On the Chocolate Trail

Goo Goo store, Nashville

Chocolate Made My Lunch: Nashville

In Nashville I managed time between my five lectures on the chocolate trail scholar-in-residence to pay homage to Nashville’s homegrown confection, the Goo Goo Cluster. Developed over 100 years ago, the Goo Goo tempted sugar lovers with its innovative combination of ingredients: caramel, marshmallow nougat, fresh roasted peanuts and real milk chocolate. Located near Nashville’s honkey tonk center, the store boasts Goo Goo collectibles and a kitchen that churns out newer varieties of the Cluster. These now mix in dark chocolate, pecans and peanut butter. According to the company history, until the 1912 invention of the Goo Goo, there were no manufactured combination candies. Surprisingly, in the 20’s and 30’s, the Goo Goo Cluster was marketed as “A Nourishing Lunch for a Nickel.”

Goo Goo was not the only company to make a claim for the nutritional benefits of chocolate and candy.* When Milton Hershey released his first milk chocolate bar in 1900, the label touted it as “a nutritious confection.” By 1903 Hershey contended that his bars were “More sustaining than meat.” Tootsie Rolls were sold in a pocket sized tube marked Lunch. The Knickerbocker Chocolate Company of New York sought to outdo competitors with its nickel Sportsman’s Chocolate Bracer. Its advertisement read: “Consumers eat it for a food as well as for a confection for it really has more food value than any solid chocolate [bar] for sale today.”
Professor John C. Olsen of the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City gave a scientific boost to the idea that “Candy is a nourishing and sustaining food” in 1910. He argued that chocolate “contain[s] all the four chief food elements, fats, carbohydrates, proteins and mineral salts and have a higher calorific value than fish, meats, vegetables and fruits.” Further, “Any vigorous adult could make a good breakfast on these chocolate creams and peanuts. … A person living on candy could feed himself on 50 cents a day easily.” He noted that the equivalent caloric amount of eggs cost $1.84 a day. Not only was candy cheap, it was nutritious.

I sure would like to believe that part about nutrition the next time I reach for a Goo Goo Cluster.

*Thank you to Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure by Samira Kawash for some of this information.

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On the Chocolate Trail

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