When I was a child, I didn’t know what candy was. Years later when I knew, and the word was uttered, it didn’t immediately spring to mind what it meant.

That’s simply because in the UK we call them sweets, It’s just one of the wonderful words that the US and UK differ on. I love the differences in our language. Even the spelling of items is different, and to each of us, the opposite spelling looks so strange. But I digress because I love it.

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When I was a child, along with my family, we would go to church every Sunday. Afterwards, we were taken to the local sweet shop where there was a plethora of brightly coloured sweeties. Our eyes would light up and the ones we liked most were the four-for-a-penny selection, like blackjacks, and fruit salads. They were chewy square treats that stuck to your teeth. You could also buy a gobstopper, and they were extremely popular with the boys. They were hard and round and brightly coloured. They bulged from your cheeks and the only way to get them smaller was to suck. The name is a funny one if you are not familiar with the slang. Gob means mouth, so it stopped you talking.

Apart from the penny tray of which there was a lot of choice, shelves behind the counter held rows of jars containing sweets of all kinds, sucky ones, chewy ones, minty ones to name a few.

The one thing I remember is the white bags they came in. We would stand in awe as the shopkeeper weighed out the required amount, usually a quarter of a pound on the weighing machine. The tray narrowed at one end so the contents could be poured bag. He held it by the corners and tossed it around so it twisted and folded at the top. Each end became screwed up holding the contents firm. That fascinated me and is something I don’t see anymore. We carried our bag of sweets home full of anticipation because we weren’t allowed them until after we’d eaten our dinner.

Although sweet-tasting food made from sugar have been for thousands of years, it was only in the middle 1800s that it became cheaper to import it from the West Indies.

Originally made for aristocrats it became freely available for everyone. Every country began making their own and they were enjoyed all over the world.

The Great Exhibition in London in 1851 was a great event for many reasons, but it was also first time when “French-style” sweets made with soft cream centres were first displayed. A new sweet making equipment made this possible. Until then nobody managed to add a soft centre to a hard boiled sweets.


As always, a selection of books you may like to read with a sweet theme.

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