The Incredible Edible Enigma: Circus Peanuts

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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The great mysteries of the world: How did they build the pyramids? What happened to Amelia Earhart? What is up with Circus Peanuts? That's right, Circus Peanuts. These things. How many of you have tasted one? How many of you actually like them? I've been around a while, and I've spoken to a lot of people, and to this day I've only met four people who would willingly seek out and ingest a circus peanut. (And one of them was later admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Make of that what you will.) But what are Circus Peanuts? Objectively, that is. One could say Circus Peanuts are an abomination to all that is good and holy, but that would not be objective.

Objectively, Circus Peanuts are marshmallow candies, a lot like the "charms" in Lucky Charms cereal, but huge and orange. They are supposedly banana-flavored.

They were invented in the 1800's, but no one knows by whom.

They were sold as penny candies during the summer, when chocolates would melt in the heat and candy stores needed something to fill the empty space between Easter and Halloween. Despite their name, Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus spokesperson Kim (with whom I spoke on the telephone) insists that they have nothing to do with the circus. Another peanut mystery, it seems.

So... we don't know who invented them, we don't know why they're named what they are... let's tackle the rest of it, shall we? Why are they orange, peanut-shaped and banana-flavored? I called Sather's, the modern leader in the circus-peanut manufacturing business, and asked the helpful spokesperson, James, on the other end.

He didn't know.

The official statement from Sather's is just that: "Nobody knows why, but time has proven that the best-selling circus peanut is peanut in shape, orange in color and banana in flavor." The mysteries never end.

Peanuts have been manufactured that play with that winning scheme. There have been cherry-flavored circus peanuts, pink circus peanuts, even a short-lived line of blue circus peanuts that offered the bonus affect of tinting the snacker's mouth so that it looked as though he'd been eating smurfs. But none of them ever sold very well, and they were pulled from the market.

Apparently, the story of the Circus Peanut is yet another unsolvable mystery.

Well, I tried.