13 April 2015

Smarties, revisited

A few days ago an Easter care package arrived from my mum. First of all, it’s probably worth mentioning that included in the care packaged, amongst the home baked cookies, the flax corn chips, and the chocolate easter eggs, were two hair brushes. I now own five hairbrushes. But there was also a bulk bag of Easter-themed Smarties. Easter-themed Smarties are just Smarties, but with only “Easter” colours—if you can even call them colours now that the artificial colouring agents have been removed.

Readers may remember a highly critical review I once wrote about Smarties and how they’re essentially garbage now that Nestle has opted to only use natural colouring agents. I adamantly believed that the best part about Smarties was the taste of the artificial colours. And for the most part, I still stand by this assessment. Any time I have tried to eat the post-2009 Smarties that come either in boxes or holiday-themed packaging, I’ve always been disappointed. But I have to admit that these bulk Smarties were pretty good, even without the artificial colours. I don’t know if this okay-ness is specific only to bulk Smarties or what, but yeah, they were pretty good. They still weren’t as good as the old Smarties, and they certainly looked like they had already been sucked on so that their former bright colours are obscured by the melting chocolate, but yeah. I don’t know. They were pretty good.

I don’t know what this means for me or anyone, but 2015 might be the year that I rediscover Smarties. I also want to add, just as a point of interest, that one time I bought a Halloween pack of mini Smarties because it wasn’t mentioned anywhere explicitly that they were made only with natural colours, and I hoped that I discovered a cache of probably expired Smarties, still featuring the artificial colours. But I was wrong, and I was disappointed.

Ultimately that these bulk Smarties tasted better than their packaged counterpart comes as no surprise. Bulk Smarties from Overwaitea have always been the best Smarties.

In case you're wondering, yes I did manage to pick up a copy of Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes, published by
Visual Editions  (VE2) in 2010 and now out of print.

08 April 2015

Food Thoughtz Update: Alcohol

Well, everyone. I have finally decided to expand the scope of Food Thoughtz to include alcohol. The series will probably be called "Drink Thoughtz," or something equally unimaginative. I live in a house with a roommate, and these shelves are a big part of our living space and our lives:

Over the past two years, I've really gotten into the world of cocktails—which has in part been encouraged by this unruly liquor collection, but also by Midge Deak's relatively new found interest in cocktails (her favourite drink is something I call the "Midge Deak" and consists of vodka and plain tap water).

The series will likely run the gambit of alcohol, including beers, ciders, coolers, and hard alcohol. Perhaps wine sometimes too, but I am not really into wine unless it's cut with soda. You might be wondering what authority I have to pass judgement on different kinds of alcohol. The answer is precisely none, which is the same level of authority I exercise when it comes to food.

**Update** The famed Midge Deak has recommended the series be called "Booze Thoughtz," and I agree.

06 April 2015

Guest Post: A Response to McDowell

The phrase “going viral” is like “paradigm” and “pro-active” - a buzz phrase that dumb (or simply out of touch) people use to sound important.  But in the case of Adam McDowell's National Post piece “Death to the Chicken Finger” that was all over my Facebook news feed last week, “viral” was an apt metaphor.  Reading it made me queasy, then violently ill, and finally angry that I'd just wasted my time enduring it.

The subtitle (if it's a subtitle but it's been placed by the typesetter above the main title, is it still a subtitle, or is it a supertitle?) of McDowell's piece really tells you everything you need to know about what's to follow:  “How we created an entire generation of unsophisticated, picky eaters – and why we must stop the tasteless cycle”.  I'm loathe to make generalizations about entire generations of people, but there is one I'm willing to make about mine:  We've decided we're experts in everything.  It ought to be difficult to be a snob about fine dining and while simultaneously maintaining a starving artist self-image, but somehow, many of my peers manage to do it.  “Foodie” snobbery has hit the mainstream, and McDowell's Post piece is condescension distilled.

There's a lot wrong with McDowell's piece, and I won't go through it point by point.  Broadly, he argues that kids menus offer children unchallenging, “unsophisticated” food, that children raised on these kids' menus never develop a “refined” pallet, and that they will be unhealthy from eating a limited selection of foods.


The Author, reading the National Post.

The language McDowell uses throughout “Death to the Chicken Finger” simply oozes moral superiority.  It's clear that McDowell thinks you're a better person if you eat gourmet food – that you're more refined, more sophisticated, smarter.  Of course, that's the allure of the whole ___-phile movement – audiophile, oenophile, craft beer enthusiast, “foodie” - the opportunity to prove to yourself you're cleverer than your peers, because you see something they don't, hear something they don't, or taste something they don't.  Never mind that, nine times out of ten, the subtle details people think they're experiencing aren't even there.  It doesn't matter that studies show the difference between that $30 bottle of Shiraz and that $50 bottle of Shiraz are entirely psychosomatic.  The important thing is that you feel superior.

McDowell clearly feels superior.  Of course, there's nothing morally superior about eating pretentious food.  In fact, if you really want to split hairs, gourmet cooking often comes loaded with more moral quandaries than simple eating does.  I'm okay with eating meat, but I'm not really keen on force-feeding geese until their livers rupture, or fishing rare sturgeon to extinction.  I'll stick with my chicken fingers, thank you.

But what of McDowell's health argument?  Kids will be unhealthy if they never learn to eat “difficult” food at restaurants?


How often does McDowell think kids eat out, anyway?  I think I had a fairly typical childhood in this regard, and my family ate dinner at a restaurant maybe once a month, and breakfast or lunch once a week.  That's five or six meals a month at a restaurant, versus 85 meals at home.   I learned to eat a range of different foods and lots of fruits and veg from eating at home, not from being forced, at the age of seven, to choose something random off the adult menu at Ricky's.

Who the hell does Adam McDowell think he is, anyway, telling me I'm “unsophisticated” for liking chicken tenders.  I love chicken tenders.  Adam McDowell can stuff his face with fetid shark and abused goose liver all he wants, but I'll stick to my chicken.

03 April 2015

Canada's Potato Heartland - Results

I've put off confronting this for long enough. The time has finally come to offer some commentary on this highly disappointing poll.

So, I guess by now you are all aware that Taber edged out PEI with a total of 55% of the votes. PEI received 42%, and the University of Guelph received an embarrassing 1%.

I guess that one thing we can learn from this experiment is that the uneducated masses of the internet are frequently, if not always, wrong and that internet polls are not an accurate method for determining where Canada's potato heartland is. We know internet polls are not reliable because PEI is unquestionably Canada's potato heartland.

Sorry for wasting your time, everyone!