What's Roman Candy and Why You Need To Try It
This New Orleans novelty is more than taffy.
While horse drawn food vendors are the stuff of vintage Disney films and historical photos, there’s one that still appears on the streets of New Orleans. If you’ve been to the city’s Jazz Fest or sat in Audubon Park, you have likely seen the Roman Candy Cart sitting picturesquely much the way it did when it first started rolling in 1915.
A street vendor since he was 12-years-old, founder Sam Cortese had lost both of his legs in a streetcar accident as a child preventing him from going to school, but igniting his entrepreneurial spirit. He began selling the leftover Roman Candy his mother Angelina, a Sicilian immigrant, made for social events and holidays like St. Joseph’s Day on his family’s fruit and vegetable cart. But Sam wanted to sell the candy regularly (and his mother was a busy woman), so he decided to start his own cart. What he created was a rolling candy factory that allowed him to cook and pull the taffy while steering the cart and selling sticks of it--or multitasking as we’d call it now. He sold each stick for 5 cents (available in chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla) until he passed away in 1969.
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Now Cortese’s grandson Ron Kotteman and his mule named Vidalia can be seen rolling the same Roman Candy Cart his grandfather made through the Lower Garden District and the French Quarter. While the prices might be slightly steeper (and orders can be taken online), the cart still clops and creaks down the street the same way it did in 1915.