In Praise of Sherbet Fountains

One of Hansel’s gifts from the UK was a bumper pack of penny candy. He ate all the drumsticks and blackjacks and gobstoppers but nothing could persuade him to try the Fizzers (which I am sure were called Swizzlers in my young day) or the Parma Violets or the Sherbet Fountain. I have eaten the Fizzers and of course no-one likes Parma Violets, but what is to become of the Fountain?

I am eyeing it rapaciously. Although the style of the red lettering on its slim yellow column has been updated, its packaging looks much the same as it did 40 years ago–except in one important respect. In the 1960s, kids lucky enough to have sherbet fountains accessed the sour sparkles by sucking them up through a straw made of licorice. Blarney children were forbidden fountains because the black straw didn’t work very well and so eventually the paper packet got soggy from spit, or else the sucker ripped out the licorice and in so doing spilt the sherbet powder everywhere. We weren’t allowed sherbet fountains because they were too messy.

Now I notice that the licorish straw has been discontinued and replaced by a shiny black cap with a teat on the end. Closer inspection reveals that this is not licorice and that it still comes off very easily, allowing the sherbet lover to tip the yellow powder straight from the packet into the mouth, which other children with mothers less houseproud than mine used to say was the only way to eat them. The change to today’s sherbet fountain was presumably made for hygiene, not housekeeping reasons–God knows where that licorice had been before it made it to anyone’s mouth.

The sherbet fountain is sitting on my kitchen counter and I covet it. Shame I’m not allowed to eat it.

About Liz Barron

US Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia. Permanent address in Washington DC. Deep roots in Northern Ireland and persistent Belfast accent. Blogger,cook, mother, grandma, Scrabble-player and enthusiastic world traveler.
This entry was posted in food, Tales of a Belfast girlhood and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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