While it might seem like a modern phenomenon, chewing gum dates back to the times of the ancient Romans and Greeks, though of course it didn’t exist back then in the form we know it today. The Greeks masticated mastic, or mastiche, a kind of tree resin;, the Mayans chewed the sap of the sapodilla tree; Native North Americans preferred the sap of the spruce. Everyone from bubblegum-loving baseball players to kids sneaking gum in school is thus holding up a millennia-old tradition.
Chewing gum has gained popularity since our sap-chewing ancestors’ day. Familiar flavors like spearmint, cinnamon, peppermint, and bubblegum line the shelves of supermarkets, grocery stores, and bodegas around the world. You can’t walk through an airport without seeing people loading up on packets of gum before takeoff, while young couples often pop a piece before a date for fresh breath.
Gum has become a universal staple, and countries around the world have put their unique twist on it. In some cases the approach seems to be, “The wackier the better.”
Japan, famous for its forays into the weird food world, loves to experiment with chewing gum varieties that go way beyond fruity or flavorful — for instance, “Man Smell Gum.” This isn't gum that smells like a man; it's one that doesn't just brighten the breath but is said to freshen everything else, too. The rose essence it contains is said to seep through the pores to provide men with a pleasant smell from head to toe.
But we can get imaginative with gum in America, too. Wrigley’s has gotten into the game of crafting new, exotic chewing gum flavors, like Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream as part of its “Dessert Delights” collection. The Seattle-based online toy and novelty store Archie McPhee, meanwhile, produces an entire line of unique gumball flavors. Packaged in beautifully designed tins, these gumballs run the gamut from comfort-food to fancy. Those daring enough to try the Thanksgiving Dinner gumball combo can chomp down on turkey-, cranberry- and pumpkin pie-flavored gum. Those with a refined palate might find themselves drawn to the Foie Gras Bubble Gum, designed to taste just like deliciously fatty duck liver — though no actual ducks had to die for this treat.
1. Bacon Gumballs, U.S.
In America, we love our bacon, and somehow find an excuse to put it in everything — even chewing gum. These specialties are perfect for anyone who wants bacon flavor without all those fat calories.
2. Wasabi Gumballs, U.S.
Specialty brand Archie McPhee has crafted the spicy essence of wasabi into a perfectly packaged gumball for those yearning for a more outlandish flavor of gum. While it won’t freshen breath, it might help you kick that sushi craving; or at least hold you over until your next spicy tuna roll.
Kristen Oliveri is a special contributor to The Daily Meal.