Gobsmacked by the lack of Mint Imperials – Off The Wall

Some years back, the influence of a celebrated TV cook called Delia Smith was so great that her impact on the sales of things ended up as a phrase in the Oxford English Dictionary. The “Delia Effect” was inserted in 2001 to describe a shortage of foodstuffs and kitchen equipment caused by her incorporation of them into one of her recipes. All sorts of things, from cranberries (up 200 per cent) to omelette pans (a tiny Lancashire producer’s sales went up from 200 a year to 9,000 in four months after Delia described them as “little gems”).
However, extensive Internet research by me has failed to unearth a Delia Smith recipe that includes Mint Imperials. Yet I, who became addicted to these gobstoppers shortly after I gave up smoking in 1998, suddenly found that there were hardly any to be had in Torbay this summer.
Initially, my quest for these breath sweeteners didn’t seem much of a challenge. As my tin of sweeties was running just a little low, I thought I’d just pick up another packet at a corner shop. I wasn’t even panicking. My regular readers may recall that the dividend of giving up the noxious weed was that I could afford to buy and run a grand new car with the savings I’d made on cigarettes.
In the cubbyhole of the posh vehicle I’d bought was a tin of Mint Imperials, no doubt aimed at compensating all the former nicotine addicts who were grinding their teeth in a bid to stay solvent and still own a decent car. Such a tin of mints had to be refilled at regular intervals as my gasping for a fag was replaced by a burning desire for sugar.
What could be so difficult? Well, my first foray into Torquay drew a blank. My initial port of call was W H Smith, which had as many paperbacks as you could wish for, but not a Mint Imperial in sight. The same was true of Wilko’s in Union Square, where you could find any number of brightly coloured wine gums but nothing edible in all white.
Agonisingly, there were three containers full of mint balls at the “Candy Van” situated in the walkway outside Wilko’s, and I was sorely tempted; but, alas, my 50p piece was accepted at none of these coin-operated machines, leaving me salivating over the plastic bowls.
It seemed to be getting worse: even Tesco had run out of them, too. But then, the inspirational convenience store McColl’s, at Castle Circus, offered a glimmer of hope. The young lady behind the desk assured me that Mint Imperials still existed, but, when she took me to the stand where all the pre-packaged confectionery was, the Mint Imperials had sold out.
In a flash, she could see my predicament and sought to soften the blow. She could sell me mint chews at three bags for £1. Not quite the same, I replied, but I’d give them a go. At least that’s something I can chew on while I puzzle over the dearth of real, hard sweets.
OK, my survey wasn’t that exhaustive. And, if it’s any consolation, I have since discovered that the McColl’s branch in Lisburn Square has about as many bags of Mint Imperials as you can eat at one sitting. And I swiftly bought as many of them as would fit into my tin. Well, you never know, with Brexit and all.