Miss Piggy said you should never eat anything bigger than your head. Fat people clearly weren’t listening. I’ll cut them down to size…by Andrew Martin / September 22, 2010 / Leave a comment
On a recent visit to the cinema, I found my enjoyment of the thriller The Secret in Their Eyes spoiled by the noise of a man behind me eating popcorn. While I have sadly given up hope that people will stop talking after a film starts, I had continued to believe that they would stop eating fairly early on because, surely, after a while there is no food left. But half an hour in, there was no let-up in the steady munching sound, so I turned around and gave the offender the old death-ray stare. Even if I do say so myself, it was a particularly malicious look and it did check the movement of his hand as he reached towards… well, it was a cardboard bucket of popcorn, and he was no more than about a quarter of the way through it. My only hope was to shame him out of continuing, and I saw an opportunity in the fact that he was rather fat—among the 25 per cent of British adults who are obese, according to figures from the National Obesity Forum. So I glared at his overweight form, then down at the bucket of popcorn on his knee, and began alternating my glances so as to set up the message: You’re rather fat…You’re eating a bucket of popcorn… You’re rather fat… You’re eating a bucket of popcorn… My aim was to establish in his mind the dawning realisation: Mmm… I’m rather fat, and I’m eating a bucket of popcorn… Perhaps these two facts are in some way connected.
It didn’t work. And for all I know, he was eating what was classified as a “small” or “medium” popcorn. There might have been someone further back in the darkness of the auditorium who had been compelled to book two seats—one for himself, and one for his bucket of popcorn, having gone for the “large.”
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), which has been reorganised by the government with the aim of rendering it ineffective, was concerned about the amount of saturated fat, sugar and salt we were consuming from snack foods. It was also worried, to a lesser extent, about portion sizes. With me, it’s the other way around. People might be killing themselves with fat, sugar and salt, but I don’t care as long as those ingredients are concentrated into small helpings. It is the sight of large portions that I find so disturbing, symbolising as they do our abandonment of a self-denial ethic rooted in Christianity, and constituting an affront to those parental maxims of my childhood such as “Don’t be greedy,” “Stop stuffing your face,” “If you eat all that you’ll be sick,” “I hope you’re going to offer that around,” and “Give your sister a lick.” Not to mention Miss Piggy’s rule of dining etiquette: “Never eat anything bigger than your head.”
So I would pressurise the manufacturers to reduce snack sizes, which is what the FSA was trying to do before the election. I would also legislate, starting with the chocolate people. Let’s wander along to the corner shop and look at some of the products made by Mars. There, alongside the traditional Mars bars, is that clever innovation, the Mars Duo. Two Mars bars for the price of… OK, more than one. Next, there are the Bounty bars, and the trouble with these is that they already came in twos, so guess what the clever people at Mars came up with? That’s right—they would sell them in threes. The Bounty Trio!
We come to the Twix bars, and here the chocolate boffins were up against a stiffer challenge. Traditional Twix fingers, like old school Bountys, come in twos, but you couldn’t just bung another one into the packet because then it would have to be called a Thrix. The answer? Stick with the two fingers but make them about a third longer, hence Twix ’Xtra.
According to Mars, these products are “designed to be shared,” and I would be interested to know whether there has been a single known instance of anyone having shared them. I think the purchase of a chocolate bar is masturbation, not intercourse—at least, it is in my case. I’m not saying that I don’t take advantage of the bigger portions. If the only Walkers crisps on offer are in the prettily named Grab Bag format (50g as opposed to the standard size of 35g), then I’ll settle for them. If I can’t find a two-finger KitKat (and they seem to be being phased out, along with the tiny, blue-rinsed old ladies in whose shops I used to buy them), then I’ll gladly eat the four-finger type.
If I have a hobby, it’s drinking alcohol. So I shouldn’t complain that when I ask for a small glass of wine in a pub, I’m usually given 175ml, which is technically a medium (125ml being the true “small”). But it does bother me. Winston Churchill liked a drink, and he thought a bottle of champagne was a bit too much (well, it was a bit too much for one person at lunchtime). He thought it should come in pint bottles. The old boy was practically a lush, but he had an understanding of a concept little used today in portion size—namely elegance.