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The Great British Sugar Rush

April 6, 2010

In Italy, they’re serious about food.  Visiting holidaymakers will have seen the loyalty shown by the natives to their local, artisan foods, while for other evidence what about the 2008 Government bailout of Parmesan cheese, a reaction to the wholesale price decline, which gave the craft producers centred around Parma time to reorganise themselves?  It was a tradition that couldn’t be allowed to fall by the wayside.

It’s also no accident that Slow Food, now a transnational movement, emerged from the same country as a reaction against fast food (which the British unashamedly love, microwaved or eaten on the hoof with a wooden fork), the disappearance of local food traditions (would the British embrace Bath Chaps, a pig’s cheek concoction, once again?), and people’s apparently dwindling interest in the food they consume.  The founder, Carlo Petrini, was listed by The Guardian as one of the ’50 people who could save the planet’.

Across the border in France, tourists can stick their forks into restaurant food heavily influenced by the produce readily available in that particular region.  Specialities will include a feast of local cheeses and charcuterie.

Despite what we’ve intimated above, it’s not strictly true that in the UK we have no interest in the food we eat: but unfortunately the food that really engages us comes filled with sugar and surrounded by a bright plastic wrapper: chocolate confectionary.

Yes, where an Italian will wax lyrical about a mature ham, slowly and authentically cured by the breezes from the hills around Parma, or a Frenchman’s source of local pride will be an artisan Loire Valley goat’s cheese reaching its summer peak, the Walnut Whip and its ilk are what really get us licking our excited lips.  By way of proof, there’s an online review of the aforementioned chocolate-covered, fondant-filled sweet extending to over 1200 words.  Considering that as a nation we dislike intellectual pretensions, this is a surprisingly literate effort: if the writer had chosen a less trivial subject for his essay it would not look out of place in the Paris Review or an academic journal.  The Wagon Wheel meanwhile – despite disappointing its reviewer somewhat – is still considered worthy of a careful write-up.  Being chocolatey and sugary is what matters.

As for Cadbury’s Finger of Fudge, there’s a description of it which opens with nostalgic childhood recollections worthy of publication and a place on a bookshop shelf next to ‘Cider with Rosie’ and other sepia-tinted memoirs.

Citizens of the UK, stop guzzling the remains of your Easter chocolate for a moment and consider this: if only your passion for industrial, mass-produced sweets could be diverted towards the wholesome yet just as delicious food produced the length and breadth of this island, the knock-on effects in terms of food sustainability could be greater than you’ll ever know.

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