Of Cuckoo Clocks and Marshmallows

Here is some exciting information no one should be without in regards to Cuckoo clocks and the wonders of marshmallows.

Where in the world do you think we originally got cuckoo clocks from?
I would bet most of us would say Europe, somewhere. Some of us who would say Germany would be correct. Now to pinpoint it further, the next trivia question is where in Germany were these amazing, and somewhat irritating, clocks invented and made? The clocks originated in the Black Forest (maybe the same forest where yummy Black Forest Ham was invented), in Baden-Wurttemberg, a province in Germany. (Sorry. I can’t put the umlauts – the 2 little dots over the u, so just imagine they are there.)

Cuckoo clocks are beautiful, nice at times, and it is kind of funny to see a bird come out of the clock. Sometimes, even little statuettes of people come out at the top of the hour. But to live with one of these constant noisemakers going “Cuckoo! Cuckoo!” around the clock probably make me go cuckoo myself. Maybe you get used to it, like foghorns in San Francisco, after a while. Honestly, I would prefer foghorns. My mother worked in a donut shop and said after awhile she didn’t like doughnuts anymore, not even the smell. (Maybe I need to work in a donut shop or a chocolate factory. But I digress.) So maybe the sound just becomes background white noise.

Just the facts, Ma’am… History buffs believe the first cuckoo clock was created in the early 1600s. Cuckoo clocks were a very big business in Germany in 1808. Triberg, Germany had a population of 9,013 people. 790 of those people were employed in the cuckoo clock making industry. That’s over 11% of the population. Makes me wonder what the rest of the population were doing? Maybe making apple kuchen.

I know you are wondering how the cuckoo sound was made. Well, let me tell you. In the original cuckoo clocks the “cuckoo” sound was made by bellows pushing air through 2 wooden whistles.

The largest cuckoo clock would be found in Germany, correct? If you say “yes” you would lose the trivia game. Not in Texas either where everything is supposed to be big. Try again. Clue – it is in the good old USA. That’s 49 states to choose from since I said the clock wasn’t in Texas. Give up? Sugarcreek, Ohio, to be exact where its 23 feet tall and 24 feet wide self can be found in this Swiss-themed tourist town. (I thought they were of German origin. Germany, Switzerland, hmmm. Well, they are close neighbors.)

Moving right a long, because the “cuckoo” clock keeps ticking reminding me it is almost time to go to work, let’s think about marshmallows now. I don’t know about you, but I can stand medications in syrup form, or gummy form, for that matter. I just can tolerate the taste and if I try to take it, I end up gagging a lot, and trying not to be too gross, spitting it out! Just give me fudge and Rice Krispy treats made with marshmallows. I can get those down real easily.

In the good old days, I guess to flavor medicines in order to get people to ingest them, marshmallow was used. We think of marshmallows as squishy, sugary treates, like Easter Peeps. But in the 19th century marsh mallow, from the plant, Althaea officinalis, was turned into cough lozenges to ease sore throats and colds. The marsh mallow plant grows natively, where else?, in marshes. It was also used to relieve toothaches and insect bites. Dentists today would have a cow if a person treated their toothaches with marshmallows. How about adding a “little” sugar to help that rotten cavity get bigger?

Originally, marsh mallow medicines were not sweet, but some brilliant person figured out how to sweeten it in cold syrups. And as with all progess, marsh mallows became marshmallows that you put on top of your hot chocolate, etc., etc. By the early 20th century, confectioners, who know their sugar, started substituting egg whites or gelatin for the marsh mallow plant. This made the sweet version we know and most of us love, (But, please do not put them on my candied yams!) even easier to make. And I would bet environmentalists are also exceedingly pleased. That way we can leave marsh mallows in their natural habitats and not on the endangered species list. Isn’t that wonderful for all?

Now you know. The question is do you care? I found it interesting to know these things, and though, neither of my children will play Trivial Pursuit with me, I will share this knowledge with someone, somehow. You won’t be the only people to be “trivialized.”

Enjoy having the inside scoop! Have a great day!

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