What are candies? What do they represent to you? What do you favorites look and taste like? When do you eat them, and why? But, most of all, do these questions have similar answers in Italy, in Korea, in Spain or in Thailand? The concept of “candy” is used all over the world, but not always in the same way. While in Italy almost all candies are sweet, in Japan, for example, one candy is made with dried fish and sesame seeds, while in India, jalebi is made from fried white lentils and sugar syrup.
A curiosity about these different candy cultures led to the creation of The Candy Project, a fascinating anthropological (and gastronomic) project, which aims to create a map of candies around the world and identify the similarities and differences between different sweet cultures. Developed for Mugaritz, a restaurant in the Spanish Basque Country, by chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, along with Iñaki Martínez de Albéniz, a professor at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), with the support of Slow Food and the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, the project aims to study candies at a social, psychological and ethnographic level, analyzing their potential in the fields of nutrition, education and others.
“Candies tend to be undervalued,” explains Professor Martìnez de Alberniz. “Often we think they’re something of little importance, and equally often they are demonized as a possible risk factor for obesity, tooth decay, diabetes and other health problems. In reality, this is reductive. Instead, they can instead be important elements for studies linked to food and society and because of this they should be made the focus of study, like other foods that are certainly more important for the human diet.”
The study will be divided into two parts. The theoretical part will seek to generate basic knowledge about the history and production of candies, while the second part will look at more concrete contexts, focusing on the role of candies in society and their possible uses in a gastronomic context. The project will also seek to show the effects of globalization on candies. If globalization means a loss of food variety, then it also means a standardization of products like the most common sweets and certain resulting socio-cultural practices connected to them.
It was during his frequent travels that Chef Andoni discovered the incredible variety of candies and sweet traditions, and that there was no dedicated study cataloguing and protecting them. In Colombia, for example, bocadillo is a guava jelly traditionally wrapped in palm leaves, while colorful skull-shaped candies are made in Mexico for the Day of the Dead, and in Russia a dough and sugar sweet, covered in honey, makes the perfect accompaniment for coffee. Andoni wondered about every country’s different candies, how and where they are sold, which ones are for children and which for adults, when they are eaten and why.
The project will try to answer all these questions, but it needs help from people everywhere in the world. You can contribute to the research by visiting the website and filling out the questionnaire developed by the restaurant Mugaritz. The website also explains how to send in photos and samples of candies, along with their stories. With widespread collaboration, we can create a global catalogue of candies, and document the diversity of sweets that results from a rich global food biodiversity.
Find out more:
Visit the project website
Watch the video