FOOD is a hot topic right now. The ever-increasing prices (has anyone noticed that in some cases the pack can look the same and cost the same, but is smaller and lighter)? Shortages of these favorites which were usually shipped from the UK and are now incessantly delayed due to both Brexit and general shipping delays (probably caused by Brexit too, blame it all, why can’t we? )
What were your childhood favorites? Not that you could afford them very often with your meager pocket money, but what did you hope to find in the kitchen cupboard or in the loaded shopping bag your mother wearily dragged on the bus?
Iced buns from Thompson’s? Maybe a Fuller’s Cake as a huge treat? But cookies definitely. Do you remember Sphring-sphrongs? (i.e. coconut creams), Kimberley, Mikado? This fluffy marshmallow thing kept popping up everywhere. I wonder how it was made up there at Jacob’s?
Today they make them covered in chocolate, which doesn’t seem quite right. You should be able to see the bouncy layer on top or in between.
And the fig rolls. Remember the big advertisements that claimed to ask, “How do they put figs in the Fig Rolls?”
For the most frugal, not to mention the most needy households, Marietta was the cheap pack of choice, and if you’re lucky you might be able to sandwich two of these simple, flat little discs with butter ( or even margarine).
Lincoln creams were almost as simple. Then there was the slightly thicker Goldgrain, aka Digestive. Have they? Aid in digestion, that is to say?
And of course broken cookies from the little store down the street.
These Jacob’s cookies came in boxes with glass lids, but inevitably there were some broken pieces, and these were placed in a special container of their own, cheaply. The owner would put a scoop of it in a brown paper bag and put it back on the counter, receiving your penny or twopence in return, and this edible store would last you a whole day of adventures in the city lanes or the fields. open beyond.
Growing up in Cork in the 1950s and associated with Christians, Tim Cagney recalls that his daily journeys to and from school (at nine o’clock, home for dinner, back for the afternoon and finally home) took him past the old Thompson’s bakery, which towered over MacCurtain Street.
“I used to live on Gardiners Hill, so I had a choice of two routes – either along Wellington Road or the aforementioned MacCurtain Street. Choosing the latter meant I passed a large open factory gate, from where would release the most heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread.
“These were, of course, the days leading up to the widespread availability of that soulless concoction we know today as sliced pan.
“You would buy Thompson’s bread as a soft loaf, with nice crispy crusts, and slice it yourself.
“I used to particularly enjoy eating the crispy end (we just knew it as ‘the crust’), generously coated in a lovely yellow, salty butter. The bread was at its best when eaten absolutely fresh, despite parental warnings that “it will stick in the stomach if it is too doughy”.
“This doctrine was affirmed, in a way, by a man named Michael (“Micka”) O’Keeffe, who worked at Thompson as a baker,” Tim recalls. “’Micka’ was a great friend of my late father and kept telling him that it was better to eat bread when he was ‘day old’. Most of the time, of course, I ignored this sage advice and eagerly attacked the loaves as soon as they arrived home – still almost warm – from our local store.
This will bring back good memories to many readers.
Didn’t we all munch on the irresistible crust at the corner of the ‘skull’ or ‘duck’ as we brought it back from the shop? No slice served at mealtime, whether buttered or jammy, has ever tasted better than these crunchy, crunchy wedges secretly eaten on the street.
The Thompson factory, Tim recalls, stretched along MacCurtain Street and around the corner of York Street, “which slanted up a coronary-inducing slope towards Wellington Road. However, I paid little attention to the nameplate at the bottom of the hill and instead chose to give it the fictional title “Thompson’s Hill”.
But, Tim reminds us (as if we need to be reminded) that Thompson doesn’t just bake bread, he bakes cakes too.
“By far my favorite of these was the ‘Chocolate Slice’. This was two layers of nibbling “cake,” with a spread of a firm, chocolatey, mousse-like substance sandwiched in between. On the top layer of the “cake” there was a very thin layer of chocolate, all topped off – in the center – by a drop of (usually pink) icing.”
Now, be careful, readers, because there could be a possible confusion of identities here. Thompson made two different slices that could both be called “chocolate.” One was Tim’s childhood delicacy, the other a softer sponge with a dark, all-chocolate glaze.
They were both, if we got our facts right, priced at 4d – back when things stayed the same price forever, or so it seemed.
On what theme… does anyone remember little boys running boldly into a store and calling, ‘Hey miss, how much are the sixpenny bars?’ before running off again, delighted with their own wickedness?
Tim remembers eating this confectionery in an almost ritualistic way, stretching out the pleasurable experience as much as possible.
“I would first cut the entire cake in half crosswise and eat one half. I would then separate the top and bottom ‘decks’ from what was left, and eat the center mousse alone, before finishing the procedure by eating the remaining portions individually.
You’re not alone in this, Tim, we can tell you.
A surprising number of kids remember their own way of consuming a special treat, and none of them involved putting the whole thing in their mouth and chewing spasmodically before swallowing the whole lot. Treats were harder to come by back then, and we made the most of them.
Mr. Cagney vividly remembers seeing his father consuming one of these slices in a way that could be described as “normal”, biting into it from end to end.
“I wondered why he hadn’t chosen a more creative way to eat it.”
Ah, age forgets the joys of youth.
Another 1950s kid, Tom, used to buy one of 3d Thompson’s chocolate pies whenever he could afford it. Remember these? A small round shortcrust pastry base, a bit of white mallow layered on top, and covered with a thick layer of chocolate pastry.
“I would take a teaspoon and eat the chocolate and mallow first, scraping them up carefully and not damaging the base of the dough,” Tom recalls.
“Then I would take some jam from the cupboard – my mum made all her jams, and we always had plenty on the shelves – and I would fill the pie again, before eating it. So I had two cakes on one, if you will!
Katie O’Brien applied the ritualistic mode to Fry’s cream bars (4d at the time, and therefore more expensive than the 3d cream bar, or Cadbury’s tiny narrow chocolate thrupenny.
“First you would bite off the thicker side edges of the chocolate, then you would carefully try to peel off the top layer from the center of the fondant. Finally, the delicious fondant, as well as the chocolate base, was eaten.
Do you have any memories of how you made the most of special treats and tried to make them last as long as possible? Tell us about them here at Throwback Thursday.
“Methodology aside, though,” Tim continues,
“I used to look forward to each time chocolate slices appeared in our house.
“It usually happened on a Friday, as some sort of special treat, to make up for, perhaps, the penitential fish dinner, usually served that day.
“For me, the chocolate slice was an icon of Cork confectionery, as I have never come across the unique design of the creation anywhere else.
“When I left Cork in 1973 I had to adapt my taste buds to the competitive temptations of Bewleys in Dublin, but none of their creations ever matched the look or the delicious flavor of the chocolate slice.”
This expat, Thompson fan, had a pleasant surprise when he visited his hometown in 2018.
“Of course, I walked around the English market. Imagine my joy when, in a window of one of the points of sale, my gaze fell on an assortment of slices of chocolate!
“I had, of course, been aware that Thompson had closed in 1984 and had assumed the days of such delights were gone with it.”
Yes, Thompson’s closed, Tim, but an enterprising local bakery, who was all too aware of the legendary reputation of these delicacies, bought the recipes and the right to replicate them, and still does. Good guys!
Mr. Cagney eagerly bought one of the cakes and later, in the comfort of his hotel room, he happily nibbled on memories of his childhood.
“I had to settle for washing the treat down with a cup of coffee though, as there was no sign of Barry’s tea among the in-room dining facilities – shame on the hotel, which will go unnamed!
“I was delighted to find that the passage of time had done absolutely nothing to detract from the quality – or, indeed, the flavor – of the confectionery, so hats off to whoever bakes the chocolate slices these days -this.”
And – just in case you were wondering – yes, Tim ate the cake in segments, just like he used to. Old habits die hard.
Now, before we wrap up, here’s a question we’d love to have answered. Rubber carts. Remember these?
No, they weren’t toys, as kids today might expect. They were those cheap, lightweight white tennis shoes that everyone wore in the summer.
They may have been made by Dunlops, but we’d like to know more as they were universally seen throughout Cork.
And where the hell did they get the nickname “rubber carts”? Is it a purely Liège term or do you find it elsewhere in Ireland?
If you know, tell us! Email [email protected] or leave a comment on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/echolivecork.