Hungarians claim to have invented many things, and there are many wonders of the world that they are indeed responsible for, such as the computer and the ballpoint pen. They also may be the geniuses behind the “original M&Ms,” which were, and still are, known as Francia drazsé (French dragées).
2. Francia drazsé – They may be French in Hungarian, but it seems the French don’t call them that. And dragée is a simple word meaning a coated chocolate, usually referring in English to those pastel sugar-coated almonds often used as wedding favors. I couldn’t find any information on how old Francia drazsé are – contrary to Túró Rudi, this is not a successful branding story. The M&M website says that the Hershey company first noticed them in the 1930s in the Spanish Civil War where soldiers ate candy-covered chocolates because they didn’t melt in their hands. M&M’s were first produced in 1941 – which means rival Smarties, now a Nestlé product, are actually older, coming into production in 1937! There’s even a Smarties museum.
3. Negro – While we’re on the subject of candy and branding, I can’t leave out this popular Hungarian throat lozenge. More because of the name than the taste – but why would Hungarians pay attention to being PC in English? After all, the Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mix has survived in the U.S., even though the brand began with a white male in blackface, apron and headscarf in 1890. She was transformed into a round woman, described as a “happy slave” (!) and then updated into a modern woman – most recent iteration 1992 – and now represents “loving moms from diverse backgrounds who care for and want the very best for their families,” according to the Quaker Foods website.
As for the Hungarian Negro, it was supposedly named after its Italian inventor, Pietro Negro, but no details remain as to why he would have been the one to figure out what to do with the leftovers from melting sugars at a Hungarian candy factory in the 1920s. Although several new flavors have been introduced over the decades, apparently nobody has felt the need to update the brand – the candy’s slogan remains, “chimneysweep for the throat.”
And a Túró Rudi tidbit: it does indeed have Russian roots. Three Hungarian dairy product experts visited the Soviet Union in 1954 and tasted a “mignon” made with túró, butter and lard, and then charged Rudolf Mandeville with producing a version in Budapest, hence the name. Its original ad, depicting a pigtailed girl with the phallic chocolate bar (rúd) caused quite a scandal in the late 1950s, more than the Negro ever has.