Archive for March 2009

Highly Debatable British Classic #6: Pot Noodle

March 18, 2009

I know which side of the fence I occupy on this one. IT’S NOT FOOD! IT’S FOAM PACKAGING, SALTED! But hey, what do I know? For this episode, I would like to hand over to my old buddy Kate, who will lead you through the magical world of Golden Wonder Pot Noodle. Over to you, Kate…



Pot Noodle was launched way back in 1977 by Golden Wonder when convenience was the future and noodles were exotic! The original idea of ‘cup noodles’ came from Japan by Momofuku Ando, but it has since captured the hearts and stomachs of our nation’s youth.
Pot Noodle is made in the Welsh town of Crumlin in South Wales. The factory typically produces a staggering 155 million pots every year and they celebrated 25 years of Pot Noodle production there in 2004.

There have been a host of bold new Pot Noodle flavours and variants launched onto our shelves since the 70’s including ‘Asian style’ Posh Noodle, the incredibly hot Bombay Bad Boy and Sizzling Bacon.

In fact, they’ve just gone to market with a new and improved product range, introducing the new variants Chicken Satay, Lamb Hotpot and Tikka Masala to the Pot Noodle family!

Early Pot Noodle advertising portrayed Pot Noodle and its sister brands as a straightforward convenience food. However, Pot Noodle has achieved notoriety for some outrageous and memorable advertising campaigns in an ironic style, which often made allusion to the consumer being made to feel dirty for spurning traditional food in favour of something completely manufactured and artificial, but ultimately irrestistible.



Thanks again for the contribution, Kate. I decided that this would be an open debate rather than a regular BC episode. So if you have strong feelings either way on Pot Noodle (shudder), please chip in with a comment, and I plan to edit this post as they appear to include them. Cheers!

Croosh (& Kate McDougall)

See you again soon for #7: TBC


British Classic #5: Jacob’s Cream Crackers

March 18, 2009


It turns out, after my first delve into research for this piece, that the cream cracker is not British, strictly speaking. America was the birthplace, and every half–decent general store would have a barrel full of these easily made, cheap crackers, originally sold as a source of roughage for the maintaining of a healthy US……you know. But it is nonetheless a quintessential household prescence here in GB due to the endeavours of brothers William and Robert Jacob. They took note of the popularity of the US cracker and upon his return to his Dublin factory (I:rish Republic again…one day I’ll do an ACTUAL British creation, I promise) he began production of the cream cracker as we know it in 1885. It was no doubt that their plainness appealed to the Victorian sensibilty, who no doubt viewed anything spicy or stimulating as a tool of Beelzebub to corrupt the morals. The cracker fit this attitude like a glove. 

Other countries have similar cracker biscuits, but none seem to taste the same as our perfect Jacob’s. Crisp without being hard, with a mild toasty flavour (and I’m talking mild) and wrapped unmistakeably in a glorious livery of bright orange with a distinctive black diamond holding it’s makers name, Cream Crackers demand to be coupled with a bit of butter and some cheese. I am slightly afraid of  stopping to consider just how many cream cracker and Chedddar “sandwiches” I have consumed in my lifetime. Let’s just say it’s a lot. It was my go-to homecoming snack in my schooldays, and anyone with a passing notion of the teenage boy and his unending hunger will get the message. And it really has to be Cheddar. Sorry, but it does. Pesto or Mozzarella di Buffale are divine, but don’t put them on a cream cracker, there’s a good soldier. 

This leads to another illustration of just how well this little crisp biscuit square fits the national psyche. It doesn’t like to make a fuss or put on airs. It despises being thought of as wanting to be above its station. It displays this by being at its best with decidely ordinary cheese. A plastic wrapped chunk of corner shop, mass-produced cheddar is the best friend a cream cracker could have. Leave the earthy, majestic unpasteurised Montgomery Cheddar, or hand crafted Cornish Yarg with its beautiful nettle leaf rind to the oatcake. JCC’s don’t want any trouble.

And just how much more could it be made for British tastebuds and, sadly just as important, wallets? Pale? Check? Crunchy? Check? Cheap? Check. Sold! At one point, JCCs accounted for 50% of the UK cracker market; these days it doesn’t enjoy quite such a monopoly. Times are changing, as shown by Jacob’s launch of the Mediterranean version of the sacred Cream Cracker. But would you really want to try and eat three of those without a drink? (Sorry, forgot to mention. The cracker has another beloved British use, namely as entertainment for drunken crowds or children’s parties. The idea is to eat three, without the aid of liquid lubrication, in under 60 seconds. Sounds easy, but for anyone who has tried, it becomes akin to trying to eat a mouthful of sand. Oh, and the world record is 49.15secs, held by Ambrose Mendy) Despite these moves towards a more internationally welcoming nibble, I can’t imagine a time when we will evolve past the simple, unassuming delight of the triple whammy – crunchy biscuit, salty butter and completely non-farmhouse cheese.

“Don’t forget the crackers, lad.” I’m with Wallace and Gromit.

And there we have it! Thank you again for your continued support and comments, and I hope you’ll join me for what should be my most controversial choice yet. It is so opinion-dividing, in fact, that I don’t actually recognise it as a food. Therefore, I will be handing over to my good friend Kate to guest-present her piece on a true British…….well, we’ll see what the classification ends up as. See you next time!



British Classic #4: The OXO Cube

March 7, 2009

The most striking thing about the whole notion of our national relationship with OXO…is that we really don’t need it at all. Yet 2 MILLION of these salty brown cubes of beef extract and flavouring are bought every day by a public who, it seems, have something to hide meat-wise; I’m guessing that  they are only used to mask what would otherwise be low grade, poorly produced proteins. But as anyone with a little knowledge of cooking will already be aware, a wonderful meal can be attained with a little skill and patience using only a few carrots and a bit of scrag-end. The tragedy in ignoring the crucial component of a piece of roasting meat – namely the slowly dripping juices, the heart and soul of the joint – and smothering it in a glutinous synthetic gravy cannot be understated. So what makes us reach for the little fellas so readily? Well, I’ve thought about it, and once again I believe it is our desire to preserve links to earlier times. OXO enjoyed its greatest popularity after WWII, providing an over-abundence of rich gravy to wallow in, after years of thrift and rationing. Therefore it became a symbol of a happy nation, home once more and sitting around the dinner table. This was adopted into the hugely successful advertising campaign featuring the OXO Family (Youtube it) which went on for many years, fnishing only relatively recently, and even then with some public outcry. Do not underestimate the tactile and visual appeal, too. I am sure it was no accident that the two colours of OXO’s packaging are red and white, the colours of the St. George Cross.  And then there is the cube itself. We Brits, as I have stated previously, like a household item with an element of fun to it. Toilet Duck, Shake n’ Vac, Kit Kat wrappers (well, not now) are all examples of an unnecessary preponderence toward fun to capture the mischievous British imagination. There is a certain undefined delight to be had in carefully peeling away the silver foil neatly binding the cube, then crumbling this cow-flavoured compost into your chosen dish. I must admit to using them in a Bolognese at home, with good results, but gravy? Can’t bring myself to do it. 

One little footnote. I had a friend at primary school who used to eat OXO cubes like sweets. I wonder what state his blood pressure is in now?


Thanks for visiting the site, and please feel free to leave a comment, positive or negative. By which I mean always positive…

See you next time for #5: Jacob’s Cream Crackers