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miércoles, abril 25

Some typical British sweets

(Read at expat's Telegraph on March, 26th)

Jelly Babies were first launched by British sweetmakers' Bassett's as "Peace Babies" in 1918, to commemorate the end of the First World War, and were re-launched with a new name in the 1950s. Fans of the Beatles used to apparently pelt the band with them, after it was revealed that they were a favourite snack of George Harrison.

Another Bassett's creation, Liquorice Allsorts are said to have been invented in 1899 when salesman Charlie Thomson accidentally dropped a tray of samples he was showing a client. The client loved the mishmash of colours and shapes, and the sweets soon went into production. Bertie Bassett, the Allsorts' mascot, dates back to 1929.

According to their website, British confectioners Swizzels-Matlow first produced Lovehearts as a novelty Christmas cracker filler in the 1950s. Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of few people to ever be honoured with personalised Lovehearts when she visited the factory in 1990, receiving a pack with royal names including "Prince William" and "Prince Harry" stamped on each sweet.

Although generations of children have been convinced otherwise, wine gums have never actually contained wine. British company Maynard's claims to have invented them in the early 1900s, when Charles Gordon Maynard decided to create a sweet that would appeal specifically to adults, but not upset his teetotal father.

The Drumstick lolly is said to have been invented by accident in the 1950s, when Trevor Matlow, the son of one of Swizzels-Matlow's founders, was experimenting with a new machine and discovered it was possible to create a lollipop with two flavours. Milk and raspberry were chosen, though there have been many variants since, including strawberry and banana and cherry and apple.

A trip to the British seaside just wouldn't be complete without a stick of rock to break your teeth on. Made from pulled sugar, rock took off in the 1800s, though there's serious debate about where lettered rock was first produced. Blackpool usually claims the honour, though nearby Morecambe has also been credited.

Aniseed-flavoured Black Jacks and their sister sweet, Fruit Salads, have long been among Britain's most popular "penny chews" – though today they usually cost at least twice that. For decades, Black Jack labels featured a smiling golliwog, but this packaging was dropped in the Eighties.

The distinctive centre-less Polo mint, went on sale in Britain in 1948. According to Nestlé, who now own the brand, the sweet was intended to be launched in 1939, but the outbreak of war delayed it for nearly a decade. Supposedly, each Polo is shaped under immense pressure – equivalent to two elephants jumping on it.

There are far too many sherbet sweets to mention in this gallery, but one that always provokes pangs of nostalgia is Barratt's Dip Dab, a lollipop and sherbet combination guaranteed to result in mess all over the carpet. Swizzel-Matlow's equivalent is the Double Dip.

In 2008, Spangles were voted the discontinued brand which the British public would most like to see revived. The square boiled sweets were introduced in 1950, when rationing was still in force, and became immensely popular because they required only one token, instead of the two usually needed to buy confectionery.

The pear drop probably dates back to the Victoria era, as do other boiled favourites like sherbet lemons, rhubarb and custards, and aniseed twists. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there's usually no pear involved: the artificial flavour isoamyl acetate is where that distinctive taste comes from.

Another sweetshop staple, the striped, peppermint-flavoured humbug dates from at least the early 1800s, though its provenance is unclear. In Elizabeth Gaskell's 1863 book Sylvia's Lovers, the word is described as a "north-country term for certain lumps of toffy, well-flavoured with peppermint".

Mars' Opal Fruits hit the shelves in the early 1960s, having apparently been named by a competition winner called Peter Pfeffer. In the US, however, they were marketed as Starburst, and in the late Nineties it was decided to adopt that name worldwide. Today, the brand is owned by Wrigley.

The British love affair with fruit pastilles can be dated back to 1881, when the Rowntree family began to manufacture them in Tyneside. The sweets are also popular in Australia, where, since the acquisition of Rowntree by Nestlé in 1988, they've been known as "Wonka fruit pastilles".

Another Swizzel's confection, Parma violets were launched in the 1930s, named after the flower of the same name. Back then, a large roll would set you back about 1/2d.
In 2004 the flying saucer, a kind of rice paper sandwich with sherbet in the middle, was voted Britain's all-time favourite sweet. The confection is believed to have been first produced in the Nineteen Sixties.
Pontefract cakes are thick liquorice discs which were originally manufactured in the Yorkshire town of the same name. Supposedly dating from as early as the 17th century, the cakes are traditionally stamped with an image of Pontefract Castle.