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Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

Would you believe me if I said it was shaving foam?

Mrs. Gloop: [Augustus is covered in chocolate] Augustus, please don’t eat your fingers!

Augustus Gloop: [licks his fingers] But I taste so good!”

– Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.    

Ah, little Augustus, synonymous with children’s love for chocolate. I can still remember sitting in the back of my mother’s car, driving past the local sweet shop, and announcing that when I was old enough to earn money I would spend it all on Mars bars and nothing else, except maybe the odd Bounty (a criminally underrated item of chocolate). As I child, I used to love chocolate, perhaps only marginally less than championship manager, table tennis and pornography. How times change (except for the devotion to table tennis, of course).

In my ascent towards thirty, chocolate no longer has the appeal it once did; chocolate has been replaced by real ale, darts and second-hand books. Sure, I’ll tuck into a Cadbury’s Double Decker every once in a while, but rarely more than twice a month which seems ludicrous compared to the lustful times of my youth. However, last Friday I relapsed and gobbled a Double Decker at lunch, followed by a Crunchie from the work vending machine during the afternoon. As I opened the wrapping for each bar, I found myself doing something unusual – I studied the consistency. The Double Decker: half biscuit at the bottom, nougat at the top; the Crunchie: pure honeycomb, no other constituents save for a tawdry layer of chocolate. OK nothing wrong, per se, with the established combinations, but it got me thinking – what defines a chocolate bar?

In the evening that followed, myself and a colleague discussed the issue at length over an Indian and several pints of Kingfisher, trying to identify the characteristics that distinguished a chocolate bar from, say, a chocolate biscuit or chocolate wafer. Sparks flew, fists were nearly thrown and the following were identified. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t know how to party.

Size of the bar

To qualify as a chocolate bar, a rectangular size is essential. A Crème Egg will, of course, not cut it, although the recent Crème Egg bar will pass through security. Potential flies in ointment include a Toblerone with its knobbly pyramid top, but this is just a smoke screen as the object is clearly a rectangle. Other comestibles excluded from the club include Maltesers, Minstrels and M&M’s, which are best described as entry level chocolate, before the student moves onto the serious world of Bourborn, and Fruit and Nut.

Why will only a rectangle do? Well, consider the chocolates received at the end of an Indian meal: sugary, hint of orange, nasty taste in the mouth, proud gold trim wrapping, and always square – a chocolate every time, lacking as they do the phallic girth to qualify as a bar.

Another problem area is the recent introduction of “duel bars”, a shameless marketing rip-off aimed at duping the consumer into thinking they have two items of chocolate, when the combined duo is exactly the same size as an old-school single bar. In any event and while arguable whether one part of a duo bar would be considered a chocolate bar on its own terms, one has to consider the two as a whole, as that is the way they are sold – ergo, clearly a bar.

Content

Assuming the item delivers on size, the next stage is to review the substance. If the bar is encased with chocolate, the fat lady’s loosening her belt and ready to squeal; however, it at this point that problems arise.

Chocolate Biscuit – Take the example of a Club Bar – a staple morning break snack for children of a certain generation boasting a satisfying array of flavours including my personal favourites, orange and fruit (incidentally, type in ‘club biscuit flavours’ on Google and marvel at the level of description in some of the entries, one of which describes the current Club biscuit as “a shadow of its former self” with “the glamorous packaging, which lent itself to not one but two small origami dogs, now a cellophane sachet”). Despite formerly having a generous chocolate coating, the middle is pure biscuit and cannot be considered a chocolate bar.

Chocolate Wafer – Wafer bars are generally gash, the best example being the Blue Ribbon – the Lidle of childhood snacks; if you had one of those in your lunchbox, chances are you spent most of the week ravaged by hunger, applying Clearasil to your face and getting beaten up by the lockers. I remember my mum trying to sneak one into my bag on occasions and I told her in no uncertain terms to buy me a bag of Trios. The problem with the Blue Ribbon was both the feebleness of the wafer, which dissolved in the mouth without effort, and the shoddiness of the chocolate. While that’s not to say there aren’t one or two good wafer bars out there (Turnocks), they definitely aren’t chocolate bars.

The rule, then, comes down to the percentage of biscuit or wafer. Where the biscuit/wafer comprises 50% or more of the entire product, I would submit this to be a chocolate biscuit; for example, a Boost has always been known as a chocolate bar and if you tally up the weight of chocolate and caramel against pure biscuit, the level of biscuit probably falls below this threshold. A Kit-Kat is a little more controversial, but most likely a chocolate bar as the amount of wafer is minimal compared to the total amount of chocolate coverage, even with a Kit-Kat chunky.

As for Wagon Wheels, answers please on a postcard.

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Masterchef

Does Masterchef make you horny? Not a conventional chat up line or opening gambit but stay with me on this – I need your help to clear up something that’s been bugging me for the past year. During this time, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time wondering whether I am alone in deriving unbridled pleasure from watching John Torode’s culinary gushings on Masterchef. I sincerely hope not because if I am, you, the esteemed reader, has been missing out on one of life’s great gifts; only marginally less fabulous than the prospect of a reality TV show where gangs of formless jewellery laden chavs with tattoos of baby names etched on their ball sacks are forcibly wanked-off by their own grandmas as punishment for their pointless existence.

Welcome to my world. But before you rightly express outrage at the notion of sadistic granny porn, allow me to clarify: the knuckle action, which I imagine taking place in the basement of Channel Five’s studio, would of course be censored. The show’s money shot would be the post wank interviews where each spent oik is subjected to a one hour interrogation of character. Cue sheepish viewing of the floor and general weepiness interspersed by cries of ‘don’t you fucking dare tell Sasha about this’, and ‘but she’s my gran, bruv, innit’ or something.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Masterchef recipe (shit pun: check) despite the pilot having been broadcast during the Jurassic period, allow me to explain: the series has moved on since the days of Loyd Grossman, a man who, when he spoke, sounded like an American dalek sucking turds up his backside. Compared to previous incarnations, the new (and thankfully brief) Masterchef is a slick animal keeping you drawn in by getting rid of the chaff early on in proceedings. Each week sees the Beeb gather a handful of amateur cooks supposedly focused on becoming the next Fanny Craddock or, God forbid, Ainsley ‘Jazz Hands’ Harriott. I say ‘supposedly’ as seemingly each episode contains at least one middle-aged fishwife who continues to grin dementedly without opening her mouth when told that she hasn’t made the grade, until security have to remove her from the kitchen.

Each of the early episodes begins with a mystery ingredients round where our frankly indifferent contestants are given a limited range of basic food stuffs with which to give Torode (JT) and his Shrek-a-like sidekick a culinary hard-on. Most of the resulting dishes look like something a toddler could have knocked up, but Shrek and JT, nice guys that they are, offer abstract terms of encouragement, citing ‘a good idea of flavour’ (flavour, as we shall see, is everything for JT) or ‘a real hunger’ (oddly, quite a good idea in a cooking program) before banishing three amateurs back to their starving families, where they can shelve their feigned interest in Nigella Lawson’s cooking abilities, and watch HD close ups of her tits instead.

For the victors, JT’s silver tongue awaits. The next round sees each prepare their very own three course meal using whatever ingredients they want. Apart from human bones, I would imagine. Or monkey semen. As the tension builds, JT and Shrek sit down to chew the fat in the style of two pot smoking frat boys discussing expectations for their next lay:

‘Shrek: I don’t know about you, John but if Roxanne pulls all her ingredients together, she’s really going to be pushing my buttons.

JT: I agree, but at the moment I’m more concerned with Aleesha. She showed us in the first round that she can present well, however at this stage of the competition (beat) she simply HAAAAS to deliver on flavour.

Shrek: Good point, John.’

(Camera zooms in on JT who nods half-heartedly indicating life, despite his eyes appearing closed. Camera pans to Shrek who momentarily gurns whilst raising a solitary eyebrow, presumably an attempt at conveying an uncertain grimace.)

At this point, I think we should consider our judges. JT: Refined Australian accent; thatch of brown hair; looks a bit like Alan Duncan – fruity Tory MP and panel show whore – less the brown hair; shark eyes; bizarre ability to draw out the words ‘has’, ‘needs’ and ‘must’ beyond their natural end; smug but endearing. Shrek: rotund orphaned Mitchell brother, but cuddly, like a man sized tickle me elmo; basic working class London accent which goes all dirty and Frank Butcher when he utters the phrase ‘floats my boat’ at least a million times per episode; loves a good underdog and triple chocolate puddings that will increase his BMI and cause a tingle down below.

The cooking’s incidental, really. If you follow it, you won’t learn anything. I promise. All you see are the ingredients and then the finished product, sandwiched between flashy camera shots of Shrek groping his own chin. Personally, I spend the time trying to work out who’s worked up the most embarrassing hot flush or river of sweat which dribbles, almost unnoticed, onto a plate of glorified fish and chips.

Come the hour of judgment, JT and Shrek defy convention by standing up to eat. You almost want someone to make them eat off the floor like dirty animals, but no-one does. The fools. (Interestingly, you can discern the class divide between JT and Shrek from the way they take the food from their cutlery. JT carefully loads his fork, ensuring that the correct balance of food is present in order that he can deliver a reasoned verdict, stares at said loaded fork with his dead eyes, before finally digesting and removing the fork from his gob in one seamless movement. Shrek, on the other hand, goes for the ‘i’m not sure when i’m next going to have a feed, so i’m going to fill my boots here’ mentality. Making a mockery of JT’s foreplay, Shrek treats his fork like a JCB, closes his eyes (not sure what that’s all about) and piles a mother load of produce into his cake whole. The most concerning part of the performance is the tortuous process of waiting for the fork to be regurgitated. When it does finally appear, it’s akin to watching an anaconda spew up an antelope.) Provided you haven’t fallen asleep by this stage, you’ll get to hear JT deliver his patented ‘shopping list’ verdict:

‘JT: The basil (beat), the coriander (beat), the garlic (beat), the flaky texture of the haddock (beat), the decadent use of truffle oil (beat), the mange tout (beat), the salt (beat), the pepper (beat)….the get the fuck on with it.’

OK, I invented the last bit, but after a while it becomes too much. The beauty of the shopping list technique is that it can be used positively or negatively. To conclude on a positive note, simply add ‘all of these ingredients are bursting with flavour and, as a whole, it works beautifully’. Not too impressed? Why not add ‘it’s just too overpowering and confusing, and the end result is a mess, quite honestly’. There, piece of piss.

Shrek has a few more tricks in his armoury, perfectly happy to deviate from the script when his senses take a pounding. Put a distinctly average chocolate ice cream in front of him and the result is alarming, yet strangely captivating:

Shrek: aaaaaAAAAW [Shrek’s legs quiver, as if he’s received a cheeky knee trembler]. Hahahaha [genuine belly laugh]. I can’t believe that. What flavours! I don’t give two hoots about you’re Cajun salmon risotto. You can cook, don’t worry about that, son. I’m not sure about you, John but that certainly floats my boat. Where’s the cheeseboard?’

Seriously, if you’re a lonely old lady itching for some action, give him a caramel Vienetta and he’s yours, scout’s honour.

Like my attitude to the cooking, I couldn’t give a shit who wins. It’s all bollocks. Try and think back to any winners from the show who’ve achieved anything in the cooking game, come to think of it, try and name me a winner. No Wikipedia allowed. There, you couldn’t do it.

In the end, the only winners are JT and Shrek, with their post-Brokeback Mountain mix of light sexual tension and perverse mannerisms, laughing all the way to a chocolate coated bank. Long may it continue.

14 January 2009.

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