voluntarily put into their faces the same thing that sticks to our hands for a week after putting up a Christmas tree.[/x_pullquote]Varieties of substances have been chewed for enjoyment by humans for centuries: ancient man chewed aromatic twigs from trees, ancient woman then chewed ancient man for chewing twigs when he should have been hunting wild animals they could chew for food, while the wild animals in turn chewed ancient woman while ancient man was out not hunting them, completing the great, masticating circle of life. Then, somewhere around the mid 1860s, American John Bacon “Yes, That’s My Real Middle Name” Curtis and his exemplary 19th-century beard created and sold the first commercial chewing gum, which he named “State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum”, an appropriate name considering IT WAS MADE FROM TREE SAP. Yes, the first gum chewers voluntarily put into their faces the same thing that sticks to our hands for a week after putting up a Christmas tree. Around that same time chicle, a rubbery tree sap made from the sapodilla tree, a member of the family Sapotaceae, known botanically as Manilkara zapota van Royen (syns. M. achras Fosb., M.) blah blah science was brought to the US by Mexican President General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de “Long Name” Lebrón. President Long Name gave the gummy sap to his former secretary Thomas Adams (not the Thomas Adams who was the Lord Mayor of London, or the son of U.S. President John Adams, or the Commander-in-Chief of India, or the English organist and composer, or the English bookseller and publisher, or the English Nottingham lace manufacturer and philanthropist, etc.). Adams first intended to use the substance as a replacement for rubber tires, but after realizing no one wanted to drive around on thin, pink wheels that popped every two feet and stuck all over your fenders, he naturally switched to using chicle to manufacture gum. He marketed this first product in 1871 as “Adams New York Chewing Gum” because the name “Most Boring Gum Name In The Universe” was already taken by the aforementioned “State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum”, and soon gums such as Chiclets and Black Jack dominated the market.

The dawn of Dubble Bubble, plus: more science

The first successful gum designed specifically for blowing bubbles (previous test versions had caused hideous disfigurement) was invented by Walter Diemer for the Fleer company in 1928 (Official Motto: “Thanks a Lot For Warning Us About The Stock Market Crash, History”). Called “Dubble Bubble“, it was an immediate hit among school children because it deliberately misspelled “double” and their teachers couldn’t do a thing about it. The 1930s and 40s saw the replacement of chicle with synthetic substances; primarily hydrocarbon polymers such as styrene-butadiene rubber, isobutylene, isoprene copolymer, paraffin wax, blah blah more science. Although flavors and gimmicks, such as dental industry-mandated sugarless gum or bacon gumballs, have been added over the years, modern chewing gum has changed little since its inception, except for the parts about it coming from tree sap and tasting like tree sap and smelling like tree sap and sticking to your face like tree sap and also not being pink.

Chewing gum facts

    • The world’s oldest piece of chewing gum is over 9,000 years old. And, yes, it tastes horrible.
    • Chewing gum while cutting onions can keep you from crying. Conversely, chewing onions while cutting gum causes those around you to laugh uncontrollably.
    • If bubble gum gets stuck in your hair, congratulations! You’re not bald. You can remove it by rubbing the stuck gum with peanut butter. To remove the peanut butter, sprinkle cornstarch on the area and let stand for 15 minutes. To remove the cornstarch, dab it with chewing gum.
    • The largest bubble ever blown was 23 inches in diameter by Susan Williams of Fresno, California, who is still presumed to be floating somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
    • One of bubble gum’s most famous icons is Bazooka Joe, who, curiously, is actually armed with a Smith and Wesson Model 460V Revolver and whose real name was “Alphonse LeCribbage”.
    • The Topps card company began packing gum in their baseball card sets in order to teach kids about the dangers of chewing pink cardboard.
    • A common myth is that if you swallow chewing gum a watermelon will grow in your stomach. This, of course, is not true; watermelon’s grow in your pancreas. Swallowed gum is processed normally through the digestive system, where it is excreted and used to make circus peanuts.
Photo Credit: patrick_damiano cc

The 5 Life Stages of Halloween
Celebrating the season of Sixlets and sultry and sassy lasses.

Hear that? It’s the sound of Candy Manufacturer Workers punching time clocks because they have to work overtime to make more “Fun Size” Butterfingers for your kids to put in their plastic pumpkins! Which can only mean it’s Halloween, the worst time of year to be a diabetic or dental hygienist.

Halloween History

[su_pullquote align=”right”]…it has become much cheaper to dole out a handful of Dum Dums rather than be dragged through an arduous lawsuit over smashed pumpkins and flaming dog doo.[/pullquote]The tradition of going from door to door to receive food existed in Great Britain and Ireland in the 19th century, where children would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes. (And you thought getting circus peanuts in your bag was bad.) Other societies have similar versions of trick-or-treating; in Mexico, it is called calaverita, which is Spanish for “little skull”, and, instead of saying “trick or treat”, the children ask ¿me da mi calaverita? (“can you give me my little skull?”). Apparently, Mexico is much more Goth than we thought. And we are all familiar with the treat side of Halloween [insert sound of grinning Candy Manufacturers rubbing hands together] but whatever happened to the trick option? The trick was traditionally to be the performance of some mischief on the homeowner or their property if they were not given a treat. This custom has fallen out of favor in our modern, litigious society, as it has become much cheaper to dole out a handful of Dum Dums rather than be dragged through an arduous lawsuit over smashed pumpkins and flaming dog doo.

Your Five Life Stages of Halloween

For Americans, there are five life stages to your Halloween career, which usually play out like this:
1-3 years old
The Unconscious Years, when you are not sentient enough to avoid getting stuck in a ladybug costume, or dressed up like a loaded baked potato, or a lobster, or who-knows-what else your mom saw on Pinterest that was just so cute she needed to stuff your squirmy body in it so she can post pictures of it on Facebook for her friends. You will see these pictures again at your High School Graduation party.
4-10 years old
The Golden Years, when you get to choose your own costume, as long as it is homemade or cheap. For boys, this will either be a Super Hero, such as Spider Man, the Hulk or a Whoopie Cushion, with the requisite stiff plastic mask with the eye holes designed for a halibut that lets you breathe your own lung condensation for 3 hours. Your other option is Monster, as depicted by as much gore as your Mom will allow, which is usually just some of her red lipstick dabbed on the corner of your mouth, when you were hoping to be able to drape that dead squirrel you found in the yard over your head. For girls, you will be pink; Pink Princess, Pink Fairy, Pink Nurse, Pink Vampire, Pink Actuarial Analyst, etc.
11-18 years old
The Embarrassing Years, when you have to decide whether to put on a last-minute hobo costume (bandana on a stick, charcoal briquet on face) and go out and scam some free candy from the neighbors. Your other option is to go a Professional Haunted House with your friends and pretend not to have had an involuntary bodily function when the chain saw guy jumps out at you.
19-29 years old
The Fun Years, when you go to parties dressed as any crazy thing you want: North Dakota, a tornado, a box of french fries, The Gettysburg Address, The House Committee on Ways and Means, whatever. Be aware that some women tend to use this holiday as an excuse to explore their randy side, so prepare to see a “Sassy House Committee on Ways and Means” or “Sultry North Dakota” costume at your party.
29-100 years old
The “What?! It’s Halloween Already? Wait – Do We Have Any Candy? Hal! We Need To Get To The Store… I Know It’s Tonight! Get Some Baby Ruth’s And – What Do You Call Those – The Cheap Ones – Sixlets? – No! Not Snickers! They’re Too Expensive!!” Years.

So, however you celebrate Halloween, whether cheerfully passing out candy to joyful neighbor children, or hiding in the basement with the lights out, we hope it brings you as much joy as it does cavities. Now to get to work on our Sultry Whoopie Cushion costume.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Dubious Knowledge (Book One)[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: demandaj cc