I have visions of sugarplums in my head today. So I thought I’d do some research about them. As far as I can tell, “sugarplum” was basically synonymous with “candy” before chocolate came along. Current recipes seem similar to what some people call “bliss balls” today. Grinding up dates and other dried fruits and rolling them in a ball. This is a little more money and effort than I want to put out there. Older recipes that don’t include fruit appear to be simply recipes for hard candies.
But as I was doing my research I did find some comical references. One was a very old newspaper ad dating back to the 1700s, that was for some kind of child’s tummy medicine that was injected into sugarplums. The old “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” concept. The ad gave detailed descriptions of what might be wrong with the child’s tummy! And it was sort of gross. So I didn’t reprint it here.
I also found a funny essay from December 1852. Written by a woman. It begins: Got a scolding wife, have you? Well, it’s your fault, ten to one. See, it’s already funny, but in the end I also decided it was not in the spirit of CM365. You can find it on newspapers.com if you care to. The sugarplum reference came later in the essay, “Wake up, man alive! … and give the baby some sugarplums.”
Time magazine published an article about the history of sugarplums, but if you look at the article on their website you unfortunately must also suffer through a barrage of ads and clickbait headlines that are most certainly not in the spirit of CM365. Who would have thought sugarplum research would end up being so distasteful?
Other old sugarplum references that I found was detailed choreography and costume instructions for a children’s dance, in which the girls were to dress up as sugarplums and then do some kind of polka with the boys.
Articles written for American teachers in the early 1900s claimed that kindergarteners in Europe were rewarded for going to school by being given sugarplums by their teachers. I believe that was just for the first day of school, but it sounded very ‘sweet’, don’t you agree?
I leave you with this 1894 poem by Eugene Field. I wonder if this poem inspired Clement C. Moore when he referred to children dreaming about sugarplums.
Have you ever heard of the Sugar-Plum Tree?
‘Tis a marvel of great renown!
It blooms on the shore of the Lollypop sea
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town;
The fruit that it bears is so wondrously sweet
(As those who have tasted it say)
That good little children have only to eat
Of that fruit to be happy next day.
When you’ve got to the tree, you would have a hard time
To capture the fruit which I sing;
The tree is so tall that no person could climb
To the boughs where the sugar-plums swing!
But up in that tree sits a chocolate cat,
And a gingerbread dog prowls below –
And this is the way you contrive to get at
Those sugar-plums tempting you so:
You say but the word to that gingerbread dog
And he barks with such terrible zest
That the chocolate cat is at once all agog,
As her swelling proportions attest.
And the chocolate cat goes cavorting around
From this leafy limb unto that,
And the sugar-plums tumble, of course, to the ground –
Hurrah for that chocolate cat!
There are marshmallows, gumdrops, and peppermint canes,
With stripings of scarlet or gold,
And you carry away of the treasure that rains,
As much as your apron can hold!
So come, little child, cuddle closer to me
In your dainty white nightcap and gown,
And I’ll rock you away to that Sugar-Plum Tree
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town.
(Image credit: Jill Wellington)
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