I recently saw a magazine article promoting French sweets. A map of France highlighted the aniseed flavoured‘Anis de Flavigny’, Montelimar nougat, ‘Betises de Cambrai’, salted caramels from Brittany etc. It started me thinking as to whether we had regional sweets in the UK. Yes, Everton mints, Pontefract cakes, Brighton rock, Devon toffees came to mind. It seemed another example of how we lack the bluster and pride of the French. A sweet is after all, just sugar but in France it becomes a matter of national pride! Did you know that Jelly Babies were invented after the 1WW as ‘Peace Babies’ or that Flying Saucers were voted the most popular British sweet? A recent visit to an old-fashioned Bedford sweet shop opened my eyes to our rich sweet heritage. Pear drops, liquorice allsorts, coconut mushrooms, clove rock, pineapple cubes, wine gums (I don’t know how they have managed to avoid the wrath of the champagne regulatory board – shhh, don’t tell them that the word CHAMPAGNE appears on one of these sweets!), Edinburgh rock – the softer cousin of seaside rock, and many more! Not forgetting the quintessentially English rhubarb and custard sweets. We should do more for our cultural heritage! Love Hearts helped to teach my daughter to read. “If you can read it, you can eat it”, I used to say. ‘Learn English with Love Hearts’ could be proposed on posters at our ports!  Sweets I have actively promoted in France have been ‘Fishermen’s Friends’. Every time someone coughs in my lessons, they are offered one. I warn them that they are very strong because they were invented for fishermen working the freezing waters of the North Sea, so they are very effective. On the ‘Boston Memories – Lincolnshire’ site, I learned that Jakeman’s throat and chest menthol cough suppressants are manufactured in the town and sold all over the world. Why had I never heard of them before? Recently I found some on sale. They are worth having a sore throat for. The ‘Original’ has the same taste as a glass of Pastis! Something that is completely unknown in France is fudge. When I try to describe it, students say, “Ah, caramels!”. “No, they are softer and melt in the mouth and have a delicious buttery, creamy taste”, I reply. There is definitely a gap in the French sweet market for fudge!

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