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Our love of sweets still in good health in the age of diet concern

When it comes to a show of resilience it's hard to beat the humble pear drop.
As the nutritional police make their presence increasingly felt, turkey twizzlers have rightly been blacklisted and Sunny Delight shown the back door. However, amid the onslaught of advice about healthy eating and calorie counting, in the week which sees the Polo mint celebrate its 60th anniversary, it seems traditional sweets are standing their ground.

"People still love an aniseed ball and a Midget Gem," says Keith Tordoff, who runs the Oldest Sweetshop in the World in Pateley Bridge, with his wife Gloria. "Throughout the decades the shop has sold pretty much the same things and I don't see it changing in the future.

"Last Christmas a lady came into the shop who was 97-years-old. She'd last been in when she was four, but she'd always remembered the place and wanted to visit again.

"She said it hadn't changed a bit, it was exactly as she'd remembered it and for us that was lovely to hear."

Whether you're from the generation when Flying Saucers were king or when Pontefract cakes constituted a luxurious treat, there's something about shelves lined with glass sweet jars which conjure up a sense of childhood nostalgia like a pile of fruit never could.

"Sweets are simply magical," says Mr Tordoff, who admits he could wax lyrical about the subject for hours. "We use the same style of jars they used in the 1960s and '70s, somehow it would seem wrong to go plastic. A proper sweetshop is quite a sensory thing, when people walk in they see all the colours and smell the aroma. Instantly it puts a smile on their face.

"I get quite excited about it. Yes it's a job and a business, but it's also a passion. I don't think I could ever get bored with sweets. They are so varied, one day you could be on boiled sweets and the next day on gums.

"The problem is that a lot of the sweets today have been downgraded, but people can tell. It may sound a bit pedantic, but black Midget Gems should taste of liquorice, Pontefract cakes should have a castle on them and Aniseed balls must have the seed in the centre."

Clearly some take the whole business of sweets more seriously than others, but the man who spent years researching the history of confectionery remains convinced that a few minutes spent in the company
of a quarter of humbugs or a stick of liquorice is good for everyone's soul.

"Sweets are a great leveller," said Tim Richardson in his book Sweets - A History of Temptation. "Children take so much pleasure in their lollipops and chocolate buttons that it seems a shame to sully their enjoyment with unfounded worries about what they are doing to their health.

"Children are faced with a nutritional landscape in which sugar is demonised and with parents confused by contradictory public
health messages, even the smallest celebration of sweets causes panic.

"We are held in the grip of fear about food intake. Some people will say that children cannot miss what they have not had, that a child deprived of sweets will not want them. But what of the immorality of denying children sweets?

"Sweets may not bring much in the way of vitamins, but their psychological benefit is unquestionable. They can transform a miserable afternoon, they can break the ice at social occasions and at the end of a difficult day you can look back and see how a sweetie tipped the balance and made it into an okay day rather than a truly bad one."

Given his vitriolic defence of sweets, Mr Richardson would no doubt approve of the Freebie Fridays at the The Oldest Sweetshop in the World.

"After the end of the school week we allow the children to pick a small free bag of sweets," says Mr Tordoff. "Perhaps not surprisingly it's proved popular and you still get the youngsters trying their luck during the school holidays.

"But it's not just about children. In this day and age where high streets seem to be clones of one another I think people appreciate difference. We make time to talk to people and they like the chance to have time to stand and look around. Here they don't feel like they are on a conveyor belt and they get a bag of sweets at the end of it."

Source: Yorkshire Post

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