People have been burning candles since before 200 BC. And though the need for light has exceeded the capabilities of candles, candle burning is an act that will never go extinct. The roles of candles in society have evolved from what it was in the past. Likewise, the art of candle-making has seen many changes, particularly in the type of materials used. Paraffin wax, soy wax and beeswax are some of the common ones today but candles used to be made from animal fat and were considered very edible in times of famine.
CANDLE WAX AS FOOD
The concept of eating candle wax may sound strange in this day and age but not in ancient times. People who lived long ago had different ideas on what was considered edible and what was not…or did they?
Candles used to be made from animal fat thousands of years ago and in 200 BC, when the earliest surviving candles were all the rage in Han China, whale fat was melted down to make candle wax. Some centuries before that, the ancient Romans engaged in the practice of making candle wax with liquefied fat or tallow from the meat of cattle and sheep. Even more fascinating is the fact that at a point during the long history of candle- making nuts from trees and insects were used to make candle wax.
However, all of these colorful practices seemed to fade away with the invention of candles made from beeswax. Candles made from beeswax soon dominated the candle-making industry of that time because lots of people were impressed by the fragrance that came off the candle as it burned. Soon, candles made from beeswax became the only type of candles that most people wanted and so, following the undefeatable rule of demand and supply, candle-makers stopped producing all the other kinds. Gradually, candles made from animal fats became a thing of the past.
Animal fat and beeswax are quite different. However, both types of materials were perfectly edible; a fact that most people only seemed to remember during times of hardship when food was not easy to obtain. Like famine. Such dark times were rife with cases of theft as people resorted to terrible means in order to attain food. Rather curiously, candles were some of the most stolen items in those times as they were a precious source of food.
CANDLE WAX CONSUMPTION TODAY
Nowadays, candles are no longer eaten and the idea that they ever were seems ridiculous and a little weird. Candles have changed from the way they used to be and are no longer made from edible materials like animal fat, at least for the most part. The most common material used in candle-making today is paraffin wax derived from petroleum. In 2017, the candle making industry made use of about 42% of the paraffin wax produced globally. And despite the pandemic, specialists have reported an increasing growth trend in the demand of candles globally, particularly scented candles. The bulk of these candles happen to be made from paraffin wax.
Due to the fact that paraffin wax is a petroleum-based substance, it is not easy to digest or easy to get out of the body system. As a matter of fact, paraffin wax is poisonous because it contains paraffin. It may also contain a dangerous dye which can result in deadly reactions such as breathing difficulties, throat swelling and tongue swelling in people who are allergic to it. In addition, eating paraffin wax can lead to obstruction of the intestinal tract resulting in constipation, vomiting, nausea and pain in the abdominal region.
Candles that do not come in form of the paraffin wax types are not safe for consumption either. Many may contain substances or chemicals that are not suitable for edible consumption either because they are poisonous, indigestible or highly allergenic. To be on the safe side, it is best to avoid eating any kind of unsuitable candles when hungry. Candles which are not made, intended or marketed as food fall into this category and under no circumstances should they be eaten.
However, there are still some kinds of candles that are safe to be eaten.
Edible candles are simply candles that are made with edible materials. They come in different shapes and sizes and most importantly, they come in different types including:
- Edible candles for cakes
If you’ve ever gotten a birthday cake with candles on it, then the prospect of edible candles should not be so strange. In the field of confectioneries, edible candles for cakes are usually made from chocolate or some kind of sugar. Some manufactures even go as far as making edible wicks made of almond or some other material which can both be lit and eaten for maximum fun. Then, of course, there is also the fact that birthday candles can be blown out to make a wish.
- Candle cuisine
Some restaurants appear to be taking a leaf out of the ancient peoples’ book by flexing their creative and culinary muscles on a meal right out of the past. All the more intriguing is the fact that this meal just happens to be candles.
Candles are making a comeback in the most astounding and unexpected of ways with the rising popularity of candle cuisine. Many of these yummy – and very classy and posh – candles are made from animal meat right along with some other ingredients like garlic, parsley, thyme, mint and other vegetables and herbs which are typically used for cooking meat. These delicious candles can either be eaten alone or enjoyed along with a whole host of other dishes ranging from bread to pasta.
Vegetarians, vegans and other people who do not want to eat meat or meat-based products are not left out of the fun. Some culinary geniuses have gone as far as to make edible candles using foods like potatoes, bananas and fruits. These types may be more popular among those who would rather avoid meat.