On our Good Friday road trip to Laguna that centered mainly in the town of Pangil, we saw a cotton candy vendor near the entrance of the town plaza.
Not surprising. Cotton candy vendors are fixtures at churches (no, not inside but outside), parks, outside schools, fairs… anywhere where large crowds congregate. If you don’t want to go around looking for one, you can hire the vendor. Just like mamang sorbetero, the cotton candy man and his machine can be hired (for children’s parties, mostly) for a couple of hours. Whether the price is on a per hour basis or per the number of cotton candies made, I am not sure.
At the Pangil plaza, after seeing the cotton candy vendor, the kid in Sam couldn’t resist, naturally and she wanted to buy a bag of cotton candy. In what seemed to be a synchronized move, we all started to take photos of how cotton candy comes to be.
The original monikker for spun sugar was “fairy floss,” the Brits call it “candy floss,” and we started calling it “cotton candy” in the 1920s..
According to Gourmet magazine (February 2000), the real story takes place in 1897, when William Morrison and John C. Wharton, Tennessee candymakers from Nashville, invented the world’s first electric machine that allowed crystallized sugar to be poured onto a heated spinning plate, then pushed by centrifugal force through a series of tiny holes. [The Straight Dope]
So, yes, cotton candy is nothing but sugar. Colored, most times, but still sugar that is poured into the heated spinning plate.
The heat melts the sugar and the centrifugal force (which I had to ask Speedy to explain to me) pushes it out in threads. The vendor uses a stick to gather the sugar threads twirling the stick to wrap the sugar threads around it. When the twirled sugar threads are enough, he stops and the cotton candy is ready for selling.
When I was a kid, cotton candy was not bagged. The vendor won’t make any until someone places an order. That way, the cotton candy was always freshly made. These days, vendors make batches of cotton candy in advance and stores each in a plastic bag.