Tag Archives: sweet




Poor Hansel and Gretel! Abused in their home, abandoned in the forest, kidnapped by a witch who planned on eating them. Both tormented by the witch, who kept Hansel in a cage and forced Gretel to take him food to fatten him up.

This horrific story is often told to children and, in fact, the very first theatre experience I ever had was a touring pantomime of Hansel and Gretel. I must have been about 4 or 5.

Television hadn’t yet arrived in our Far North Queensland village, so it was an especially glamourous treat for my family to travel to the small town nearly to watch a matinee performance.

And as my first experience of the power of live theatre, it overwhelmed me. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t entertaining. It was just terrifying, and I simply had no faith that any child could display the power of thought and action necessary to defeat an adult—as Gretel does, by shoving the witch into her own oven.


Now—decades later—I’m thinking of the role played by food in this story, collected by the Grimm Brothers and first published in 1812.  Continue reading




Since I tried the varieties of Tim Tams originating from Arnott’s collaboration with Gelato Messina, I’ve been obsessing over the whole new-flavours-for-old-products thing.

For those who can’t guess, Gelato Messina is an ice-cream company. The business has grown from their first store in Darlinghurst, Sydney—est. 2002—to Las Vegas. And although Messina hasn’t arrived in regional Australia, they do have a Queensland foothold at Coolangatta. Messina’s 2014 hardcover recipe book laid the foundation for national recognition, but the Tim Tams venture provides an opportunity to reach far-flung supermarket shoppers for whom the book is invisible.

But what does Arnott’s—now owned by giant American company Campbell Soup Company—get out of the deal?

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Salty, sweet and delicious: salted caramel Zumbarons.

Salty, sweet and delicious: salted caramel Zumbarons.

I searched for Australia’s favourite yeast extract on the Cadbury website and this was the response:

You are searching for: Vegemite

There are no pages that contain the search term “Vegemite”

I was surprised. It was only four months since Cadbury had launched its milk chocolate block filled with Vegemite-flavoured caramel, and there was no mention of it. (However, there is still plenty of evidence on the Cadbury Facebook page to confirm the product did exist.)

During the period when the Vegemite chocolate block was still around, I was never able to find it in my local supermarket. I admit that I didn’t venture further afield but, knowing the popularity of salty-plus-sweet, I imagined this new confectionary line would be highly successful.

After all, the salted caramel flavour is everywhere. Back in December 2008, writer Kim Severson labelled it “the flavour of the year” and traced its history in a New York Times article, “How Caramel Developed a Taste for Salt”.

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Bitter melons— some people crave them, and other people find them unbelievably awful.

Bitter melons—
some people crave them, and other people find them unbelievably awful.

(Originally posted on Sensorium, January 27 2014)

Eating bitter”: in Chinese culture, the phrase refers to “necessary suffering to get to a better end”—a resigned, determined reaction to the vicissitudes of life.

John Thorne, in his essay “Reflections on a Tin of Vienna Sausages”, understands the phrase in a more head-on, assertive way, as meaning “to endure bitterness by wilfully eating it” (p. 187).

Although the two interpretations are different, both of them link the emotion of bitterness with the flavour.

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Beardsworth and Keil point out that there is often “moral ambivalence associated with sugar and confectionery”.

Beardsworth and Keil point out that there is often “moral ambivalence associated with sugar and confectionery”.

(Originally posted on Sensorium,  December 17 2013)

In an earlier post (“Twelve Things I Didn’t Know about Taste”), I wrote that, apparently, cats can’t taste sweetness.

For humans, however, the desire for sweet is powerful and complex.

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Salty, sweet, bitter and sour: a balanced meal?

Salty, sweet, bitter and sour: a balanced meal?

(Originally posted on Sensorium, October 28 2013)

Strangely, Diane Ackerman’s section on taste in her wonderful A Natural History of the Senses pays much attention to food, food rituals and food symbolism (pp. 127-172), but little to the actual experience of tasting. This intrigued me, because taste is a sense that gives us great pleasure. Even so, there is a kind of irony there. We often eat unthinkingly; the true abilities of our sense of taste go unused and unnoticed.

When I began looking into taste, I soon learned a whole heap of interesting things. Here are 12 things that convinced me I needed to pay more attention to what was going on in my mouth.

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