Food History

The Forgotten Inventor of the Fluffernutter Sandwich

A history of the nostalgic treat, and my history with it.

April 13, 2020
Photo by @fitzpusky | Instagram

I never cared for Fluffernutter sandwiches as a kid—they always struck me as a kind of “nothing” food. Two slices of white bread thickly smeared with peanut butter and a spread made from corn syrup, sugar, egg whites, and vanilla flavoring amounted to little more than a sickly-sweet mushy mess. I’d eat them only at friends’ houses, and was always happier to have mac and cheese or tuna salad instead.

In the fall of 2011, I moved from Delaware to Massachusetts for college and found myself, all of a sudden, completely friendless. After a few drab meals in its grey dining hall, the freshmen class—myself included—started craving snacks.

I realized I could be the source of said snacks.

Recalling the joy Fluffernutters had brought my childhood friends, I stocked up on jars of Fluff and peanut butter, casually leaving them in my windowsill, hoping that the sight would lure in any potential new friends to stop, chat, linger. As that first semester unfolded and my neighbors-turned-friends made repeat visits to chat and share an ooey-gooey fluff sando, I realized that my friendship trap had worked.

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Top Comment:
“I grew up in Western Massachusetts and we had marshmallow fluff on occasion as a treat. But in the Years since I have moved away, I have come to especially love it. And if you look at the sugar content, it actually has less sugar than most jams or jellies. It's my guilty pleasure and I don't feel bad eating it! I love to eat it with peanut butter on graham crackers with chocolate chips on top. It's always delicious as a fluffernutter sandwich. I have also discovered that it's amazing on top of the cheese cracker and peanut butter sandwiches that come in a packet.”
— Eva W.
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The case can be made that free food of any kind would have successfully wooed a pack of college students. But the Fluffernutter, somehow, seemed especially effective. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had unwittingly brought the sandwich back to its birthplace—and served it to its target demographic.

As Michael Stern, co-founder of regional food guide Roadfood and co-author of The Lexicon of Real American Food, tells me, Massachusetts was the epicenter of not only the Fluffernutter sandwich, but its most famous ingredient.

“In the second decade of the 20th century, Fluff was invented twice, both times in Massachusetts,” he explains.

The first time was in 1913, when small time confectioners Amory and Emma Curtis created Snowflake Marshmallow Créme in their home kitchen in Melrose. Just four years later, another small time candy maker, Archibald Query—unaware of the Curtises—started selling his marshmallow cream door-to-door in Somerville. Stymied by the wartime sugar shortage, Query eventually sold his formula to businessmen H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower, who rebranded it as Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff, which eventually became the Marshmallow Fluff we see on shelves today.

Because his recipe gave rise to the most prominent Fluff product, Query is usually credited as its sole inventor, though the Curtises preceded him by four years. Emma Curtis was also the first person to make a Fluffernutter sandwich, Stern says. In addition to her signature Snowflake Marshmallow Créme, Curtis’s “Liberty Sandwich” called for protein-packed peanut butter and oat- or barley-based “war bread,” in adhering to government recommendations to consume less meat and wheat amid World War I.

Likely because of its association with the war and rationing, The Liberty Sandwich remained largely unpopular until the 1960s: “This was around the time Rice Krispie treats—also made with Fluff—were getting popular as one of the multitude of easy, back-of-the-box recipes marketed to efficiency-minded housewives,” Stern explains, suggesting that Fluff had a ready-made customer base for its trademarked sandwich. Once they rebranded Curtis’s sandwich with a new name, the Fluffernutter, the rest was history: A wallet-friendly, ultra-sweet treat was born and its wartime origins forgotten.

The Fluffernutter saw its rise, peak, and fall all within the same decade. It’s since come to be seen as dated junk food, with Massachusetts legislators even limiting how often Fluffernutters can be served in school cafeterias.

Despite its lack of nutritional value, the Fluffernutter is a deeply sentimental, if not formative, food for Massachusetts residents. That same year, State Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein filed a bill to make it the official sandwich of Massachusetts.

But there’s more to Massachusetts residents’ support of Reinstein's bill and attendance of annual Fluff-focused festivals than just fandom. Canonizing the Fluffernutter in history means this mere sandwich is not just singularly important, but collectively. Its public validation, in turn, validates all personal histories in its orbit.

Where some modern-day Fluffernutter supporters act in defense of a beloved childhood snack or memory, others have come to love it for its throwback charm.

“New generations of foodies find them an amusing retro artifact from the unsophisticated culinary past—something like Spam or Jell-O,” Stern says, adding that attaining novelty status has granted the Fluffernutter a second wave of popularity, 50 years later. This duality—the Fluffernutter’s simultaneous heart-warming nostalgia and retro unpretentiousness—is exactly what made it such an enticing treat for my liberal arts ilk. We were just the type to ride Fluff’s revival wave.

Holed up in snowbound western Massachusetts living off thin dining hall coffee and forties of malt liquor, the innocent-yet-ironic taste of the Fluffernutter resonated with our homesick hearts. Even those who didn’t grow up with it called it “cute,” “dope,” “exactly what I needed right now.” As comforting as it is kitsch, the Fluffernutter was the perfect snack for housewives on a budget, and ironic hipsters secretly yearning for a taste of uncomplicated times.

Fluffernutters—friend or foe? Tell us why in the comments!

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Sara Coughlin is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. Although she writes about food, health, wellness, lifestyle trends, skin-care, and astrology, she’d much rather talk to you about professional wrestling, rock climbing, and her personal favorite true crime theories. You can find her in her studio apartment doing yoga while a pan of veggies gently burns in the oven.

60 Comments

Eva W. May 10, 2020
I grew up in Western Massachusetts and we had marshmallow fluff on occasion as a treat. But in the Years since I have moved away, I have come to especially love it. And if you look at the sugar content, it actually has less sugar than most jams or jellies. It's my guilty pleasure and I don't feel bad eating it! I love to eat it with peanut butter on graham crackers with chocolate chips on top. It's always delicious as a fluffernutter sandwich. I have also discovered that it's amazing on top of the cheese cracker and peanut butter sandwiches that come in a packet.
 
Diana G. May 11, 2020
Eva, I grew up in Westfield- I love your idea
 
Mavis April 27, 2020
Though born in Costa Rica and raised in East L.A. --my 3 older brothers and I were introduced to these by our stepmother. However, she added one thing to amp up the nutrition---bananas. It is still my preferred way and lately, the addition also of Nutella takes it over the top. One brother adds whatever jam he has to that!! Open wide!
 
Julie K. April 26, 2020
Three sisters, Brady Bunch, Danskins, Schoolhouse Rock generation. The little sister was a mikey - "she won't eat it, she doesn''t like anything." Captiain crunch with crunch berries, plain homemade hamburgers, spaghetti with butter, and fluffernutters made the cut.
 
Diana G. April 26, 2020
I’m from Westfield, 1959
 
Joanne C. April 26, 2020
I grew up in 1960's western Massachusetts and it never occurred to me that there were people who didn't like Fluffernutters, only people who had never learned of them. I remember television ads with a jingle that told you how to make them. I still eat one on occasion.
 
Lorrieaa April 26, 2020
I’m from Oregon and when I was little we called them “Boston Cream Sandwiches”. Now I know why!
 
jmurphy April 26, 2020
Oh yes, Brigham's. The ice cream parlor that served hot fudge "marshmallow" sundaes, in a silverish dish with a paper napkin with chocolate sauce intentionally spilled over. I could kill for one of those right now.
 
Johonna C. April 26, 2020
“ That would gladden the heart of Sarah Dow, the bookkeeper to founder John Bailey. When he retired in 1900, she became the shop’s owner and took a gamble that made dessert history.

″She put 6 ounces of ice cream in a 5-ounce dish and poured one and a half ounces of hot fudge on top of it, and it dripped down onto the silver dish,″ Frank Wyman Jr., a former Bailey’s owner, said with reverence. ″Beautiful concept. Beautiful product.″

Later, Bailey’s supplied mail-order chocolates to Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy. Joseph Kennedy Sr., the late president’s father, was among the many Boston brahmins who kept his candy preferences on record at the flagship store on Temple Place, at the edge of the Boston Common.” https://apnews.com/7b32edb3bd0c7e85f3e02de48a0c5b27
 
Kathy B. April 26, 2020
Oh yes ! On the west coast I’ve not seen Flutternutter but I have a jar of JetPuffed Marshmellow Cream........secret pleasure is cracker with the cream and peanut butter.....suddenly everything is better , at least for a bit !
 
Kat April 26, 2020
My NJ born mom introduced this delicacy to us as children. I, in turn, introduced it not only to my own two boys but to the other 9 children on our midwestern town street. Even now, at 56, it has not lost its charm...just had it for lunch today!
 
Mar April 26, 2020
Marshmallow Creme was considered tacky in our household, bought only by outsiders who were not in the know!
And how about Jimmies? According to the story on the Brigham’s Restaurant menu (ps -Brigham’s is THE world’s very best ice cream, especially the Mocha Chip):
When a little boy went to Brigham’s for his birthday ice cream with his family, his mom shaved a little of a chocolate bar on top to make his special. When his siblings asked for the same, his mom replied,, “ No, those are Jimmy’s because it is his birthday. “.
Jimmies are chocolate, but that multi-color stuff is “sprinkles”.
 
Joanne G. April 26, 2020
That’s a sweet story (no pun intended ). I didn’t know that story
About jimmies. But of course all the kids liked jimmies in their sundaes (though I was more of a chocolate fudge sauce kind of girl!)
 
Joanne G. April 26, 2020
And agree about the mocha chip! It’s the whole coffee ice cream thing...! (Uh, Like frozen coffee milk!) Way before there was ever A Starbucks frappacino, there were coffee frappés atBeaupre’s drug store, back when drug stores had counters— sometimes even a soda fountain. :-) Made with coffee ice cream. Milk & coffee syrup, and blended with the special machine... But that’s an aside in the original Fluffernutter — Fluff has a different consistency from that of marshmallow creme.
 
Joanne G. April 26, 2020
A walk down memory lane! I grew up in the 60’s in RI, on the Mass border. And “fluffanuttahs” were definitely an element of my childhood. And yes, accompanied by cold milk but it was coffee milk In RI, not plain, thank you! (Were you an Eclipse or an Autocrat family?)
I would indulge in it only occasionally as I always preferred my PB sandwiches straight up— no jelly or jam despite the Cellar full of home/made preserves that my grandmother always had on hand— those were best relished By the spoonful, straight out of the jar or on toast! But from time to time, you just HAD to have a Fluffernutter, usually As a snack after school. And for the holidays, my grandmother would use Fluff to make fudge. I’d venture to guess that Fluffernutters (and that holiday fudge) were Definitely a part of many a New England childhood— tho back then, Fluff existed in only one form— no raspberry or caramel flavors! And please note: “marshmallow creme” Available in other parts of the country is definitely NOT Fluff— there’s only one original! :-)

 
Carol C. April 26, 2020
Try this version: toasted English muffin with butter, then spread peanut butter and fluff on each side. Put it back in toaster oven and broil until fluff turns golden - like a toasted marshmallow- and then eat! Takes it to new heights of tasty comfort food!
 
Cathy J. April 26, 2020
Gosh! Our family of six kids grew up eating fluffernutter sandwichs all the time :) We especially enjoyed them any time we went to the beach! It's kinda funny, my sister and I still enjoy them to this day and sometimes she just gets a spoonful of peanut butter then scoops up some fluff and enjoys :) :)
 
jmurphy April 26, 2020
I'm from Lynn Massachusetts, and guess what is made there? The good Marshmallow Fluff, we used to take school trips to the factory. Of course, Fluffernutters were part of our family tradition. I don't eat them any more. Did you know that they make raspberry fluff? I really loved that one. I don't know if they still make it. Someone commented on a caramel fluff (now that I have to break the diet and try). When I first moved to Washington DC, my parents would send me jars of the stuff. Now it's everywhere.
 
Diana G. April 26, 2020
That is a kid’s dream to visit the factory! I can smell it!
 
Mar April 26, 2020
I’m a Mass gal all the way and have taught many about the wonders of a fluffernutter! We grew up with very little junk food, but a fluffernutter made a wicked great dessert. I’ve seen it as a dessert in restaurant! Who also remembers the wonders of Junket for dessert? It’s difficult to find now because it won’t set when made with modern ultra-pasteurized milk. 😔
 
Diana G. April 26, 2020
Is that why there is no Junket. I used to eat a raspberry whipped cream cake with it as a glaze.
 
Jenny April 26, 2020
I loved Junket. I think there was maple, raspberry and chocolate. Mom often fixed it for me for weekend lunch dessert or an after school snack. Haven't seen it in years.
 
Kathy B. April 26, 2020
My grandmother would make a vanilla cake and then serve a piece with less set raspberry junket over the piece - a wonderful yummy memory
 
Jenny April 26, 2020
Oh yum....raspberry was my favorite flavor.
 
MacGuffin April 26, 2020
You can still get a few Junket ("Junket rennet custard, the growing up dessert . . . "). I used to love it when I was a kid but I'm vegetarian now and it isn't. I loved its weird texture.
 
MacGuffin April 26, 2020
Still available . . .
 
Diana G. April 26, 2020
I grew up in Western Mass and the Fluffernutter was a lunch staple all through school. Even ate the raspberry flavored! Anyone ever eat a peanut butter , fluff and jelly sandwich on white bread? Had to team it with tomato soup to cut the sweetness!
 
Lauren B. April 26, 2020
Growing up in the South Bronx I never heard of this stuff. Plus I hated peanut butter until as a young adult I tasted natural crunchy PB. But we made our own version of Fluff, I think, by taking a marshmallow and repeatedly squishing it between the pointer and thumb of each hand Until it became a very sticky and slimy mess that you had to eat carefully lest it get stuck in your hair. I cannot say that I would relish the combination, though. Rather have PB with banana and marshmallow fluff...maybe as part of a skmore when you can't have a fire?
 
ctgal April 26, 2020
I'm from Connecticut, and it was definitely around in my youth. My mother never bought it, I never had it at a friend's house, and so I never wanted it. I always wondered why people liked it. It always struck me as disgusting and probably really sweet. Now, peanut butter and jelly is still one of my favorite things, and I eat it with Wilkinson's raspberry jam.
 
Jenny April 26, 2020




















I have never been a fan of Fluffernutters. Fluff was junkfood to my parents, and they would not buy it. Mom's homemade jams and jellies (crabapple, currant, strawberry, raspberry) were so good, I did not mind. However, I devoured them at the neighbors. Forbidden fruit!
 
MacGuffin April 26, 2020
Ditto on the Fluffernutter but there's usually Marshmallow fluff in my pantry because, combined with a few drops of water, it becomes *drumroll* marshmallow sauce for homemade marshmallow sundaes! In addition, because it's vegetarian (unlike most marshmallows), it's a great hot chocolate/cocoa (depending on my mood) topping for me. I remember seeing a similar Kraft product growing up in Detroit but I've never seen it in the NYC area.
 
Giny W. April 26, 2020
I grew up eating these as a kid and loved them! Now, in my 60's and living in Norway for almost 10 yrs., I found not only Fluff here in Scandinavia, which I use in a favorite Christmas fudge, but Fluff's newer flavor I didn't know existed ... Caramel Fluff! Be still my heart! And yes - it elevates the Fluffernutter to new heights of deliciousness.
 
MacGuffin April 26, 2020
CARAMEL! Why don't we have that here??
 
Giny W. April 26, 2020
We are just over an hour from Sweden, so we do some of our shopping there as certain items are half the price there than here. That is where I found the Caramel flavor, but have since seen it several places. I'm sure it's Stateside, too. You might need to Google it. 😁 It's worth finding
 
MacGuffin April 26, 2020
Thanks for the response!
Unfortunately, this seems to be something either discontinued in the States or manufactured only for the European market. However, in my quest for caramel, I found strawberry on the Durkee site. I figured it's worth trying, so I ordered a coupla jars at a decent price on Amazon.
 
Giny W. April 26, 2020
We have that, too! It's almost embarrassing. I have my daughter shipping my favorite coffee & PB, etc., over the pond and we actually have the special flavors of Fluff!!! 😂
 
MacGuffin April 26, 2020
So ENVIOUS.
 
Renee K. April 26, 2020
Yes to the Fluffernutter! My daughter and I were just talking about this! It’s the best on Saltine crackers—the ultimate sweet/salty, smooth/crunchy combination. Also, here in Northeast PA, there’s a candy company that makes “Club Sandwiches”: peanut butter spread between saltines and coated in chocolate. Another awesome combination.
 
Diana G. April 26, 2020
Yes, I loved it on a saltine?