Cheating My Stomach

Photographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

In 1928, Walter Diemer, an accountant for the Fleer Chewing Gum Company in Philadelphia, was experimenting with new gum recipes. One recipe was found to be less sticky than regular chewing gum, and stretched more easily. This gum became highly successful and was eventually named by the president of Fleer as Dubble Bubble because of its stretchy texture. The original bubble gum was pink in color because that was the only dye Diemer had on hand at the time and it was his favorite color.

In modern chewing gum, if natural rubber such as chicle is used, it must pass several purity and cleanliness tests. However, most modern types of chewing gum use synthetic gum based materials. These materials allow for longer-lasting flavor, a better texture, and a reduction in tackiness.


To the above I can only add that it was in Mexico where the Aztecs and the Mayans simultaneously discovered that the sap of a tree Manilkara zapota, commonly called the chicozapote was chewable,flexible and when thrown on a hard surface it bounced. These natives of Mexico used the sap to make the balls with which they played their game of pelota which used both the hands and the feet. Strictly speaking they invented chewing gum. It is only the chap at Fleer’s who may have discovered a more viscous version with which you could blow bubbles.

My adventure with chewing gum began in 1951 when a distant cousin of mine Robby Miranda arrived in Buenos Aires with his family from Manila via New York City. It was cousin Robby who told me about the NY Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers when he proudly showed me his valuable pennants. He complained that Argentine chewing gum was defective as you could not blow bubbles. I did not understand.

Soon after, my mother who worked at the American School in Belgrano R brought me some square little packages of gum called Fleer’s Double Bubble. I proudly showed Robby my find who then showed me a little package of gum called Bazooka.

My mother told me that chewing gum was a useless pastime as our stomachs waited in anticipation for the food to come. Gastric juices were prepared and when nothing came down we would be subject to stomach troubles. She said I was cheating my stomach. I have not liked bubble gum since.

When me moved from Buenos Aires to Mexico City in 1954 my new Mexican friends taught me to chew chapopote, the tar used between large squares of concrete on streets. They told me that chapopote helped to keep my teeth white.

But I must admit that when Salem blew bubbles from her bed at the old Marble Arch (I was taking photographs, nothing more) I was suddenly charmed.

Link to: Cheating My Stomach

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