Monday 21 October 2019

Review: Food: You'll Ruin Your Dinner by Damian Corless

We're given plenty to chew on in this tasty assortment, from Sugar Plums to the Curly Wurly, writes Kim Bielenberg
Hachette, €15.99

Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Damian Corless's account of Irish sweets and sweetshops in the 20th Century is a tasty assortment of social history, childhood anecdote and shameless nostalgia.

Like the small Irish cinema, the specialist sweetshop -- where gentlemen in aprons carefully weighed Bulls' Eyes and Lemon Drops from jars as kids stood in awe at eye level with the counter -- went into sad decline towards the end of the 20th Century.

Children of the 1960s and before will also remember the variety of makeshift shops that existed in a sort of half-life in front rooms on the backstreets of country towns, and at the side of farm houses. Customers might wait for 10 or 20 minutes before a shopkeeper put in an appearance.

You'll Ruin Your Dinner tells how sweets were affected by the ebb and flow of history.

To some Dubliners, the 1916 Rising was not so much an heroic bid for Irish freedom as a fabulous opportunity to loot sweet shops. While Pearse and Connolly held out in the GPO, thieves could be seen running out of shops on O'Connell Street with bags of chocolates and toffees and boxes of biscuits.

With tariffs imposed on imports by de Valera's government in the independent state, distinctive Irish brands flourished in the middle of the last century, including Silvermints, Iced Caramels and the multi-coloured Urney's Two and Two chocolate bar.

But when trade barriers were lifted from the late 1960s onwards, we were flooded with Curly Wurlys, Mars Bars and Kinder Eggs.

From the age of the Sugar Plum to the Wibbly Wobbly Wonder, there is plenty to chew on here.

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