Friday, 1 May 2009

Hand over the chocolate and nobody will get hurt...

Having just inhaled a Mars bar I got to thinking that really, for all chocolate bar makers jump through hoops to make tempting tasty treats for us chocolate lovers, the originals are still the best. Roald Dahl once said this on Breakfast TV and, as usual, he was right on the money.

You see the Mars Bar was invented in Slough in 1932 by an American called Forrest Mars and it’s still much the same now as it ever was. Just layers of nougat and caramel enrobed in thick milk chocolate with a thick swirly bit on the top. If you’re like me, you’ll nibble the chocolate off the sides and the ends, then off the bottom, next eating the nougat which leaves you with the caramel bit still stuck to the thick chocolate topping. This is the best bit and you save it till last and then eat it much ecstatic rolling of eyes, finishing with much sucking and licking of one’s chocolaty fingers.

Please note: This CANNOT be done in public (unless you wish to encourage the attention of Men in White Coats) or in the vicinity of one’s spouse. They don’t like it. So, if in public, refrain from eating chocolate or choose something more delicate that can be nibbled daintily. Nibbled ? Chocolate? Who am I kidding. Eat. It. In. Private. Then you won’t have to share it either. Chocolate is NOT for sharing.)

Back to chocolate bar history. (If I had been allowed to study this at school I wouldn’t have got a D for my history O Level.)

The Marathon went on sale in 1930, although it was originally named in the US after the Mars family’s favourite horse who was called Snickers, it didn’t get that name in the UK until 1990 (when it also jumped from being the ninth most popular bar to being the third most popular.)

Then there’s Rowntree’s (now Nestle’s) Kit Kat which was launched in September 1935. They can make it two fingered, four fingered, chunky or orange-flavoured, but the concept is still the same as it was when it was first invented and it’s still the UK’s favourite choccy bar.

The wonderful Mr Mars also invented Maltesers in 1936, admittedly under the original name of ‘Energy Balls’ (no, I wouldn’t eat them under that name either) a glorious feat of chocolate technology (a trade secret) and still unsurpassed today.

Even good old Dairy Milk, which went on sale in 1905 is still such an iconic bar, despite the fact that it is just a slab of chocolate divided into cubes. It’s not the best chocolate in the world admittedly, but there’s something about that purple wrapper and the texture of the chocolate that makes it utterly soothingly brilliant. (Galaxy didn’t come along until 1956, and so will always have ‘Johnny Come Lately’ status, if only in my head.) And the Flake wasn’t far behind, being launched in 1920 after a Cadbury employee spotted, when filling chocolate moulds, that the chocolate which spilled over the sides of the mould folded down into flakes. What a genius!

And the wonderful child-pleasing Milky Way (the treat you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite) came along in 1923.

According to Wikipedia (which is where I checked all my facts): “A study reported by the BBC indicated that melting chocolate in one’s mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing, and also lasted four times as long after the activity had ended.”

Apparently its wonderful ingredients delay old-age decline in brain function, are better at treating coughs better than cough medicine and have anti-diarrheal effects. It’s an anti-oxidant, can help lower blood pressure and can lower the chance of heart attack. This all, of course, relates to proper pedigree dark chocolate, not to Dairy Milk or Mars Bars which probably make you feel happy, but more than likely make you fat.

Incidentally, chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac is unfounded, unless, of course, the object of your admiration gives you a gift of chocolate and then that might make you feel more kindly disposed towards him. (Husbands please note that I only said "might". Flowers might help too, but if we're on a diet and you give us chocolate, you're dead. If, however, we have PMT and you give us unsolicited chocolate then you are the Best Husband in the World. No, you won't be able to tell in advance, it's just the risk you must take.)

So what was it about the early part of the 20th century and in particular the 1930s which made them so utterly brilliant at inventing chocolate bars? There was a colossal global recession, of course, and fascist mutterings in Europe, so why in such dire circumstances would one’s minds turn to chocolate bars?

Who knows. But we’ve got a monstrous recession again and swine flu heading our way, so surely the time is ripe for a new chocolate invention?


  1. Mouth-watering! It’s a good thing I’m not passing near any shops this evening. Isn’t chocolate supposed to boost your immune system too? Yet another good reason/excuse for indulging in some more.

  2. This was torture to read for me Mags as I have given up chocolate! (migraines).

  3. I have just had Malteser-fest so feel quite full at the mo. I do like snarfing a mars bar at the top of Cadaer Idris..and I certainly don't do it very prettily, but it doesn't have to be Cadare, any old hill will do. I mean, it's quite a hike up the Gwbert Road.

  4. I ate a Mars Chocolate egg this evening all alone except for the dog who watched me drooling (Rufus was drooling not me) so I gave him the last little bit. We both felt the better for it.

  5. Thank you, and many thanks also to Mr Mars.

    This is such a deeply felt posting, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Am now going to take a look around the apartment. I think that there might just be some tail end of a Lindt bar of some sort around here.


  6. I'm howlin' here, what a wonderful, wonderful post. It is like the art of eating a Jaffa Cake, picking off the chocolate, peeling the sponge away leaving the smashing, orangey bit in the middle, or as I have come to do in more recent years, just go straight in for the Total Eclipse manouvre.

    A Flake was never quite the same after they changed the wrapper. Why do manufacturers have to fiddle with things? Do you remember Amazin and Nux bars? What have you started here?

  7. Snickers - that's the bar for me.
    Delicious post, Mags. I agree that the originals are the best. Nothing like a Snickers at 3 in the afternoon.
    Last night I had a terrible chocolate craving so flung together some peanut butter chocolate bars. They did the trick, but looking at the remains makes me feel ill this morning!

  8. Oh yummy. So glad shops are shut as I write this otherwise my purse would be emtpy and my face very dirty!
    Thank you for all those facts fascinating!

  9. What I want to know is - did the manufacturers use hydrogenated oils or trans fats in the old days? If not, then what's changed? Everyone knows they're deadly poison. Sorry if that's put you off your Mars (Green and Black's for me, I'm afraid)

  10. Sadly, they're just not the same, really. Too sweet these days mefinds. My brother's friend's dad designed the crunchie wrapper I remember - the paper one - and then he died and then they changed the wrapper to that slippery goldy one and I felt unaccountably sad.


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