I have a personal mind-trainer. He reads things like New Scientist. Digests the tough stuff, regurgitates it in easy-to-assimilate chunks.
Sometimes he’s on the receiving end of, ‘please – shut up! I can’t cope with any more.’ But even then, something’s usually slipped in and stuck.
So the cobwebbed crevices of my disordered mind are full of fragments. Ill-remembered, but ready to be re-awakened by the kiss of a handsome prince. Or, if he’s not available, the nearest internet search engine.
One such fragment relates to a study of that oh-so-perverted collision of tastes. The kind that excites the jaded palates of spoilt, western, junk-food junkies.
Salt, sugar, fat.
It’s highly addictive. If you taste it you just want MORE!
When it’s combined with mushy food – gumming advised, teeth optional – then so much the better. Because the act of chewing tells our minds we’re eating, helps to create that sated, full feeling. And I’m guessing that the harder we chew the more we feel we’ve eaten.
So, if you take a soggy outer casing that purports to be a bread roll, fill it with a soft slab of pre-masticated meat, slather it in slippery, glossy, fruity, creamy, sweet goo and salt the lot generously …
Thousands of calories (well, hundreds) will slip down your gullet with little more than a roll around your mouth.
And – bingo! There’s room for a slice of cherry pie.
… a Cadbury’s Ritz Cracker.
I’ve been waiting years to have a rant about Cadbury.
It had already become a super-sized kind of Cadbury, pursuing – so I’ve learnt this week – aggressive tax avoidance policies. But Kraft dealt the mortal blow.
Took over a treasured part of my personal heritage. My early memories. Teensy fingers of chocolate, wrapped in silver foil. A penny apiece – just the size for a tiny tot.
Cadbury had been British since 1824.
Its Dairy Milk Chocolate came to dominate the market because of the health benefits of the extra milk it contained (‘a glass and a half of full cream milk goes into every bar …’).
Cadbury’s Quaker owners built housing and amenities for their workers at Bournville. It wasn’t just philanthropy, it kept them fit for work.
Cadbury wasn’t alone. William Hesketh Lever built Port Sunlight for the Sunlight soap factory workers (now part of Unilever). Sir Titus Salt built Saltaire village round his woollen mill on the River Aire.
Enlightened capitalism, you might say, at its height.
Kraft bought Cadbury with the help of a huge loan from RBS – yes, the British bank bailed out by the British taxpayer – promising to keep its big plant near Bristol open for at least three years.
But of course, Kraft ate it up and spat it out. Transferred production to Poland. The CEO, a woman, I’m sorry to say, refused to apologise for misleading us.
It seemed the profits were OK, but not enough.
When is enough, enough?
Soon there were so many varieties of everything Cadbury it was bewildering. And of course, biggest-ever everything.
Display stands began to multiply like weeds after the rain.
The classic multinational sales push. Dominate the world. Make more, sell more.
Increase the margins, reduce the quality.
Taste? They’ll keep on buying it – just keep on changing it. Adding new and more exotic combinations.
Of fat and sugar and salt.
Like the chocolate Ritz cracker.
What this says to me is what we all know far too well.
The big confectionery giants don’t give a damn about quality, flavour, obesity. Like big tobacco, they know exactly what they’re doing.
They’re not interested in making things that cheer up our lives, occasional treats to brighten the gloom of a dismal day, now and again.
No, they’re in the business of creating a product that packs 183 calories into a nice big mouthful (35 g). A combination of fat (30% of your daily saturated fats), salt and sugar that almost guarantees you’ll wolf it down in one and go back for more.
Handy, then, that our local supermarket has packs of these things on sale for £1 (about $1.70 as I write).
Three wolfable portions – at 183 calories each – for £1.
To do the easy maths for you – that’s:
90% of your daily saturated fats and 549 calories.
For a snack. A treat. A lunchbox, pocket-money purchase.
So, Cadbury, for me you’re up there with tobacco. And the folk who invented alco-pops.
You know exactly what you’re doing.