Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nashville - Home of the Goo Goo Cluster

It's been almost 30 years since I first moved to this great city.  I've been here so long I consider myself well versed in the lore and all things unique to my home: Nashville.  It amazed me then when my brother, who lives out in Sunny Southern California, called me one day to ask a favor.  He wanted me to send him some candy. Say What? 

He and his wife had been watching one of those shows about the origins of [whatever] and discovered a candy that's been around over 100 years and is made right here in Nashville!  It's called the GOO GOO CLUSTER and it was also the first combination candy bar ever produced!  To be honest (and in so doing, I will most assuredly lose some Good Ol' Boy Points I may have saved up in the last year) I'd never heard of the Goo Goo Cluster.  

In 1912, in a copper kettle at the Standard Candy Company at Clark & First Avenue in Nashville, TN, the world’s first ever combination candy bar was invented. A roundish mound of caramel, marshmallow nougat, fresh roasted peanuts and real milk chocolate; its renegade shape was more difficult to wrap than the conventional rectangular or square shapes of the day. More importantly, this was the first time multiple elements were being mass-produced in a retail confection. Previous to the advent of the Goo Goo Cluster, candy bar manufacturing consisted of bars solely using chocolate, caramel or taffy. The Goo Goo Cluster represented the first time a bar consisted of more than just one principal ingredient.

The Goo Goo Cluster recipe hasn’t changed over the years, although the cooking method has undergone a few tweaks. Goo Goos used to be hand dipped and sold without wrappers under glass at drug store candy counters. With the dawn of hand wrapping, ladies would swaddle the Goo Goo Clusters in tinfoil. Eventually, machinery was put in place to automate wrapping the Goo Goo Cluster. Today, the process of making Goo Goos is so streamlined that Standard Candy in Nashville can produce 20,000 Goo Goo Clusters an hour!

And what about that name?  The story of how the candy came to be named comes in many versions. Some people say that it was named Goo Goo because it’s the first thing a baby says. Howell Campbell, Jr., the man whose father invented the Goo Goo Cluster, says that his father used to ride the streetcar to work every day and he would talk the matter over with fellow passengers. Mr. Campbell was announcing to fellow passengers on the streetcar his newborn son’s first words and a school teacher made the connection with the candy. She suggested Mr. Campbell name his treat Goo Goo! It is so good, people will ask for it from birth. 

Although my brother had to get me to send him some, the Goo Goo Cluster can be found all over the US (and then some) and I recommend it for all candy lovers and for all Southern WannaBe's like me.  Just don't be calling me to send you some!  

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