03 Jan Don’t mention the Mars…
If you wanted to take a dour view of matters, 2020 could be thought of as a landmark year for the reputation of Scottish food.
As this article in the Edinburgh Evening News illustrates, it has been a quarter of a century since the deep-fried Mars Bar first hit the headlines.
Perhaps it’s time we let it fade into obscurity.
It was 25 years ago that an Aberdeen newspaper picked up on the story that a chip shop in Stonehaven was selling deep-fried Mars Bars to kids from a nearby school.
The original newspaper report consisted of a little sidebar with a picture. It was the sort of story that should have prompted a raised eye and perhaps a chuckle before it disappeared forever.
That is not what happened. The Daily Record, at the time Scotland’s biggest tabloid, ran with the story and, in modern day parlance, it went viral.
News outlets, including TV stations all over the world, carried the tale and it developed legs which have kept the story alive to this day.
It should not have been this way.
The deep-fried Mars Bar started life as a gimmick sold to a handful of Stonehaven school pupils in their lunch hours. It was a quirk, at best a footnote, which, unfairly, became emblematic of all Scottish food.
I say unfairly because the number of Scots who have eaten a deep-fried Mars Bar must be fleetingly small. It is not part of our diet. It never was. I don’t know anyone living here who has tried it.
The chip shops that supply it do so to serve the tourist trade.
I understand that visitors may want to try it and I understand that chip shop owners have reason to meet that demand. But is the short term gain worth the more lasting reputational damage?
Perhaps Scotland sometimes has a reluctance to talk up its strong points and there is certainly a misplaced pride, or even a fatalism, among some of us when it comes to the worst aspects of the Scottish diet.
Maybe we need to draw a line under it.
It is not unusual for international guests on one of our tours to bring up the vexed subject of the deep-fried Mars Bar. Fair enough. If you are a guide on a food tour then you can’t ignore a direct question but it is worth putting it in context.
Fantastic natural larder
Our walking tours often start with a look at how fantastic Scotland’s natural larder is. From our shellfish to our venison, it is sought after from Boston to Bangkok.
Our soft fruits are world class. The Spanish love our langoustines. The Germans love our game and the whole world loves our whisky. The main pic at the top of the blog is from the launch of the Surf and Turf Restaurant at MacDonald Holyrood Hotel. Taken by Peter Sandground, it shows the huge range of fish landed in Scotland which are supplied by George Campbell & Son Fishmonger.
Aren’t these the products we would prefer to be known for?
It is easy to appear po-faced about this but perhaps it is time to forget about the deep-fried Mars Bar.
I recognise the irony of writing a blog about it while urging us to bury the story.
However, it would be good to think that 25 years from now, the narrative will have moved on.
There is already a strong positive story to tell about Scottish produce. The legend of the infernal chocolate bar is a misleading distraction which needs to be consigned to history.