The strange story of Britain's oldest sweet
At 11:00 in Pateley Bridge, on a damp, soft-focused Yorkshire day, The Oldest Sweet Shop in England, as rated by Guinness World Records, was already in the midst of its regular midmorning rush. At the counter, all grins and punchy one-liners, owner Keith Tordoff was measuring out quarter-pound bags of sweets from 200-odd glass confectioner’s jars stacked high on the wall behind him.
约克郡（Yorkshire）一个天气潮湿雾蒙蒙的日子，上午11点，在佩特里桥（Pateley Bridge）的一家糖果店，这正是每天上午生意最繁忙的时候。这家店名叫“英格兰最古老糖果店”（The Oldest Sweet Shop in England），名副其实，还上了吉尼斯世界纪录大全（Guinness World Records）。老板凯斯·托尔多夫（Keith Tordoff ）站在柜台后，面带微笑地讲着一些生动的笑话，一边从身后货架上的200多个糖果罐中取出糖果，过秤后分装为4盎司一包。
His wife Gloria appeared to help with the demand, snapping lids closed with urgency, while his son Alexander made light work of refilling the jars for visitors from the US, Japan, Germany, Australia and all parts of the UK. Barley sugars changed hands; so too did sours, sugar-dusted bon bons, rainbow jelly beans, and perennial favourites rosie apples and rhubarb and custards (both retro boiled sweets).
Mornings have been this way for nearly two centuries, and nothing changes at the confectioner but the day of the week. And yet a closer look at the vintage wooden counter, past the oil lamps, oak beams and the century-old cash register, revealed that many customers were queuing to buy the very same thing: a bag of curious, treacle-coloured coins, better known as Pontefract Cakes, and a sweet that local legend claims are among the oldest in the world.
“Everyone loves them, including me,” said Tordoff, who admits to eating around 450g (1lb) of sweets every day. “This building started life as an apothecary in the early 1600s and that’s where the story of Yorkshire liquorice – and the Pontefract Cake – really begins.”
My curiosity about this unfamiliar Yorkshire sweet had initially been piqued a few weeks earlier. As I began reading about its storied history, I discovered a tale that moved from the Norman conquest in 1066 to The Wars of the Roses in the 15th Century to the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). There was even mention of castle sieges in the mid-17th Century. As I read on, it seemed as if the liquorice had become synonymous with Yorkshire itself.
我是在几周前开始对这种陌生的约克郡糖果产生兴趣， 开始阅读与甘草糖相关的历史传奇。我发现，有关甘草的故事最早始于1066年诺曼人（Norman）征服英格兰之时，然后到15世纪的英国玫瑰战争（The Wars of the Roses），直至伊丽莎白一世（Elizabeth I）的统治时期（1558-1603）。 甚至17世纪中叶城堡围攻的历史记载中也提到过甘草糖。甘草糖简直成了约克郡的又一代名词。
Indeed, hidden in the pages of history, it turned out liquorice’s arrival dated to around the 11th Century, when monks or Crusaders first brought the medicinal Mediterranean root to the county, depending on who you ask. I was intruiged by the list of attractions related to the history of liquorice: a fairytale castle, a festival, a farm, a museum and sweet shops. In particular, one place name kept cropping up: Pontefract, a town with liquorice sprouting between the cracks, which was located just one hour to the south-east of Pateley Bridge. I was keen to find out more.
在历史记载的字里行间，我发现甘草的引入可以追溯到11世纪左右。据说，最初由僧侣或十字军将这种地中海药用植物塊根带回英国。当然最初是如何引进要看你信哪一家之言。 在这里，和甘草相关的一系列景点令我兴致盎然：其中有一座童话般的城堡、一个节日、一个农场、一座博物馆以及多家糖果商店。有一个地名的出现率很高：庞特弗雷特。该镇位于佩特里桥的东南，车程大约仅有一小时，镇上空地生长着甘草。 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com
A visit to the ruined Pontefract Castle gave me some clues. Built from the 1070s onwards, and at the tail end of a £3.5m refurbishment, the medieval keep was the site of multiple royal seizures and as many civil wars. It was a stomping ground for historical figures such as the Grand Old Duke of York, defeated at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, and King Richard II, who was supposedly imprisoned and starved to death for treason on the site. Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, pops up in the story, too, having had an affair at the castle in 1541.
参观庞特弗雷特城堡（Pontefract Castle）遗迹，给我一些线索了解甘草在约克郡的历史。这座城堡建于1070年，为保存历史遗迹的最新修缮工程花了350万英镑。这座中世纪堡垒曾经见证了不少王权争夺和英国多次内战， 许多历史人物都在这里留下了故事，如1460年在维克菲尔德战役（Battle of Wakefield）中败北的约克大公爵（Grand Old Duke of York），被控叛国的英王理查德二世（King Richard II）当年也被监禁于此，据说最后是被饿死的。1541年，亨利八世（Henry VIII）的第五任王后凯瑟琳‧霍华德（Catherine Howard）就是在这座城堡与人通奸。
But perhaps the most surprising part of the story is that by the early 18th Century, Yorkshire’s imposing fortress had an entirely different purpose. By 1720, as demand shaped the local economy for medicinal liquorice (at the time physicians used it as a cure-all for everything from stomach ulcers and heartburn to colic, bronchitis and tuberculosis), the castle was rented out and roots were stored in the castle dungeons instead of weapons, gunpowder and prisoners.
“You’re standing on what was once a massive liquorice field,” said Dave Evans, curator of Wakefield Museums and Castles, as he showed me around the castle remains. “You need deep trenches to grow liquorice properly – up to 6ft in depth – which is why the castle hillock and its elevated grounds were the perfect environment. Beneath you is what was once a gigantic liquorice store.” While England was hardly short of imposing castles, one overriding factor prevailed: Yorkshire’s climate and geography suited the liquorice’s temperament far better than it did the warmongers’.
维克菲尔德博物馆和城堡（Wakefield Museums and Castles）的馆长埃文斯（Dave Evans）领着我参观了城堡遗迹。他说：“你站的地方，从前是一片很大的甘草田。 要种出好的甘草，畦沟一定要开得深，最深要挖到六英尺。这就是为什么城堡丘陵和其所在高地能够提供完美的种植环境。 在你的下面，曾经有一个很大的甘草店。”虽然英国并不缺雄伟壮观的城堡，但只有庞特弗雷特城堡成了甘草中心，其关键因素是：约克郡气候和地理条件使之成为兵家必争之地，但更加适宜种植甘草。
It is around this point in the timeline, in 1760, that the most important dramatis personae in the story makes his entrance. George Dunhill was an apothecary chemist in the family trade in Pontefract, and by adding sugar to liquorice (then a dissolvable, medicinal pastel) he created a chewable non-medicinal lozenge, inventing the sweet as we know it today.
1760年左右，甘草历史中最为重要的角色登场了。 邓希尔（George Dunhill）是一名药剂师，他的家族在庞特弗雷特经营家族生意。邓希尔在药用甘草中加入了糖（药用甘草当时是一种可溶解的药用糊剂），发明出一种可咀嚼的非药用含片，也就是现在为我们所熟知的甘草糖。
Over the years, a sweet empire boomed in the surrounding towns, and by the 19th Century, around 20 sweet companies had appeared. At the height of production, there were 10 enormous factories in Yorkshire, and inside each, teams of around 45 female workers processed a daily ration of 25,000 ‘cakes’ (as they were called at the time), individually stamping the candy medallions with a design to look like Pontefract Castle.
Still, nothing could save the confectioners from globalisation. Local brands such as Sheffield’s George Bassett and Co, which invented UK children’s favourite Liquorice Allsorts, was absorbed into Cadbury, while Dunhills, the original maker of Pontefract Cakes, was acquired by German confectionary giant Haribo in 1994. Yet one thing remains true: the embossed castle stamp still takes pride of place on each sweet.
然而，全球化的进程使得当地很多糖果店关门大吉。 英国的本土品牌，如谢菲尔德的乔治巴塞特公司（George Bassett and Co），其生产的什锦甘草糖（Liquorice Allsorts）曾是英国孩子的最爱，最后被吉百利（Cadbury）所吞并。最早发明庞特弗雷特甜饼的邓希尔公司，也于1994年被德国糖果业巨头哈瑞宝（Haribo）收购。 只有一件事没有改变：城堡的浮雕印章，仍然占据了每块糖果最为显眼的位置。
“Looking back, it’s as if the stars aligned over Pontefract,” Evans said. “The heritage is tangible, and while most of our liquorice factories have now closed, you can build a whole day out of liquorice tourism in the area.” Today, that could take sweet lovers to the Pontefract Liquorice Festival in July, or to the art nouveau Pontefract Museum, which houses a special liquorice exhibit.
埃文斯说：“回想起来，这个印章仿佛是镶嵌在庞特弗雷特上空的一颗明星，是我们有形的遗产。虽然如今大多数的甘草糖工厂已经倒闭，但是，人们还是能够来这里游玩，度过以甘草糖为主题的一天。”如今，每年，糖果爱好者都可以来此参加一年一度的七月庞特弗雷特甘草糖节（Pontefract Liquorice Festival），也可以前往新艺术风格的庞特弗雷特博物馆，里面有着别出心裁的甘草糖展出。
And yet there could be a new twist in the tale. Just outside Pontefract, at Farmer Copleys shop and dairy farm, Heather Copley and her husband Robert have recently become the only present-day farmers to grow liquorice root successfully in the UK. Complicating factors to achieve a fruitful crop include the right soil and climatic conditions, and since liquorice farming fell out of fashion, few farmers take up the challenge.
甘草的历史可能出现了新的转折点。 庞特弗雷特镇外有一家农夫商店和奶牛场，库珀利（Heather Copley）夫妇是如今英国唯一能培育种植甘草的农夫。甘草丰收所需要的环境十分复杂，其中包括适当的土壤条件和气候条件。因为甘草种植已经不再盛行，因此少有农夫愿意挑战自我，培育甘草。
But the Copleys are different. Their estate saw more than 100 plants flower for the first time last year, and plans are afoot to increase the crop year-on-year as an ingredient for ice cream, gin and, maybe, one day, sweets. Far from being unrealistic, the ultimate goal is to work towards obtaining a product of designated origin, or PDO.
但库珀利一家接受了挑战。 去年，他们的庄园里第一次有100多株甘草开花。他们计划逐年扩大种植规模，并用甘草为原料生产冰淇淋、杜松子酒等，有朝一日或许能用之来制作甘草糖。 他们的最终目标是让甘草取得PDO，即“原产地保护产品认证”（product of designated origin）。这个目标并非不切实际。
“The stories here are incredible, so why can’t liquorice be treated with the same respect as Scotch whisky or Wensleydale cheese?” Heather said. “The whole of Pontefract once smelled of liquorice – subtle, yet strong – and it would be a terrible shame to lose our heritage. It flowered for the first time last year, and it’ll take us five to seven years to get something from the crop. But there’s a sense of it belonging here, and continuing this story can give people a real sense of local identity. It’s a social responsibility.”
库珀利说：“这里的历史故事本就很传奇，那又有什么理由认为甘草不能像苏格兰威士忌（Scotch whisky）、文斯勒德奶酪（Wensleydale cheese）一样，取得PDO呢？从前，庞特弗雷特城内到处弥漫着甘草细腻而十分浓烈的味道。如果我们不能留下这一遗产，也会成为我们可怕的耻辱。去年，我们种的甘草第一次开花。真正到收获预计还要5至7年的时间， 但是这样的场景让我有了一种归属感。坚持这条路走下去，能给当地人一种身份上的认同。 这关乎社会责任。”
Not only that, but it’s an enticing invitation to come face to face with one of the world’s greatest unknown sweet stories. And if that intrigues you, don’t tell your dentist you’re planning a visit.