Eva Bradley: Lollies' demise PC gone nuts

By Eva Bradley

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When Pick 'n' Mix was replaced by nuts in the supermarket, I went through the 12 stages of grief.
When Pick 'n' Mix was replaced by nuts in the supermarket, I went through the 12 stages of grief.

The role of the Fourth Estate to expose scandal and get to the heart of social injustice in all its forms is hugely important.

Watergate, the Vietnam War and sexual abuse within the Catholic Church are just three topics that immediately come to mind when I look back on the role of journalism in recent history.

But the media isn't just there to call the big guys to account. It's an outlet for outrage on a more intimate level; the voice of the people speaking out on scandals that may not affect the world, but which matter deeply to those smaller sections of society who are affected by change.

With that established, here's what's been going down, folks: the pick 'n' mix station at my local supermarket has been decimated. Without warning, out of the blue and in a way that renders it unrecognisable from the great institution it once was, it has been all but replaced by ... nuts. Where giant Jaffas, Jersey caramels, Liquorice Allsorts, Sour Worms and a dozen other free-flowing sweets once filled aisle one in an abundant cornucopia of refined sugar, there were now only a few paltry plastic bins of them remaining.

All the others had been emptied of their guilty pleasures and filled up instead by the sort of self-serve snacks that a decade ago could only have been found in health food stores.

Upon discovering this, I moved rapidly though a number of the established 12 stages of grief; first, I was shocked - what on earth had happened since my last sugar craving only a few short months ago? Then, I was in denial - surely this was just a temporary glitch, a regrettable over-order of unsalted cashews, perhaps? Then, the pain and anger set in. What did this mean for my irregular but sacred ritual of skiving off work in the afternoon and retreating under the covers with a good book and a bag of pick 'n' mix?

Who the hell was responsible for such a bold decision?

And who did they think they were to decide on what was in the best interests of my health?

Amid the depression and loneliness that defined my afternoon spent eating a wholly inadequate Pascall's Party Pack, I realised that my loss ran far deeper than just the sweet contents of the plastic bulk bins. The change at my local supermarket represented a shift of psyche for an entire generation. It was a small reflection of a giant move towards that great big bore of the 21st century: being healthy.

Of course, in principle, I wholly support the reasoning behind the decision to ditch the sugar. Poor dietary habits have had a devastating impact on the nation's health.

But did they really need to take away the pick 'n' mix to push home the point?

Each of us will remember as a child the thrill of indecision when given the precious opportunity to fill a bag with sweets of our own choosing.

Pick 'n' mix was to kids what winning Lotto might be to a grown up. That's probably why I still love it even though I know how bad it is to eat refined sugar that has probably been handled by a dozen kids by the time it reached my bag.

But, in a world where we always have to be so damned good all of the time (and what we eat is a big part of that), guilty little pleasures can often be the things that enable us to continue waving the flag high.

And so my plea to those stocking our shelves is this: despite the constant press for more space, for more responsible trading, for hygiene and for health ... remember, too, the responsibility to honour life's small but important traditions, as wicked as they may seem.

- Eva Bradley is a columnist and photographer.

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