The other weekend, before giving up sweets (or ‘candy’ as the Americans call them) for Lent, I had a bit of a blow-out. I went to the local supermarket and bought a few bags of sweets and sat watching TV while pigging out.
Sundays were always sweets day when i was growing up. We’d be given £1 to go to Harrisons, a sweet shop about 10 minutes walk away (though it seemed longer). We’d buy a selection of things like Midget Gems, Sherbert Bon Bons, Liquorice torpedos, all in quater-pound bags or, if money was tight, 2 ounce bags. And the owner would measure out the sweets from a glass jar into his scales and pop them in a white paper bag.
If there was any money left over we’d buy penny chews: Black Jacks, Fruit Salad and all the rest.
Ah, those were the days…
It’s quite rare to find shops that still sell sweets this way. Most sweet shops are closed down now, but as the story below from the Guardian suggests, the market is growing again. I noticed the pub we met in before we went to play bingo the other week sold sweets from jars.
While I was eating my hoard I briefly considered opneing a sweet shop, wondering if it would be successful in Brighton. I reckon it would…
Something interesting in the article, if you read the full version, is an explanation of the British love of boiled sweets. It seems that our colonies included most of the sugar producing countries in the world, so sugar – once a luxury and very expensive – became so cheap that anyone could buy it and use it to make things. Consequently the boiled sweet industry grew up, supported by lots of small businesses making sweets from their kitchens.
In France, meanwhile, sugar remained expensive as their colonies weren’t sugar-producing. But they did have lots of gum, so whereas we had boiled sweets, the French came up with chews. And it seems one Frenchman brought his gum skills to Britain and invented Rowntrees fruit pastilles, something we remain grateful for to this day.
If you fancy treating yourself to some authentic British sweets, try aquarterof.com. By law, things can’t be sold in quarter pounds anymore so they’re sold in quarter kilos instead. Not quite the same.
Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Sugar candy kisses: “The bell tinkles as you push open the door of the sweet shop and then you are inside, gazing up at row upon row of shining glass jars crammed with multicoloured globules that seem to beckon at you from behind the counter. Then there are boxes of delicacies closer to hand: liquorice bootlaces, lollipops, fruit salad chews, gobstoppers, all temptingly displayed on every available surface…It sounds like a childhood dream, but I have just had exactly this experience in an old-fashioned sweet shop in south-east London, where all our favourite boiled sweets – which you may imagine no longer exist – are still on sale, weighed out by the quarter. The odd thing is, the sweet shop, Hope & Greenwood in East Dulwich, is not some old family concern but a brand new business, set up last August in an effort to capitalise on a surge in interest in old-fashioned sweets in local stores, supermarkets and internet sites. If you know where to look, you can still buy Space Dust (or something like it called Fiz Wiz), barley sugar, traffic light lollies, Bazooka bubble gum, kola kubes, sherbet pips, rhubarb and custards, clove balls, parma violets, sherbet fountains – even sweet ‘Spanish’ tobacco. These classic sweets still look and taste exactly the same: the recipes do not change and most are still made by the same companies. All that has been lying dormant is our lust for them.” Read more