ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tuck Off

Nobody believes me when I tell them about five finger KitKats - there's even misinformation on the internet denying their very existence - but in the mid-1980s they were as real as Feargal Sharkey topping the charts and Findus Crispy Pancakes for tea. 

Designed to fit in the old-fashioned mechanical vending machines that my late grandad serviced for a living, the five fingers were shorter than on the normal model, giving the KitKat what we'd call a 'landscape' orientation these days.

They were one of only two sweet items available from my schools very limited tuck shop - the other being little boxes of chocolate-filled discs, sort of like giant Smarties but much bigger. Bigger even than Minstrels. But I can't for the life of me remember what they were called because I always had a five-fingered KitKat.

The vending machines were always out of order (grandad never came to repair them) and the tuck shop was only open for about 20 minutes a day, which probably added to the allure. When, in 1989, I moved to a massive Secondary school with a permanently open canteen that sold all kinds of crisps and chocolates, including normal 'portrait' KitKats, it just wasn't as special.

News this week that school tuck shops could effectively be banned concerns me somewhat. Kids need something to look forward to after Double Physics on a Monday afternoon, and while Quintuple KitKats might be a thing of the past, there's no reason why the youth of today can't still get a bit of innocent enjoyment from a few flying saucers or a sherbert fountain. Or one of those little fivepenny bags of cheese puffs that probably cost about £2.50 these days.

They still make these, right?
The idea that tuck shops could continue, selling apples and Ryvita'n'shit instead of proper 'tuck' will be scant consolation to anyone. Beleagured parents will just put more crisps and sweets in their children's lunchboxes - and, unless things have changed drastically in the schoolroom, they'll get eaten at about 8:55 in the morning, not during afternoon playtime.

Work hard, play hard

Back in the early Naughties, I worked for a funky digital agency that had a tuck shop in the office. A FREE tuck shop, no less. Crisps. Chocolate. Cans of Coke (I can I can't).

As a perk of the job it was bloody fucking brilliant.

One day, apparently in response to staff feedback, they decided to cut back on chocolate and have more fruit. The change didn't last long.

And that's because treats are no fun if they're not really treats.

Yes, children could probably eat healthier - but that's an issue to be addressed in the kitchen, both at school and at home. Almost everybody likes a tasty snack, and if tuck shops go, kids will just buy them from the local newsagent anyway, which will either deprive schools of extra income or deplete kids pocket money faster.

It's typically muddled messaging from a hypocritical and oh-so-moralistic Nanny State in favour of anything and against everything. We've all seen the anti-smoking campaigns, paid for by the taxes paid by smokers; the hand-wringing over the overpopulation problem simultaneously standing alongside endeavours to prolong every single wretched existence through healthier lifestyles.

Am I the only person that feels the whole thing makes fuck-all sense? If there are going to be too many people draining scarce resources, shouldn't we want them to die younger?

Another example: Child obesity - it's an epidemic. Paedophiles abusing children. Bad bad bad. The fact that fat, spotty kids might actually be less attractive to paedophiles and put them off, thus solving the problem by itself? Heavens, no, we can't have that! God forbid we let the natural order of things continue without interference. OK, I'm being ever so slightly facetious, but there's a core of common sense in there, isn't there?

So let's stick five chocolate-covered wafery fingers up to the Nannying establishment and preserve our schools tuck shops!

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