Feeling a need for a blood sugar boost, I went into a newsagent and bought a bag of Crawford’s Cheddars.
It is some years since a doctor in Dublin advised me that eating something savoury was preferable to eating something sweet. He warned that the sweet option might possibly create a blood sugar spike, followed by a sharp dip. This was something that had happened to me after driving from Dublin to Somerset when, feeling jaded, I had bought a large bag of Murraymints at Strensham Service Station and had consumed them while journeying southward on the M5 motorway. By the time I had reached Somerset, I felt groggy and my father checked my blood sugar level, it had fallen to 2.8.
Pondering the Cheddars, I remembered such biscuits not as a necessity, but as the sort of thing that were bought at Christmas. There would have been Ritz Crackers and KP Cheese Footballs and and tin of biscuits for eating with cheese, the sort of biscuits where the cream crackers would always have been the last left in the tin. During the rest of the year, the choice was much more limited, Rich Tea or Digestives were usually the only option.
A child during the war, my mother recounts how small was the sugar ration. My grandmother would take part of her weekly sugar ration as sweets for her children, it would mean that there was one sweet each for my mother and her siblings. Once a week, my grandmother would call her children together and take the sweet jar down from the shelf and give each of them their single sweet. It was eaten very slowly.
The sheer abundance of items once regarded as luxuries is now taken for granted.
The newsagent’s shop which might once have had newspapers, magazines and, possibly, books and stationery, was dominated by shelves of sweets, chocolate, crisps, snacks and soft drinks. The range of items on sale would have been unthinkable in the 1960s when the confectionery counter might have been confined to a space beside the till (presumably to discourage young miscreants from slipping things unpaid into their pockets).
The range of products in the most ordinary of supermarkets now far exceeds the choice that was available even in the most exclusive stores in the past.
Occasionally, such as during the panic buying in the spring of last year, there are small, temporary hints of what shortages might look like, but for most of the time, for most of us, the former luxuries are now routine.
A couple of Christmas’ ago I was at an Arts Centre and was proffered a chocolate treat. Being nut-phobic I bit it cautiously and was amazed to find it was a strawberry dipped in chocolate, and homemade at that. Expressing surprise at finding strawberries in December, I was greeted with blank stares and pitying smiles from the younger element. Resisting the impulse to explain about growing seasons and availability, I slunk away quietly and reflected on something that was at one stage truly astonishing and is now commonplace.
They will never know how exotic it felt to eat cubes of cheese and pineapple chunks on cocktail sticks or prawn cocktails from champagne glasses!
The sugar rationing was the ruination of my young teeth. The NHS was the saviour of them, turning them into metal.
As soon as rationing stopped my father would buy a big bag of boiled sweets for the family.
He was of a generation, pre NHS, and it may have been an Army thing, that thought that the best solution to teeth problems was to get rid of the troublesome things and get falsies.
As I came out of teens I lost the desire for sweet things (girls excepted/accepted) and grew to like beer, Marmite, strong cheese, plain chocolate, whisky, etc
Real ale, Marmite, mature Cheddar, and Bournville are very acceptable! (Jameson’s has an “e” in whiskey)