Not, as some of you may think, the name of an adult film star, Candy Floss (sometimes known as Fairy Floss or Cotton Candy), is a sweet most commonly sold at fairgrounds and circuses the world over, as the consumers' heightened adrenalin levels at seeing the roller coasters, coconut shys and 'carnies'1 can overcome their natural sense of outrage that would usually prevent them paying good money for what is basically a spoonful of sugar on a stick.
'I Want Candy'
Not unlike strands of sweet spiderweb, candy floss is simply finely spun sugar with added air, and food colouring (usually pink), which is then wrapped around a stick for ease of consumption. It has the innate ability to adhere to the face, hands and, well, everything really. It is a favourite of children and adults alike when visiting the funfair or circus, and is available either on a stick, a cone, or in pre-packaged bags.
It has a texture that could be compared with steel wool, and although is soft to touch, it crunches and crackles when eaten. Being just sugar, it tastes very sweet, and also dissolves quickly when it comes into contact with moisture, thus it is easy to spot anyone who has partaken of candy floss due to the sugary deposits on their face, hands, clothes and accompanying friends.
'Fairy Floss' (as it was named) was first marketed at the 1904 St Louis World's Fair by William Morrison and John Wharton, and its popularity was instantaneous. However, spun candy had been a very popular sweet since the 14th Century, particularly in Europe, and the Victorians also enjoyed the delicacy. And who wouldn't? What's not to like about pretty coloured fluffy sugar on a stick?
'You Spin Me Round'
Candy Floss belongs to that small group of food stuffs that are more interesting to watch being made than to actually eat2. The process of manufacture is done by a special machine. Sugar is poured into a small bowl in the centre of the machine along with the colouring of choice. The outside rim of this bowl is heated and then set to rotate, so the sugar is thus spun out using centrifugal force making thin strands through tiny holes in the bowl where it solidifies as it cools, being caught in a larger spinning bowl.
A stick, or hand, is then stuck into the larger bowl as it turns and the sweet spinifex is twirled around the inserted stick or hand. These large watermelon-sized air-filled portions of sugary goodness are then divvied out to awaiting crowds of people, their eyes large with anticipation. Just watching this process can be mesmerising, and many have suggested that cotton candy is in fact sold by carnival conjurers schooled in the art of hypnosis...
More likely, it's the simple desire to eat something as big as your head.