Saturday, October 22, 2016

Can I Have Another?

It was a joke. Not a "funny, ha ha" kind of joke, but a "bears no relation to reality" kind of joke. It wasn't meant to be, of course. It was just trying to do the right thing, offering sensible guidance to any person who picked up the container and read the back panel. And while it could have been a jar of peanut butter or a bag of pretzels, it was a box of fish. Red fish. Swedish fish, to be exact.

If you're connoisseur of high end confectioneries, if you can tell the difference between a chocolate truffle from Godiva and one from Lindt, if you buy your candy by the piece vs. the pound, then you might wonder what I'm talking about. Tuna or sardines might come in a can, but what kind of fish comes in a box? But if you are like me, and are well versed in gratuitous sugary nibbles, then you know all too well this grandchild of Tootsie Rolls, cousin of Root Beer Barrels and Smarties, and close sibling of Red Hot Dollars and Gummi Worms. As a person who waxed rhapsodically in this space not once ("Food Sciences") but twice ("Everyday a Holiday") about Peeps, I feel uniquely qualified to weigh in on this topic. And if you don't know what Peeps are, then we most definitely travel in different circles.

But let's get back to the joke of the fish.  

Knowing my weak spot for anything that has a preponderance of sugar as its main ingredient, a friend's wife was nice enough to buy a small box of Swedish fish to have around as a snack for when we were working. So called because Malaco, the company that created them was indeed Swedish, and well, the fishing industry in that country was very large, the candy was developed specifically for the US and Canadian markets back in the 1950's. The slightly squishy soft pieces, each in the shape of a miniature cod-esque aquarian, are known in their native tongue as "pastellfiskar," or pale-colored fishes. And no, in spite of their heritage, while the taste is vaguely cherry-like, neither is it reminiscent of lingonberry.

They are just sugary, chewy tidbits that taste like, well, red and stick to your teeth. Eat one, and you'll eat another. And another. And yet one more. And that's where the joke comes in. On the box it says there are "about" 2 servings per container, each about 7 pieces. But that's a cruel metric: those fishies are like crack. Have one and your body hungers for another. Even as you pry it from your fillings, the box beckons you to take more. Saying a mere catch is only 7 is a pipe dream. Sure. Like that's gonna happen.

But there is nod to reality if you read further. For while the "suggested" serving size is 7 pieces, there is another column. And that one bows to reality, or at least, my version of it. So while the nutritional tallies are roughly double the single serving, it doesn't say "Two Servings." It says "Entire Box." Which is generally what I eat.

I'm not proud of it, but it's the way it is. It's like when the box of cookies says "Serving Size 2 Cookies" as opposed to "Entire Tray." Or when the jar of peanuts says "Serving Size 1 Ounce" as opposed to "Two or Three Handfuls." Thankfully, pizza boxes just say "You've tried the rest, now try the best." Because if they said "Serving Size One Slice" I'd be embarrassed as I would be caught consuming "Most of the Pie."

You can post all the calories counts you want. You can show me the food pyramid in four colors, with delicious looking pictures of whole grains and leafy greens. My wife can have lots of fresh fruit in the fridge, chilled just the way I like it. And I'll gladly try and do the right thing, cutting down on saturated fats and increasing my intake of veggies. But if you honestly think that telling me that 7 Swedish fish is all I'm supposed to eat, the only way that's going to happen is if you tie my hands. Just please do it with licorice whips. I love those.


Marc Wollin of Bedford has a sweet tooth that can't be stopped. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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