When you're a kid, nothing beats that feeling of being handed 50p pocket money. Ooh, the opportunity that one coin symbolised! Well, while my big sister was a "saver" (or "tight" as I'd call it today) and stored up her weekly earnings in her Natwest piggy bank (now very collectible if you kept yours, FYI), I was not. Oh no. It was straight off to the sweet shop, 50p clenched tightly in my chubby little clammy hand. For I had a problem, an issue, an addiction... to sweets. (Explains the chubby hand, see).
I like all sweets - from pink shrimps and fried eggs, to cola cubes and even that bizarre edible paper stuff you used to get. But what I really, really craved each week was those little drops of yumminess that went by the name of rhubarb and custards. Instantly recognisable by their split personality esque appearance - half gritty pink rhubarb goodness and half creamy custard - I would suck on these bad boys for hours at a time. Give me that over instantly dissolving edible paper any day!
Like a weekly ritual, I'd kneel to pray at my altar - the line of large plastic sweetie jars on the floor of the local corner shop.In fact, I became a bit of an expert at estimating exactly how many rhubarb and custards I could get for my money - along with a can of cream soda. I loved everything about that sweet shop - the tiny paper bags on the string at the end of the jars. The dirty lino/carpet floor. The old guy behind the counter (although I probably wasn't even that old, but you know what it's like when you're a kid?).
Whoever thought up the rhubarb and custard was a Heston Blumenthal-style genius, because those two flavours brought together the perfect blend of boiled zinginess and sweet, creamy custard aftertaste. Plus, it was possible to balance your flavours differently with every sweet, just by sucking a little more on one end. I'm suprised I have any teeth left!
Lucky for me, there's been a bit of a revival in old-fashioned foods over the past few years, and it's a breeze to pick up a bag of rhubarb and custards in your local supermarket. It's not the same experience as back in the 80s, but you'll find one suck and all those memories come flooding back.