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Fluff

If you grew up in New England, chances are you're familiar with one of the area's most beloved, simple treats: the Fluffernutter sandwich.

The Fluffernutter is made typically with peanut butter, white bread, and the key ingredient, Marshmallow Fluff, a special formula of marshmallow crème created by Archibald Query in Somerville, Mass., in 1917. After a company by the name of Durkee-Mower Co. began distributing it in 1920 as one of its very first products, it became a local classic, and has since made its way around the country and to 18 nations around the world.

query

The back story on this gooey, sugary substance is that in the early 1900s, it was very much in fashion to use white sauces to dress up foods. Marshmallow crème was already in existence; this semi-liquid version of marshmallow, which had been made for centuries, first as a derivation of a flowering plant called the marsh mallow, and later mostly of sugar, corn syrup, vanillin and egg whites, was developed sometime around 1912, when a company by the name of Limpert Co. was known to have begun selling a version of marshmallow crème to pharmacies.

Query, a resident of Somerville, Mass., developed a recipe for marshmallow crème in his own kitchen that had an especially lofty consistency. He began selling it door to door with reasonable success. However, when World War I commenced, sugar shortages dealt a blow to his fledgling business.

Meanwhile, Swampscott, Mass., natives H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower had begun making candy together and set up a company in 1920, Durkee-Mower, to distribute their goods. They purchased Query's marshmallow crème recipe from him for $500 and began making it themselves, calling it "Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff." (The name was a play on a French phrase.) They made their first sale of the sweet concoction in 1920, to a lodge in New Hampshire.

Query moved on to other work, and had nothing further to do with the product. But Durkee and Mower managed to secure Marshmallow Fluff a place in local history when they gave the product its now-familiar moniker, managed to get the product onto supermarket shelves, placed advertisements in area newspapers and began sponsoring the "Flufferettes" radio show in 1930. The variety show stayed on the air until the late 1940s.

Durkee-Mower continued to grow and added more offerings to its product line, including instant hot chocolate. It expanded into a new factory space in Lynn, Mass., in 1950, where Fluff got new packaging and was made with new machinery that kept the product ultra-pure. The company also began publishing recipes which included Fluff, such as fudge and cheesecake. One of the firm's greatest successes came when, in 1960, an advertising agency hired by the company came up with the name Fluffernutter. This particular type of sandwich had become popular years earlier, but now that it had a clever name, its popularity would prove everlasting. To this day, Durkee-Mower holds the trademark for the word "Fluffernutter."

As of this 2007 writing, Durkee-Mower continues to distribute Marshmallow Fluff and the product is a source of pride for local folks. In fact, in 2006, Somerville, Mass., held its first-ever Fluff festival, dubbed "What the Fluff," and the Fluffernutter has been proposed at least once as a possible candidate for the state's official sandwich.

[March 2007]

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