It’s that time of the year once again when I’m forced to put aside my loathing of shopping and head to the nearest branch of Sodom or Gomorrah – aka a mall. I feel almost soiled after tramping around a mall for any length of time. All that money being spent on so much tawdry shallowness… it’s just so vulgar. (So said the man who thinks of little more than, and blithely spends a fortune on, food.)
I must be an absolute horror of a shopping companion sometimes – I don’t handle crowds very well, what with my tendency towards impatience and gross intolerance of people who aren’t me. I usually tread the terrazzo muttering (often louder than is altogether wise) about how vey stupid and ugly my fellow shoppers look.
But I have discovered that there is one thing that makes the whole sordid affair of mall-trawling tolerable, if not quite worthwhile. The sweets shop. Every mall in that best-left-unnamed-uber-chain has one of these free-floating rafts of happiness, selling forgettable chocolates but an excellent range of iconic kiwi sweets, of the sort that every dairy sold when I was a kid: Glow-hearts; mint leaves; milk bottles; false teeth; nameless red-and-black, flattened-ovoid gummy-things. I have never outgrown my love of sweets – if anything it’s got stronger over time because as an adult there is nothing but a thin veneer of self control between me and wholesale gluttony.
For some reason, perhaps it’s nostalgia, I don’t apply my usual disdain for over-coloured and artificially flavoured gunk food, when it comes to these kinds of sweets. Such is my weakness that if I have them in the pantry I’ll spend the whole day salivating with anticipation.
When I think about it, I’m not even sure what some of the sweets taste of. Mint leaves and milk bottles are pretty obvious (although milk bottles used to have more of a yellowy hue and obviously milky flavour), but what flavour are glow hearts – aniseed? I don’t know. I think false teeth might be mint flavoured, but I’m not quite sure because the colours throw off my perception. Strangely, in Australia false teeth are given a strong strawberry flavour. I think those red and black things are supposed to be raspberry and blackcurrant flavoured, the latter being the most realistic of the lot.
The only other sweets I can’t be trusted around are those blackcurrant and lemon pastilles found in the cough lozenge isle of some pharmacies. These are always sold in plain-label bags, are relatively expensive, but taste fantastically authentic. They’re quite possibly New Zealand’s best-kept confectionary secret. As far as I can tell they have absolutely no medicinal properties whatsoever, so their appropriateness alongside ‘real’ lozenges is somewhat dubious, but I just adore them.
I can’t be the only out-and proud confectionary addict around these parts, so I challenge you: name your poison.