Were there bags of sugar in the shops that were available from anyone other Tate and Lyle?
The Mr Cube logo still remains very firmly in my memory. The cube, with arms and legs and a determined looking face, holding aloft a sword in its right hand and a shield emblazoned with “T&L” in its left, was a familiar sight before most companies had even thought of a logo as a marketing device. Once my Dad made a Mr Cube outfit from expanded polystyrene packaging for my sister to wear in a fancy dress parade. Being suitable for a primary school occasion, Mr Cube must have been well-known.
Sugar and Golden Syrup were the only moments of excess in our diet, which otherwise comprised chiefly of fresh vegetables, fresh meat, and fresh bread. (Fish fingers and peas were our introduction to frozen foods).
To be honest, rather too much sugar was my moment of excess. I took three spoons of sugar in a cup of tea and my breakfast cereal was incomplete without a white frosting of sugar grains. In the hot summer of 1976, I would eat ice cubes with a spoon of sugar. It is hard to know how many of the white paper two pound bags of sugar our family consumed in a week. (Two pound bags of sugar were adapted to become 1 kilogram bags and have remained a useful way of visualizing how overweight I am – the current number is four).
It was taking too much sugar in my tea that introduced me to the idea of a saturated solution. The chemistry book said that,
A saturated solution is a solution that contains the maximum amount of solute that is capable of being dissolved by the solvent. The additional solute will not dissolve in a saturated solution.
Looking at my mug of tea, the solute that would not dissolve was the large residue of sugar which frequently remained at the bottom of the mug and had to be consumed using a teaspoon.
While teaching me elementary chemistry, sugar seemed a much more innocuous thing in the 1970s. There was a newspaper advertisement by the British Sugar Corporation which declared sugar to be “100% energy.” The advertisement seemed a vindication of my levels of consumption. Wearing jeans with a 30 inch waste, I could not have been deemed to have overweight.
Forty-odd years later, taking no sugar in my tea and a single teaspoon on my Weetabix, I struggle to keep my weight down. Perhaps the white grains from Tate and Lyle were not nearly as harmful as all that is now included in supermarket foodstuffs.