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Weird and wonderful

In a world where everything has to be sensational toget noticed, it seems food has fallen prey to that same philosophy. So, to ensure that you can all keep up at the company water cooler, I thought I should let you know of some of the latest news. Prepare to be amazed.

Perhaps the posterchild of the change in public image is junk food, which is now no longer cool to promote except in jest. The latest casualty is Hostess, the company that makes Twinkies and Ding Dongs; they filed for bankruptcy recently. They just can’t keep up… even though their products have become famous for never spoiling. (I posted a great piece from another blogger on possible ways to “kill” a Twinkie on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page, if you are in need of a good giggle.) The only division of the company to survive is Wonder Bread, whose new slogan is “Discover the Joy of Natural Wonder… now free of artificial preservatives, artificial colours and artificial flavours”. What a revolutionary idea.

The key to success nowadays is to have a food that is either so rare and unique (read expensive) that you can brag about it like you do your Tag Heuer or your Astin Martin. I saw an ad for “Shackleton’s whiskey” recently – a replica whiskey made in honour of Ernest Shackleton and his private stash from his expedition to the South Pole. You see, they discovered a few cases of scotch that was hidden in the permafrost under the hut Shackleton’s team used to store supplies. Three bottles were finally extracted from the ice and sent to Scotland for “research” (read tasting). Whyte & Mackay, the company that is the modern day version of the original maker of the stuff, produced the replica after tasting the original, with all of the flavours, as well as intrigue and irony. The story is fun not just because it’s about a retro product, but because it is a silly escapade. Shackleton’s expedition was fraught with disaster at every turn. (He should have known – the ship’s name was the Nimrod, after all.) He was not a scientific explorer, and didn’t even really like the snow (he hated sled dogs, the best transportation method to use in Antarctica). But he was a naturally good leader (no bloody wonder, if he had such good whiskey!) If you can find a bottle, this once-in-a-lifetime experience will cost you about two hundred dollars Canadian. That’s about $2 a dram  (one sixteenth of an ounce).

Shackleton, second from left, with his core crew aboard the Nimrod. They look like they could use a dram, don't you think?

Another category that has become trendy is of course the heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruit. At a dinner with friends recently, I heard much complaining of the overuse of “heirloom” as a descriptor on menus. Wouldn’t you know, we went out for dinner this past week, and instead of “heirloom”, the word was “little”? I grow heirloom varieties in our garden, but I have to agree – do we need to tell everyone their food is cute for them to want to eat it?

Perhaps the important part is that we seem to be more focused on enjoying our food. If we are weird and wonderful about it, then maybe that is all that counts. You might not want to carve your food up like the artist in this video, but if that kind of work will get your kids to eat fruits and veggies, maybe a bit of pulp and peel on the table is okay… think of it as the new version of that famous “Close Encounters” scene with the mashed potatoes.

Bon appetit!

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