When was “confectionery” invented?

The two key components in many confectionery products are chocolate and sugar. Chocolate is made from cocoa. And we know that cocoa was already enjoyed by the Aztecs. Spreading out from Mexico, cocoa reached Spain in the 17th century, from where it then conquered the world. Initially reserved for the higher echelons of society, over the centuries cocoa made its way into the hearts of people from all walks of life.

We have the French to thank for sugar-based confectionery and “bonbons” (sweets and candies). But sweets and candies could not be invented until cane sugar and the art of sugar boiling had come to Europe from Asia Minor. Exclusive to aristocratic circles, chewy sweets and candies were consumed from “bonbonieres” (confectionery boxes). Around the end of the 19th century this handmade confectionery became an industrially manufactured product.

Germany does, however, have one curiosity worth mentioning: a product popularly called “Bamberger Bärendreck” (i.e.bear poo from Bamberg) sprang up here as of the mid-19th century, a delicacy now known everywhere as liquorice. Back then Bamberg was known for what was already an extensive farming of liquorice roots and sugar beet – the key ingredients that go into making liquorice. Bamberg citizens were hence able to enjoy this delicacy both very early on and at very affordable prices.

Do people tend to snack more or less intensely in summer and in winter?

That is very difficult to say. The main difference lies in what is being snacked. In summer the choice falls more on ice cream and in winter more on chocolate. Flavours also tend to reflect the different seasons: In summer, light and fruity flavours tend to be more on offer. In Winter, things get darker, more nutty, more caramelly, with more spicy flavours.

Why do we speak of “sweet-talking” someone?

Sweet-talking means turning on the charm with blatantly overdrawn compliments and being full on. In German the equivalent idiomatic expression is “grating liquorice root”, liquorice being a perennial herbaceous plant (Glycyrhizza glaba) which is used, among other things, to make the sweet confectionery product we also know as liquorice. Its flavour comes largely from the glycoside glycyrrhizin which packs around 50 times more sweetness than cane sugar. “Grating liquorice root” is hence a perfectly appropriate German idiomatic expression for “sweet-talking”.

Since when has it been a German custom to give school beginners a cone of sweets?

The cone of sweets still given to first-time German pupils on their first day at school has been a custom in Germany only since the 1950s. The practice began in the cities and then spread to rural areas as well. However, the story of a “sweets cone” can be traced back even further in Germany’s history. At the start of the 19th century, it was mainly children in Saxony and Thuringia who were given sweets on their first day at school, e.g. in Jena (1817), Dresden (1820), and Leipzig (1836). Children there were told that a sweets cone tree was growing in the teacher’s house, and that when these sweets cones were big enough, it was time for the first day at school.