Revelling in food nostalgia: can you ever go back?

Caramac bar

When you’re a kid, there are few things more exciting than sweets. Candy, chocolate, penny sweets, sugary desserts, biscuits; they’re all up there on the list of ‘Things I would most like to eat instead of my dinner’ when you’re a young child burning off energy quicker than a cross-channel swimmer.

But, inevitably, we all grow up. We turn into sensible adults who talk in a faux-interested manner about house prices and mortgages at dinner parties. And we forget about those sweet treats that used to rank so highly in our affections. You might still be a chocoholic (like myself) but you move onto the hard stuff – high cocoa-content brands, like Hotel Chocolat, who bring a sense of prestige decadence to the whole business of stuffing calories into your face at high velocity.

A bit of food nostalgia

Do we ever forget those treats of our childhood years, though? No, we don’t. In fact there’s a guilty pleasure in rediscovering them. It’s a chance to be 8 years old again and to hark back to an age when E-numbers weren’t yet seen as the devil’s work. It was a time when our parents were happy for us to ingest as much sugar as we wanted, as long as it had worn off by bedtime so they could watch Bergerac* in peace and quiet (*replace with your 70s/80s/90s fictional TV detective of choice).

Even a celebrated chef like Heston Blumenthal can get lured into this search to recapture the sweets of our youth. He tried fashioning a giant flyer saucer sweet for his Heston’s 70s Feast show a few years back.

So, can you really go back? Can you track down your treat of choice and transport yourself back to a decade of Raleigh Grifters, Blankety Blank and Noel Edmonds when his beard was real and not sprayed on by a qualified bodyshop resprayer? Short answer: no, as my friend Mel discovered on buying a Caramac recently.

The disappointment of the 2015 version

I don’t know if you ever ate a Caramac back in its heyday. It was rather similar to having a whole sack of sugar poured into your mouth while someone battered you over the head with a caramel hammer. This was not a healthy candy bar. I have fond memories of my Grandma buying us these sickly bars and of me absolutely loving them.

But this wasn’t how it tasted to Mel. With the E-numbers removed, the sugar content lowered and as much of the unhealthy stuff removed as possible, you’re left with something that *looks* like a Caramac, but sure as hell doesn’t *taste* like a Caramac. It’s the candy equivalent of finding a mint condition Ford Capri Ghia and then finding out it’s got a Robin Reliant engine under the hood. It’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing, as it were.

You really can’t go back

And this disappointing Caramac experience is not an uncommon one. There are plenty of treats of yesteryear which are still being manufactured, but which bear little or no resemblance to their original form. Have you had a Club biscuit recently? These choccie biccies used to be seriously chocolatey. Thick, milk chocolate around a biscuit, in fruit, orange, mint and various other flavours. In fact, I remember a friend getting a Club biscuit once that, through some manufacturing error, had no biscuit in it at all – just pure chocolate: the holy grail of 1980s childhood.

These days, the Club is more like a biscuit with a subtle hint of chocolate. Disappointing doesn’t really even cover it (rather like the lack of chocolate). All the indulgence, all the taste and all the nostalgic joy has been refined and marketed out if it. And I’ve had similar experiences with many other rediscovered products. If you ever sat down to a pudding of Angel Delight as a nipper, prepare to be let down by the 2015 version. As with most of these long-standing products, Angel Delight proudly states that it contains no preservatives, additives or nasty things in its ingredients. But the outcome of this is that the flavour has also been removed. It looks the same, but it’s a pale imitation of it’s old-school self.

What’s your fav?

So, it seems that food nostalgia is an experience that’s bound to disappoint, given the more health-conscious world in which we now live. And I guess that’s as it should be – if we can make ourselves a fitter, healthier nation, we should do, even if that means our sweets are all balderdash.

But, let’s for a moment, take a trip back down memory lane. I’d love to know what *your* treat of choice was as a kid. What was the one sweet/chocolate bar/dessert that you’d love to bring back, if you could?

Send me a comment below and let me know what your ‘treat of yesteryear’ would be.

And thanks to Styled By Mel for letting me steal her Caramac photo! Check her blog for some awesome fashion blogging.

9 thoughts on “Revelling in food nostalgia: can you ever go back?

  1. Gold Nuggets bubble gum – in it’s own little canvas bag!
    Sweet Tobacco (coconut) – loved this.
    Loved choosing them from all the plastic tubs too!
    I ate a LOT of sweets as a kid!
    Mel x

      1. Dib dabs, the best ever!!
        And fruit salads and black jacks, yum…
        And fluorescent pink wafer biscuits…
        And arctic roll…
        I could go on and on!

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