Dinner With The Omnivore

Posts Tagged ‘sweets

Wood burner. Nice in theory, at any rate.

Resort is open (all right, it’s only for a week, but what do you want in October?), snow is forecast all the way down to the valley floor and once more I spend evenings wrestling with the woodstove in a bid to get it hot enough to reverse the gale howling down the chimney and filling the house with smoke. Winter, we love it.

One of the plus points of risking frostbite all through January by recklessly stepping out of the front door from time to time is that you can eat anything you like at any time of the day without resisting the temptations of cake or restraining yourself from snacking between meals, because if you didn’t you’d probably implode shortly after New Year. This is why traditional montagnard cuisine consists largely of cheese, lard, starch, lard and bacon. Garnished with lard.

Keeping yourself alive and adequately fuelled whilst actually out on the hill can present a challenge, especially if you wish to arrive at the bottom as a reasonably civilised human being and not a ravening beast in the throes of hyperphagy. I once got through most of an innocent-looking baguette before brain managed to wrest control from stomach and register desperate messages coming in from the taste buds that incoming fodder was actually a cold chicken nugget and pesto sandwich with cheapo engine-oil mayonnaise, and not a food substance at all.

Which more than adequately illustrates the pressing need for a portable on-piste fuel supply. There’s always the mountain restaurant option, of course, but at 7€ for a handful of chips it’s well out of reach of a seasonnaire on £200 a month. Besides, there’s no point in wasting good ski time sitting on a terrace and stuffing your face when you can multi-task and do it on the chairlifts.

That's why they tell you to take it off, fool.

Unless you want to carry a backpack around all day, the key considerations in piste food are size, convenience,  resistance to freezing and general wear and tear, and calorie content. Not that there’s anything wrong with backpacks, but I can’t be bothered with the faff of taking it off on the lifts and I’ve seen too many people suspended from chairlifts by their backpack straps to risk leaving it on and suffering the resultant ridicule. Besides, they tend to make me fall over backwards, which is irritating.

The seasonnaire sandwich: probably the most popular munch out there, mainly because it’s free and you just nab one from the kitchen before you leave (free is a big plus for the seasonnaire). Resistant and filling, but doesn’t score too well on the size criterion in my opinion, unless you’re rocking one of those tent arrangements favoured by the park rats.

Kendal Mint Cake: a good high-calorie portable snackette, performs well in extreme conditions, and comes recommended by the likes of Edmund Hillary and Ernest Shackleton, both of whom took stacks of it with them. Invented in 1869 and still going strong. How could you go wrong? Well, there’s the fact that it tastes horrible even at -10°C when most food tastes of nothing at all, and the residual mintiness makes you feel as though your tonsils are about to freeze solid every time you inhale. But top marks if you don’t mind the mint thing.

Another Scottish contribution to haute cuisine

Scottish butter tablet: passes almost every test with flying colours. A sort of fudge arrangement, for those sassenachs amongst you unfamiliar with this nectar in solid form. Compact, impervious to the elements and basically made of sugar stuck together with butter. Half a day’s calorie allowance in every bite. The drawback is a) I’ve never seen it for sale outside Scotland and b) the commercial stuff is a mere ghostlike imitation of the true tablet. Realistically you’d have to make it yourself, an activity fraught with peril as in its liquid form it could be used as napalm. Falls down a bit on the convenience front.

Haribo crocodiles: this recommendation from a friend who used to be a competition rower and is consequently a bit of a connoisseur of energy foods. I was sceptical initially, but actually the crocodiles score well across the board, particularly on convenience, as thanks to the Baltic temperatures involved they can be eaten directly from the jacket pocket without leaving residual stickiness. Fried eggs, smurfs and gummi bears preform equally well.

Mars Bars: not bad on the calorie front, and reasonably convenient and cost-effective, but let down badly by its performance in the cold. Unacceptably high tooth-resistance quotient initially, and when warmed up turns into a tar-like substance liable to ruin any expensive dental work you may have. Avoid.

Fruit: pants. Sorry, I know it’s healthy and good for your teeth and all that, but it’s an awkward shape, it leaves you with pockets full of soggy cores and peelings, and you probably use more energy eating the stuff than you get out of it in return.

Token vitamin

Fruit compote: this stuff, on the other hand, scores quite well on convenience with its handy stick-the-nozzle-in-the-gob-and-squeeze system and while its calorie count is still a bit low it’s small enough to stuff in a pocket along with a second more heavy-duty snack. Allows you to feel virtuous about eating at least one vitamin during the course of the day.

Twix: probably the best all-round compromise, in my opinion. Good low-temperature performance despite the toffee, which somehow manages to avoid becoming rock solid. The twin-biscuit arrangement allows for convenient stashing of half your snackette for later in the day, and the Twix has the advantage of being weight for weight the cheapest thing in its class. Yes, I am the sort of sad obsessive who checks the per kilo price on the chocolate bars.

And the winner is ...!

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According to the ever-inaccurate Wikipedia, Haribo sweeties are a Europe-wide phenomenon, with at least five different products sold in the UK. But for some reason the whole Haribo phenomenon passed me by entirely until I started spending time in France, where they sometimes seem to be the only sweets in the world.

Supermarket sweetie aisles here have entire shelves devoted to the various Haribo assortments of multi coloured jelly confections in a choice of big plastic tubs, enormous packets, or packets of smaller packets, presumably to put in kids’ packed lunches when you’ve fallen out with the teacher and want to land her with a class of wet Mogwai.

Haribo, for anyone else out there who has so far missed out, are essentially small blobs of cows’ hoof extract laced with a cocktail of attention deficit related E-numbers. Though allegedly fruit flavoured, eating them is generally more like sucking on an unwashed test tube than anything else. For this we have to thank one Hans Riegel – multimillionaire,  inventor of the Gummi Bear and German national badminton champion. Hans is now well into his 80s and still running the business, so it has to be assumed that he doesn’t indulge to any great extent in his own product.

The high point of winter Saturdays in the ticket sales office is the arrival of the tourist office welcome team with a handful of pocket packets of whatever assorted Haribo they have been dishing out to new tourist arrivals. This is great when they’re doing Polka and World Mix, but for my money they could ditch the Mini Bams and the Tagada, both of which are frankly vile. The supply runs out as soon as February is out of the way and the cheapskate low season skiers arrive – they don’t merit anything as fancy as Haribo, so we end up with handfuls of cheapo plastic pseudo-Chewits from Marche U, which is a bit of a let down.

So with the aim of keeping consumers informed and for no personal pleasure whatsoever, we have spent the weekend sampling and reviewing the available Haribo products (available in Casino that is – there’s a limit to how far I’m going to go for a packet of rubbery crocodiles which may or may not taste of fruit).

Rotella: a bit boring really, consisting entirely of those rolled-up liquorice strips which always break when you try to unroll them. I like liquorice as much as anyone, but I don’t really need an entire packet of it all at once.

Carensac: what we used to know as liquorice torpedoes only smaller. Again, not fantastically exciting.

Chamallows: come on, these are just bog standard marshmallows. Good for sticking on the ends of forks then dropping in the barbecue before you get a chance to eat them, but that’s it.

Hari Croco: jelly crocodiles with a bit of white foam stuck to the bottom. Alleged to taste of fruit, and the yellow ones are indeed somewhat reminiscent of lemon. A lot better than you’d think.

Bams: strange little banana-looking things which taste of banana flavouring, something not to be confused in any way with actual banana. Really quite nasty.

Tagada: As above, only strawberry. Over a billion of these sold annually, and God knows why because they’re disgusting.

Polka: now you’re talking. Mixture of Allsorts-esque liquorice things, crocodiles and other jelly items both with and without white foam. Let down by the round red things, which are so grim I generally throw them away.

Dragibus: little round thingies in multiple colours with a slightly hard outer casing and a chewy bit. Good for playing Mankala with as long as your opponent refrains from eating them while the game is in progress, as this makes it difficult to assess who actually won.

Les Schtroumpfs: raspberry flavoured Smurfs  in bright blue gelatin. The mind boggles.

World Mix: my personal favourite, partly because JC dislikes half of them, which means I stand some chance of actually getting any. Apparently an international selection of Haribo from across Europe.

Oeufs au Plat: lemon flavoured fried eggs. No, I don’t know what that’s about either. For those who like their sweets surreal.

And finally ….

Ours d’Or: also known as Goldbären and Gummi Bears, Hans’s original creation and the one which made him rich. An assortment of different coloured bears. Made of jelly.

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Food for thought

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

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