Sunday, 22 May 2011

There are jelly beans and then

there are jelly beans. Real jelly beans have to be the proper size, shape and consistency. Real jelly beans will actually have flavour, not just sugary sweetness. A packet of real jelly beans will have the proper number of black jelly beans.
I am actually not particularly fond of jelly beans but author Susan Hill happened to mention them on Twitter and I was reminded of black jelly beans. It is rather a long time since I ate one.
My sweets consumption as a child was strictly limited. I doubt this had much to do with any belief on my mother's part that children should not consume sweets. It would have been more to do with the fact that there was a very limited amount of money to spend on such things.
Very occasionally there would be a square of a rock hard pink concoction similar to "conversation" sweets. The square would take all of the penny I had been given to spend but it took hours, sometimes several days, to consume if you just licked and sucked slowly. My mother would wrap it in a tiny square of waxed lunch wrap when I had decided that I had eaten enough that day.
Once a year there were Easter eggs made out of a similar sort of sugary concoction - or a chocolate one from cheap, waxy chocolate I did not particularly like but dutifully consumed. These would be given to me and my siblings by my maternal grandmother but we were expected to offer her a similar quantity in return. Somehow it took the pleasure out of getting them as we had to buy them from our own very limited supply of pocket money.
My paternal grandmother ignored the commercial offerings. She would provide boiled eggs with faces drawn on them and marshmallow eggs she had made herself. Then, with a fine understanding of the need to have something that lasted as well, she would make toffee-covered apples or almond studded toffee set in small patty-pans.
Just once I can remember my mother making something she called "Russian toffee". I think it was a sort of caramel made with condensed milk. Why she made it I do not know.
When I began secondary school we had moved to a school big enough to have a "house" system. On the day of the school sports I, as a non participant in the events, would be given the job of running the sweets stall that our house always had. The sweets had to be home made of course.
There were toffee apples, toffees, marshmallow in square ice-cream cones, caramels, rocky-road and other delights. There were never any jelly beans.
My mother never had time to make any of these things and it was considered far too dangerous to allow us to do it so my paternal grandmother would always provide a suitable contribution. She would send it, carefully packed in a box, on the bus that came through the small town each day.
All the local children (some of them very old children indeed) would wait for her toffee apples, butterscotch and apricot bars and, of course, toffee in patty pans sprinkled with "hundreds and thousands". As the person in charge of the stall I would always put away one toffee for me and each of my siblings - paid for out of the shilling I had been given to spend.
Aside from that we rarely had sweets. I can still remember my surprise, at age ten, when I saw an adult buy a Kit-Kat. Until then I do not think I had actually seen an adult buy sweets.
There was one exception to all this. I knew my paternal grandfather must buy sweets. He would buy "Scotch mints" for my grandmother and clove flavoured Life-Savers for himself. He would also buy peppermint Life-Savers for me and my brother. We would sit on either side of him in church on Sunday and, devout man though he was, he would surreptitiously feed each of us a single peppermint Life-Saver at the beginning of the sermon. If we sucked slowly enough it would last right through the sermon until, with final tiny crunch, we would be ready to sing the last hymn.
Jelly beans may be good when of the proper chewy consistency but not even black jelly beans can equate to the joy of my grandmother's toffee apples or those illicit peppermint Life-Savers on Sundays.


Rachel Fenton said...

You can keep the jelly beans but I'd love a bag of squirrel nuts :)

I wonder if kids miss out on not being able to get a ten pence mix with at least twenty hapenny sweets in.....

Anonymous said...

Ah jelly beans - the red sort are the mouth on iced biscuits! Chris