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1888, 1891, 1893 -- Recipes for soft candies had existed for centuries. They became suddenly popular in the United States in the 1890s at women's colleges, because these candies could be made in the dormitories with chafing dishes or chem lab equipment. So the real issue here is the names of these dishes, and American recipes.

Lee Edwards Bening, in her book Oh Fudge! published a letter from the archives of Vassar stating that chocolate fudge was invented in 1888, using a recipe from a Baltimore candy store. Janet Theophano, in her book Eat My Words, published an 1892 recipe for "penucio" from a letter between two suffragists. (The earliest-known published reference to "panocha" is in an 1870 government report.) The American History Cookbook uses a published recipe from the 1893 Home Queen World's Fair Souvenir Cook Book.

You have a very good chance to find earlier recipes from panocha/penuci etc. in old cookbooks with contributors from the southwest, since this kind of brown-sugar fudge with walnuts probably goes back centuries in that area, and influenced New Orleans pralines. You have a very good chance of finding earlier published recipes for fudge (or "fudges") in books from the late 1880s and early 1890s, if only because there were a lot of such books published, and no one has read through all of them looking for early fudge recipes. You might even find the Baltimore recipe for chocolate soft candy, perhaps not yet called "fudge," in a technical manual for candy-makers! Assuming that "fudge" was named in 1888, there is an excellent chance someone will find a recipe in a manuscript or letter with a date before 1890, since this was a fad among college girls, who would have mailed around the recipe with the daring new name. Much the same should work for panocha/penuci, etc.

When you find an earlier recipe or reference, email this site and get credit!

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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Mark H. Zanger. Remember, there is no copyright on recipes or other common household formulae, but copyright and fair use laws do apply to selection of recipes and cultural-historical commentary.