Treacle Toffee

Brand: Buchanan’s

Cost: £1.40

Found at: Tesco

This candy reminds me of the classic animated film, Ratatouille. In the most famous scene in the film, Anton Ego (the sour-faced food critic voiced by Peter O’Toole) eats a gourmet version of title dish. The moment he takes his first bite, the camera pans into his iris and we see how the taste has transported him back to his childhood in the French countryside. It is a beautiful tribute to the evocative power of food and it has been the source for many and various internet memes. 

I had my own Ratatouille moment when I first popped one of these candies into my mouth. As I bit into the soft toffee, I found myself transported back to my own childhood (though it is nothing so glamourous as a Disney film). For a moment, I was back in suburban Illinois, in a house that has since been (rightfully) condemned by the city of Peoria and demolished. In my memory, I am sitting on a gold and avocado couch (that I hope has also been demolished), and my grandmother is reaching into her purse to produce a small plastic bag of glittering candies. She always kept this bag of sweets in her purse, just in case she needed to bribe her grandchildren into obedience. It was, by far, the most effective method of control for my food-motivated brother and myself. 

I cannot remember many details of the early 1990s, but I can perfectly recall the flavors and textures of each of the candies my grandmother gave us. If we were unlucky, we might end up with a peppermint. But if we were lucky, we’d be treated to a caramel. Those were red-letter days in the Hanson home. My cousins and I would sit and suck on the caramels for as long as we could so as to prolong our enjoyment. And importantly, this task required us to sit silently as Grandma enjoyed a peace reserved for the smartest woman in the room.   

These are not the same brand of caramels I got as a child, but they might as well be. They are soft and sticky and would last for a considerable amount of time at the bottom of a handbag. It seems strange to buy them at a store – they seem to belong in a candy dish or a sweets tin or a carpet bag in the 1960s. As I sit beside the riverbank, pulling candy from my purse, I wonder how many of my peers here in Glasgow have childhood memories of gold and purple candy wrappers. How many of them, like me, were bribed into happy silence? 

People may differ, after all, but grandmothers are the same wherever you go.   

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