Current Weather
The Spy FM

The Modjeska: A Star On Stage, Sweetly Remembered

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
July 21, 2012

In the back room of Muth’s Candies in Louisville, Ky., Jonathon Skaggs and Bobby Masterson are busy dipping marshmallows into a copper pot.

The pot is filled with a top-secret hot caramel mixture. Skaggs and Masterson tap the excess golden caramel off each candy before placing it on a board to cool.

Masterson says it’s a rhythm repeated hundreds of times each day.

“They’re good … they’re a big-time seller in here in Kentucky, especially right here in Louisville,” Masterson says. “There’s a lot of people that come and get ‘em.”

The soft, sticky candy was created by Anton Busath, a French confectioner who immigrated to Louisville. The candy maker spent years perfecting his “caramel biscuit.”

He gave his chewy creation an evocative name: the Modjeska.

Busath was enamored with Polish actress Helena Modjeska, who performed in theaters near his downtown Louisville shop in the 1880s. The Shakespearean actress was hugely popular in the United States.

Busath’s candy “was a way of encouraging — consuming — your actress,” says Beth Holmgren, a Duke University professor who’s published a biography of Helena Modjeska.

Modjeska — like the sweet that bears her name — still has a dedicated following today.

“There are lots of things named after her, [but] the candy is the only thing that’s still sold,” Holmgren says.

“It is a heavenly piece of candy,” says Rose Ann Stacy. Her family has run Muth’s Candies, on Louisville’s East Market Street, since 1921.

Other stores in the region make their own version of the Modjeska, but Muth’s lays claim to the original recipe. After Busath’s store was destroyed by fire in 1947, his son gave the recipe to Muth’s.

The East Market Street neighborhood fell on hard times in the 1960s and 70s, when large numbers of city dwellers and business owners moved to the suburbs. But the area has been making a comeback in recent years, and art galleries, restaurants and antique shops have opened.

It even has a new nickname, “NuLu,” short for New Louisville.

With some help from the Modjeska, Muth’s has withstood the neighborhood’s many changes. The candy remains the shop’s most popular treat — thousands of pounds of Modjeskas go out the shop’s doors each year.

Guests in some Louisville hotels even find a complimentary Modjeska on their pillows.

And Stacy is always happy to unwrap a free sample for visitors who stop by the shop. She loves watching people melt the first time they try the buttery caramel.

“If anybody has ever lived in Louisville … they call and get them,” Stacy says. “Because they have … to have their Modjeska fix.”

Just such a Modjeska craving brought Amy Harty into the store recently. She’s a Louisville native who now lives in New England.

“They have a very special flavor, nothing of which I’ve ever had before,” Harty says. “And people say the same thing in Boston. They’re just like, ‘Wow, these are so good!’” [Copyright 2012 Louisville Public Media]

Leave a Reply

2PM to 3PM The Dinner Party

The Dinner Party

Think NPR meets Vanity Fair. In each episode, hosts Rico Gagliano & Brendan Francis Newnam talk with some of the world's most interesting celebrities, and along the way equip you with bad jokes, fresh drink recipes, hot food finds, odd news stories... and etiquette tips from the likes of Henry Rollins and Dick Cavett. It's all you need to get an edge in your weekend conversations. Past guests include Michelle Williams, Judd Apatow, Kid Cudi and Sir Richard Branson. Wallpaper magazine calls The Dinner Party one of the Top 40 Reasons To Live In The USA.

Listen Live Now!

3PM to 4PM The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table

Hosted by award-winning Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table is a culinary, culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.

View the program guide!

4PM to 5PM Weekend All Things Considered

Weekend All Things Considered

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center