Top 10: British Sweets

Top 10: British Sweets

1. Fudge
Forget pounds, inches and furlongs - no unit of measurement is more British than the finger of fudge, defined as that amount of Cadbury goodness deemed "just enough" to give your kids a treat. Years of conspicuous consumption have let this stoic standard of self-denial slip into disuse, along with its counterpart in Doublethink, the "fun size" Mars bar.
 
2. Double Agents
Britain was a small player in the Cold War, but no-one could beat it for espionage. James Bond, George Smiley, Anthony Blunt and a host of real and imaginary spooks stalked the globe with their false-bottomed holdalls and "special pens" throughout the 1970s. Small children aspiring to join this shadowy elite could do worse than help themselves to a few rolls of this dual-flavoured boiled sweet from Trebor, with its secret codes and invisible ink recipes on the wrappers.
 
3. Spangles
If those “citizenship tests” they set for hopeful immigrants these days don't include a question about these paragons of sucrose nostalgia, it can only be a matter of time. Created by Mars in 1948 as a throwback to the good old pre-war days of boiled sweets in jars, Spangles later became a cliché of 1970s nostalgia in their own right. And the opaque, earth-toned, tongue-torturing Old English varieties were the confectionery equivalent of Real Ale. Expect Nigel Farage to make bringing them back a central plank of his election campaign.
 
4. Yorkie
Those continental types like to spin and mould chocolate into all manner of frangible shapes, but Rowntree knew what British chocoholics wanted: a massive, no-frills, jaw-breaking slab. TV ads linked the man-sized ingot with long-distance road haulage, a bar of York's finest sustaining the honest trucker through an unforgiving night-shift up the M6. For small boys back in 1976, this was aspirational stuff. No, really.
 
5. Caramac
In the austere 1950s, when chocolate was still a once-in-a-blue-moon treat for most, Mackintosh's of Halifax cooked up this pale, sweet substitute slab from condensed milk, butter and treacle, the edible embodiment of the Great British “make do and mend” ethos. The merest taste can instantly send folk of a certain age back to a lost world of power cuts, darned socks and third-hand bathwater. Unsurprisingly, there's no dedicated Caramac website.
 
6. Aero
Confectioners carried the spirit of Victorian engineering into the 1930s with the Aero, Rowntree's miracle of chocolate construction which depended on delicate temperature and pressure control machinery for its honeycombed centre.
 
7. Sherbet Fountain
A no-frills approach to sweets – just a tube of sherbet powder with a liquorice “straw” to suck it up through, a process that, in typically British fashion, never quite worked properly.
 
8. Polo
The handy sweet just made for the glove compartment of a lovely old Morris Oxford, this mint with the hole (to improve taste performance) came to symbolise the pre-Clarkson days of British motoring: all string-backed gloves, sandwiches in foil and the AA Book of the Road.
 
9. Walnut Whip
This chocolate-garbed fondant funnel crowned with half a walnut (“walnut” is Old English for “foreign nut” but we'll let that pass) was impractical to store and impossible to eat without getting it all over you. But did we complain?
 
10. Love Hearts
Open declarations of love are not the British way, so how fortunate Swizzels-Matlow created this sweet-cum-token-of-affection for shy folk to pass on surreptitiously at the back of the class. The way the messages tried to keep up with the times, through “Hey Daddio!” and “Fax me” to “Tweet me”, was endearingly out of step, too. Our national character in a disc of pressed sherbet? Possibly.
 
A History of Sweets in 50 Wrappers by Steve Berry and Phil Norman is out now from The Friday Project for £8.99.