a hershey bar for valentine's day -- 2/12/16

Today's selection -- from The American Plate by Libby H. O'Connell. The Hershey Bar:

"Milton Hershey was a young American car­amel manufacturer who traveled to Chicago's World Columbian Exposition in 1893. There, he became convinced that the future of candy making lay in chocolate, after seeing the confection being made with the latest technology. By 1900, he had developed the Hershey Bar, a milk chocolate bar that Americans embraced. He sold his caramel business for the then-stunning sum of $1 million and, in 1903, began construction of a chocolate plant in his hometown of Derry Church, Pennsylvania -- soon to be rechristened 'Hershey.'

"In 1907, a flat-bottomed, teardrop-shaped piece of milk chocolate, called the Hershey Kiss, hit the marketplace. Individually wrapped in foil by hand, the kisses were bite-sized and affordable. By 1921, a machine wrapped each kiss in foil and added the little paper ribbon bearing the name Hershey, which is still part of each Hershey Kiss today. Other chocolate products followed, including Mr. Goodbar (1925), Hershey's Syrup (1926), and Krackel (1938).

"But it was the military Hershey Bar, known as the D Ration, that made history during World War II. In 1937, army quartermaster Colonel Paul Logan approached the Hershey Company about making an energy bar for the military. He had four requirements for the bar:

1. Weigh four ounces
2. Be high in food energy value
3. Be able to withstand high temperatures
4. Taste 'a little better than a boiled potato' (so the soldiers would reserve the bars for emergencies and not use them as a sweet snack)

"The D Ration proved successful in tests and fulfilled Colonel Logan's fourth military requirement by using oat flour as an ingredient, keeping the military's version of chocolate from being too tempting to servicemen. When the United States entered World War II in 1941 after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Department of War ordered massive shipments of the bars, which practically required soldiers to develop strong teeth and weak taste buds. In response to government requests, Hershey also invented the waxy Tropical Bar, which traveled well in the scorching heat of the South Pacific and tasted a bit better. Either way, soldiers often gave these less-than-delicious bars to civilians, especially children, who were delighted by the gift.

"Young recipients often needed the calories desperately and would remember American GIs very fondly for their generosity during wartime.

"Between 1940 and 1945, more than three billion D Ration and Tropical Bars were produced and distributed throughout the world. Hershey Chocolate Company was awarded the Army-Navy E Award for excellence in exceeding expectations for quality and quantity in the manufacturing of these products, although the troops often detested the taste.

"In 1945, when the troops finally came home, Hershey Bars made of real chocolate were waiting for them. And they've been incredibly popular since."

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Libby O'Connell


The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites




Copyright 2014 by Libby H. O'Connell


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