Unlike doing promos for the book, chatting about seafood extender or chocolate requires much less professionalism and perspiring preparation. All I have to do is blather on as I would around a dinner table whilst lubricated with a big glass of rose, and hope that no rude words pop out. Whilst it was a real buzz to speak to some listeners who felt strongly enough about the subject to ring in and express their views, it got me wondering.
How come, if you overdose on a particular food or drink, you are put off it for life, but not so with chocolate?
When I was six, I had a huge bowl of tinned peaches which were my favourite dessert at the time. Unfortunately, this particular serve decided to make a reappearance via their original entrance only minutes later and the torturous taste sensation of bile and peach juice has left me reeling ever since. The same can be said, at age eleven, for deep fried onion rings (they were 'deposited' via the open-bottomed toilet directly onto the tourist tracks of the Kuranda railway), and seventeen (St Agnes Brandy at an eighteenth birthday party. Most of the celebrations were spent on the big white porcelain phone screaming for God).
My father had a holiday job during his uni days at the Coca-Cola factory, and was told that he could drink as much of the sweet stuff as he liked. He did just that for about the first week and was cured of the sinister stuff for at least another twenty years. The same went for my brothers and I during our uni vacation employment as apricot cutters and pickers (the slightly alcoholic scent of a sloppy, on-the-turn apricot smooshed through my knife-sliced, stinging fingers has been enough to put me off anything apricot flavoured for the rest of my days). Anne-Marie once spent an entire weekend coating sponge squares for her basketball team's lamington fundraiser and admits that she dry heaves if she even sees one on a bakery shelf.
Therefore, when friends suggest I should get a job working at the Menz Fruchoc factory in Glynde or Swiss Glory in Stepney or - dare I hope - Haighs in Parkside, they tend to wink knowingly and say, "Oh you'll go nuts on the stuff for a while, but soon you'll get sick of it and never want to eat it again."
I don't think so. My EPA mate Ann worked at Cadbury's in Ringwood for a few years in between babies and childcare and reckons that she spent most evenings enacting out the infamous scene from the 'I Love Lucy Show' where at least three chocs were shoved into her cakehole and merely one made it into the box. Ann's a genuine character and is to be believed when she says that even if she went home to bed feeling a bit queasy she sucked down the same amount the next night and the night after that and the night after that..... Another friend worked at Haigh's for a few months at least a decade ago and reckons she still has (eerily erotic) dreams about the dark stuff and the lingering kilograms as physical proof.
We all know that chocolate contains flavonoids that contribute a natural high similar to the one that hard-core runners experience and that it stimulates our adrenal systems, but it must also have its own version of nicotine hidden amongst the cacao butter. Why else could I manage to buy a box of 12 dark Lindt balls for three days in a row and end up giving the fourth purchased box to my friend on the fourth day because I'd eaten the other three? Why else am I salivating in envy whilst typing this, knowing that I'd gladly do it all over again if money, time and body fat index weren't quite so forbidding?
In the case of Tim Tam biscuits however, us Aussies seemed to have embraced them in a far more exuberant way than you Great British folk have. In your neck of the woods, they’re known as Penguin bars: individually wrapped and likely to be mostly found in kids’ play lunches or at the back of the pantry cupboard. After all, what adult could be bothered unwrapping the blasted things?
No, here in the free, fertile and fun land of Oz the work is all done for you. No unpleasant names connected to protected Antarctic wildlife, just a nonsensical one with no guilt involved. You can bite into one without worrying about the threat of extinction to Mumbles from ‘Happy Feet’. No wrapping to hinder your needs either, so once you hear that almost-erotic crackle of the plastic liner tray being yanked out, you know they’re ready for you. Tim Tams…..
Somehow good old Arnotts biscuits (now owned by a US company but for all intents and purposes are as Australian as vegemite – also now in US hands), have got the formula just right. High quality, greaseless milk chocolate covering two perfectly crunchy biscuits with a lighter chocolate mousse-style cream filling in the middle. One bite and you’ll be as hooked as the rest of us. Clive James sucks out the middle and drinks his cuppa tea through them. Germaine Greer inserts them between her ears and Elle McPherson has her body to thank for them (and the freakish gift of good genes and the body of a preying mantis). Interestingly, all three of them now live in London – perhaps it is so they can seek some refuge from the siren song of the Tim Tam. After all, if Clive got any larger his eyes would permanently be hidden under flesh folds, Germaine wouldn’t be able to spout off her regular rounds of demented verbal diarrhoea and Elle might be tempted to try her hand at acting again and release another work-out video.
Your own kind, the Poms who are ‘out here’ love them. Non-famous Aussies ‘over there’ (or ‘up there’ if you insist on being hemisphere-centric) get them posted over by their parents because the poncy little Penguins just don’t measure up. When I lived in the UK for a couple of years, it always reminded me of teenage sex when that Aussie Post soft-pak arrived by the door. It was attractive, complete with brightly-designed Aussie stamps on it – the anticipation was there, the ogling, the stroking, the grappling, the unwrapping, the final revealing moments…… only to discover that they’d been sat on and melted in transit and the brown pillows of ecstasy had been welded together to resemble a solid brick turd. Oh well….
Not every Australian has been arsed enough to see their nation’s capital city, but I can honestly declare that every single one of us can recognise the sound of a Tim Tam packet being opened from ten kilometres away. One moment you’ll be standing alone on the Nullarbor Plain with just the five hundred blow flies on your back for company, only to be surrounded by a crowd of Tim Tam Tag-alongs all eagerly eyeing off your stash and offering to put the kettle on as soon as you even think of opening up one end.
Push those greedy guzzlers aside and inhale of the Tim Tams all by yourself. As L’Oreal is always fond of telling us, do it: Because You’re Worth It.