#WhitworthAdvent: Sweet Memories

Sweet Bag. English, unattributed. C.1550-1599 CE. Accession number: T.10102. Source: the Whitworth

It is easy to imagine this 16th century purse or sweet bag was used to carry sweets or sweetmeats. However, the name ‘sweet bag’ was a red herring, as such items may have been used as an early day gift wrap, to hold gifts of money; presented, for example, at New Year. Alternatively, it was also likely to have held dried herbs and scented flowers or perfumed powders and essences, ready to be applied to the nose like a pomander to mask any unpleasant odours. And this bag might even have been given as a token of love during courtship, perhaps containing a smaller, symbolic gift within, like a ring.

However, in keeping with the spirit of Christmas, I think it is appropriate to imagine the Sweet Bag stuffed full of festive sweetmeats! It takes me back to my early childhood, when just before the Christmas holidays, during the Christmas Party, quarter bags of Coconut Mushrooms were handed out to each child. And that makes me remember an old childhood favourite, the addictively delicious ‘Coconut Icing’ my family made when I was very small, in keeping with Christmas tradition.

It’s interesting to think that the coconut first came to Europe through the “Maritime Silk Road” in the early 16th century, and therefore, a festive sweet like Coconut Ice could be quite a fitting sweetmeat choice for this Sweet Bag. Coconut Ice was traditionally made in Britain using coconut and boiled sugar syrup but, why not try making your own delicious festive Coconut Ice sweets with this easy non-cook generic method from BBC Good FoodRebecca

Rebecca’s coconut icing

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