La Dolce Vita: A Lesson in Living the Sweet Life

14936700314_1e684e022b_oWe have an exchange student from Sydney staying with us for a few weeks. He very thoughtfully brought us a box of typical Australian sweets, packed by his mum.

Sweets are an important cultural signifier, and you can learn as much about a nation and its people from them, as you can from their music and their politics. The Gobstoppers of England; the Hershey Bars of America; the Kinder Eggs of Deutschland; the White Rabbits of China; the Sesame Seed bars of Lebanon; the Wasabi-flavoured Kit Kats of Japan.

The sweets we eat as children linger in our synapses, not to mention our teeth, and to this day I can savour the taste, through memory alone, of my own favourites: Fruit Pastilles, Oh Boy chocolate peanuts, Wilson-Rowntree Coca-Cola toffees, BarOne ( which I used to mispronounce to rhyme with macaroni), and those little powder-coated pink pills that you got at the barber as a reward for not squirming too much during your haircut.

So the white sweets here are Minties, hard, white and laboriously chewy, and famous in Australia for their slogan, “It’s Moments Like These You Need Minties”.

Those in the twisty yellow, red, and blue wrapper are Fantales, chewy caramel bites with a rich chocolate coating. As you chew on them, you can read the wrapper, which is a trivia quiz on film stars and other famous people.

“Hey, we’ve got these too!” I said. “Except we call them Chappies, and they’re bubble-gum, not chocolate.” On such exchanges, are cultural kinships forged across the oceans.

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