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If you have a Scottish ancestry, the probability is that you've inherited a taste for "sweeties".

Toffee, fudge, tablet, butterscotch, and 'soor plooms' will appeal to you irresistibly - along with regional specialities like Edinburgh rock, Hawick balls and Jedburgh snails.

At Mittagong's A Little Piece of Scotland, the sweeties rival Nerida's famous highland shortbread for the affections of its many patrons - some of whom travel long distances there to carry away armfulls of mouth-watering goodies - either to share with family and friends, or to squirrel away for pure self-indulgence.

But why is it that Scots enjoy such a reputation for having a sweet tooth?

Jess Robertson
Bowral resident Jess Robertson is well placed to provide an answer. Jess was born in Glasgow, and as a youngster attended the famous Scotland Street School designed by the great Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Now, Jess has been in Australia for over 50 years, and still retains her lovely Scottish accent as well as fond memories of 'home'.

"It has to do more with Scotland's history as a great trading nation than to any fanciful notion that sweeties are a natural balance to the blandness of oatmeal and porridge!" Jess says

"The city of Glasgow prospered in the 19th century as a great trading centre, and the river Clyde carried the ships that brought the sugar to the huge dockside warehouses for distribution throughout Britain.

"The abundant supply of sugar was soon used to produce confectionary in the form of toffee and fudge, first made in home kitchens" she says.

"Everyone's favourite, even today, is what is known as Scottish tablet - but the word 'tablet' has more to do with the rectangular shape of the sweet than any thought that it may have medicinal properties!" says Jess jokingly.

Jess still makes her tablet in the traditional way, to a recipe that she learned from her mother: "It's often compared to fudge, but it has its own distinctive taste and texture - and it is a clear favourite with my kinfolk from Scotland, who remember watching and waiting impatiently in their grandmothers' kitchens for the tablet to be cool enough to eat".

These days, Jess Robertson is kept busy making Scottish tablet for A Little Piece of Scotland. Proprietor Nerida Barnsley agrees that, alongside her own highland shortbread, it is the most sought after of all the Scottish sweets that she sells in her shop:

"Everyone brought up in Scotland knows all about tablet" she says "I often hear gasps of surprise and delight when my customers discover real tablet proudly displayed on the sweetie shelves - and more often than not these very appreciative visitors turn out to have a distinctively Scottish accent!"

Nerida contends that "making tablet is an art form - the best tablet cooks are born, not made"

"Perhaps it's a bit like Scotch whisky" says Nerida "You need just the right ingredients and recipe - but the flavour and texture only comes from something magical handed down over generations. That's why Jess Robertson's tablet is so special."

So, if you want to try the genuine taste of Scotland, using the finest Australian ingredients, make sure that when next you visit A Little Piece of Scotland in the Mittagong Antiques Centre treat yourself to Jess's homemade Scottish tablet - but don't be surprised if you too discover that just one packet is never enough....

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