So I was out Bunburying last night after work. En route to a new-to-me drinking establishment, I diverted to a Vancouver emporium going by the name of The Candy Aisle. Now this little shop sells chemicals, dyes and lots of sugar all packaged up in gaily coloured packets to tempt and attract children… and pre-diabetic old farts pining for the treats they enjoyed when growing up in Blighty.
You see, alongside their selection of popular North American corn-syrup based sweets, the Candy Aisle sells British sugar-beet based sweets.
I’m not sure I have a discerning enough palette to REALLY tell the difference in the sources of the sugar, and it very well could be just “baby duck syndrome“, but I simply prefer British sweets. Especially chocolate. Hershey’s chocolate tastes like soap from Lush in my opinion (before you ask: I swore a lot as a child), though it seems to be quite popular in North America. There are a few shops around the Lower Mainland that sell sweets from the UK, but I prefer the Candy Aisle for one simple reason. Their staff can read.
You see, although it’s starting to become more normal in Canada, the UK and the EEC have printed “Best Before” dates on their foodstuffs for decades. This simple concept allows the consumer to determine, before they open the package, that the contents have an above average likelihood of being good (or at least safe – for some given value of safe) to eat. Of course, the proprietor of the shop can then also periodically check their stock, and discard items that are no longer “best before”, and therefore, by extension likely to be “worse after”. Unfortunately, most of the shops I’ve tried that sell UK sweets rely on the strength of hankering for Old World treats to over-ride the fear of botulism, salmonella, E. coli and the like, and leave the items on display until they’re either bought by the truly desperate, or presumably grow enough lifeforms to evolve the ability to move, and escape of their own volition.
The Candy Aisle however employs people who can read, and their shelves are stocked only with items within the manufacturer’s concept of best before. Obviously this is not the same as those employed by the dental profession, who probably can’t conceive of the concept of any such highly sugared item being best at all. But enough. I’m sure you’re itching to know what I purchased. Don’t deny it – there’s no other reason you’d have ploughed through all that twaddle if you weren’t just a bit interested.
To be honest, it wasn’t a simple matter. Many items were picked up, replaced, considered, apologised to, and ultimately left for another customer. There was an unfortunate incident with a packet of Twiglets, but the police thankfully weren’t called in the end.
What I eventually left with was a bar of Caramac. The last time I’d had one, it was made by Mackintosh’s (Established in Halifax, Yorkshire, where all good things come from).
Mackintosh’s had been acquired and become Rowntree Mackintosh (Rowntree’s made fruit-based sweets, epitomised by “Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles“. Yes… I’d bought some of those too.)
As is the way of big business though, they too had been acquired, and were now owned by Nestlé of Switzerland. I also indulged in some Jacob’s Club biscuits. Orange flavoured. Mmmmm. Jacobs, like Cadbury, are now part of Kraft… but that is half owned by Nestlé. Are you following?!
Some other bits and bobs along the way (I was like an ex-pat in a candy store!), but the pièce de résistance… a bag of Jelly Babies!
Bassetts: proper ones! And guess who owns Bassetts? Cadburys, who are owned by Kraft, who are owned by Nestlé, and so the world turns. Anyway, pre-diabetic or not, I opened them this morning and selected my favourite… the black one! I let it sit on my tongue while its dusting of castor sugar dissolved, and the blackcurrant flavour seeped into my taste buds.
And that was it. The realisation of why I love British sweets, and loathe North American ones. The flavours are right!
Black sweets taste of blackcurrant… not liquorice!
Green ones taste of lime… not some poor facsimile of apple or worse… spearmint.
And THERE ARE NO BLUE ONES! I shudder every time I see blue sweets and drinks being fed to the youth of Canada. It’s just not right! Even things named blue, like blueberries are NOT blue. Ink is blue. Grapes and raspberries are not blue.
Oh – and Nestlé also own Jenny Craig.