Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Smarties people are happy people

I haven't been to our local bar for ages and they're now under new management and have a new menu. I am very impressed to see that they serve a Wagyu beef (or Kobe beef) cheeseburger with twice-cooked chips. I haven't tasted it yet but it definitely warrants a revisit very soon. The other particular thing of note is that the bar menu offered the option of a bowl of Smarties. Now this seems a most intriguing innovation. So is it out with pork scratchings and in with bowls of Smarties? Well Smarties are more colourful and it have is the opportunity to resurrect the 'great orange Smartie' debate! Do orange Smarties taste different than the other colours? The world needs to know! So we organised the blind taste test Smartie challenge, can you spot the orange one? S and I successfully identified the orangey chocolate but R wasn't so sure. Now this could be down to the fact that he is not so accustomed to Smarties, being a visitor from deepest New Jersey means he was more likely to be weaned on M&Ms and perhaps can't differentiate the subtle nuances of Smartie flavourings. And how does a Smartie compare to an M&M? Well, according to R, a Smartie has superior chocolate to an M&M and an M&M has a thinner shell. So the results of the blind tasting were inconclusive so I feel more research is required.
One conclusion that was reached however was that Smarties are not a good accompaniment to beer! I was okay as I was on the mineral water but if I'd chosen a nice glass of Syrah or Pinot, I'm pretty sure I would have concurred that as nice as they were I'm not sure Smarties will catch on as a bar snack.
A gift of a tube of Smarties as a child was always a wonderful thing. There was much speculation on revealing the letter underneath the plastic cap, as this was the first initial of your intended spouse in years to come. The tube itself was a pleasing shape and much used in Blue Peter style craft projects. And then there were the Smarties themselves, being slightly obsessed by colours, I liked to group them by hue and eat them 'in order' always ending on my favourite - orange! There was another reason for my careful sorting out of colours, however. My mother in a cunning ruse to secure a guaranteed share of any Smarties, had convinced me that the black and brown Smarties were the dreaded coffee flavour. And being very trusting I believed her and duly saved all the nasty coffee ones for her. Call it a 'Smartie Tax' if you will. It was many, many years before I could be convinced to try a black or brown Smartie as I was totally convince that if be poisoned. Imagine if she'd tried to convince me that the red ones were tomato flavour! I could have been traumatised for life!
Smarties have had a bit of a revamp recently. They are promoting their lack of artifical colours, probably as the colourings they were using were causing some consumers to bounce off the walls! The colours are now very different than I remembered. The green is much more vivid, the brown is very pale. The blue that was an addition in recent years has gone! See note about food colourings! And the beloved future husband predicting caps of my childhood? – gone, also in favour of new less tubular packaging!
In the name of research I procured some Smarties so I could check the ingredients. I couldn't see orange listed but I could see 'beetroot juice'! I am assuming this is to colour the red ones. I can't imagine they are slipping beetroots into such a well-loved confectionary; I'd call that seriously sneaky!
S and I are still convinced on a second tasting that we detect an orange flavour to the orange but the lack of orange essence listed on the package had us concerned. Nevertheless, a quick glance at the Nestle site confirmed what I've always believed - they do indeed flavour the orange ones with orange. They also say that they have produced 5,000 million Smarties caps in the last 25 years. Furthermore, apparently if all the Smarties eaten in a year were laid end to end they would stretch for almost 102,000 km. And I for one am glad they worked this out, as you never know when this information might be useful.
We were told in the old advert that ‘Smarties people are happy people!’ Which is true, though personally I’d forgo the pretty colours and always choose Minstrels over Smarties.


DD said...

J, mmmnnnn - Smarties! That was my nickname whilst at school! The big slogan in Oz was 'eat the red one's last!'... And if I ever dressed in a red shirt at school on Friday's there'd be song and verse all over! DDx

RooKnits said...

I think Smarties and red wine would be a winning combo...
Smarties have magic football match predicting powers. When I was younger I would always get a tube before football. If there were more orange ones compared to the colour of the opposition team, it meant we would win! You were never allowed to eat the orange ones during the match, because that took the secret powers away. I used to store them up and end up with tubes and tubes of orange ones.

Ryan said...

One interesting development regarding M&Ms is that Mars (makers of M&Ms in Deepest New Jersey and all other parts Stateside) seems to be trying to force an M&M rennaissance (the whole Reese's Pieces/E.T. debacle was a blow from which they never quite recovered their former glory) by rolling out, in addition to the standard milk chocolate and peanut (my peronal favorite) varieties, a whole bucketload of new M&M options. New models released in recent years include: dark (which I'll admit does pique my interest), almond, peanut butter (all candies released in the U.S. must, by law, include a peanut butter version. God bless America), crispy, ice cream, baking (smaller for putting in cookies, brownies, etc.) and minis (also smaller, but packaged for individual consumption). I must admit that this all feels a bit desperate to me, and worst of all are the minis. Due to their shrunken size, the amount of candy shell becomes too much relative to the amount of chocolate inside--my problem with Smarties--but without the nicer chocolate to compensate.
Footnote: I feel I should also mention that, back home in the States, it's very well known that green M&M's offer potent aphrodisiacal qualities. -R

Anonymous said...

As the M whose reputation has been besmirched by the libellous suggestion that I misled J at a tender age to purloin her Smarties, I must protest. J's memory is amiss. Maybe she learnt the "coffee" Smarties theory in the alternative reality she inhabited in her early years - or from her invisible friend Nathan who accompanied her until the age of 6. Nathan! Where did that come from?

J's gourmet leaning were sadly not evident at an early age. I recall an 8 year old J in the lovely Greek Islands who would not eat any food other than egg and chips. The Taverna chefs kindly complied with this perversion whilst the rest of us dined on beautiful food. J even scorned Greek milk as it was not in the glass bottles she recognized straight from the fridge. Does this sound like a future gourmet?

I really must wave the banner for coffee. This is probably unnecessary as most people of taste would be bereft without coffee. In my childhood coffee was a loathsome brew of boiled sterilised milk with a couple of spoonfuls of a strange liquor called Camp coffee. Coffee Bars arrived in my teens as well as rock and roll - and my preference Jazz. The bars were inevitably situated in cellars, dimly lit, shiny machines hissed out steam and that wonderful smell of fresh coffee and these exotic places were manned by interesting young men in tight Italian trousers and haircuts. Coffee Bars were as liberating to my generation as were burning you bra and flower power to the next. Since then coffee has been the thing to wake you up, pick you up, calm you down and restore sanity to a busy life. Coffee ice cream ,,Mmmmmm. Coffee cream chocolates as sublime.

I have digressed. An abject apology is expected from J. Daughters should hold to the fact of life that Mothers are always right and like Mary Poppins are practically perfect. Perhaps I might forgive her transgressions if she prepares me one of her made from scratch pasts dishes - I love the sauce of salmon, asparagus and cream. Perhaps some coffee creams from Thorntons might help.

J said...

Hmmm – methinks that M has perhaps overdosed on caffeine. See, I said it was dangerous!
And now I think if it, she loves coffee AND tomatoes AND goat’s cheese. Also she likes her toast and steaks pretty carbonised, whereas I like my toast ‘blonde’ and my steak ‘rare’. And horror of horrors, M doesn’t really appreciate the potato!
I wonder where I got my tastes from?

And as for Nathan, he wasn’t imaginary; unfortunately he was very much alive and used to eat worms. My imaginary friend was Adrian and I don’t recall whether he had a penchant for any particular food. I can only assume M’s ‘faulty’ memory is the consequence of all those ill-gotten brown and black Smarties. It’s just a thought!