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Thursday, September 20, 2012
by Richard Bingler
What food comes to mind when you think of Scotland? For me, it’s haggis, that traditional Scottish dish celebrated in Robert Burns's poem "Address to a Haggis," which, idiomatically translated, begins with, “Nice seeing your honest, chubby face” and ends with, “Give her a haggis!”
The old saw advising people not to look too closely at what goes into sausage might apply to haggis as well. But for the curious, here goes: Haggis is a pudding made of the minced heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet, salt, and various spices, depending on where it’s made. Although it may not sound appealing to some choosy American palates, an encyclopedia of gastronomy described haggis as having an excellent nutty texture and delicious savory flavor—something you, like me, may not want to confirm for yourself.
But haggis is apparently not all that Scotland has to offer the world in the way of unusual food. The Scotsmanrecently reported a situation that combined our interest in unusual food with intellectual property law. Carron Fish bar, a fish and chip shop in Stonehaven, a northeast Scotland town with a population of roughly 10,000, gave birth about 20 years ago to the deep-fried Mars bar—the candy bar you know and love*, but altered by being smothered in batter and then plunged into a fryer.
A young schoolboy first asked for this preparation, and Lorraine and Charles Watson, who run the shop, were happy to oblige. The next thing you know, international celebrity (notoriety?) was theirs, and visitors from all over the world were munching on about 100-150 deep-fried bars a week.
But, as you might suspect, with international celebrity comes a certain amount of unwelcome attention—such as from lawyers.
In this instance, they represent Mars Inc., the international food behemoth. When the Mars lawyers got a whiff of that fragrant deep-fried smell, they fired off a letter to the Watsons, expressing how flattered they were but also how concerned they were that the public might think that Mars endorsed, or was associated with, the deep-fried candy bar.
They pointed out one thing that was a surprise to me and one thing that was not: The saturated fat level of Mars bars has been recently reduced and deep frying significantly counteracts that reduction. And then, as lawyers are wont to do, the ones from Mars requested a disclaimer on the shop’s menus and on a sign displayed in the shop, stating in part: “Our use of Mars is not authorized or endorsed by Mars Incorporated.”
Back at the “Birthplace of the Word Famous Deep Fried Mars Bar” (a sign already on display in the shop), Mrs. Watson said, in what must surely have been a nervous voice, that she and her husband would be “quite happy” to put a disclaimer on the menu, adding, “I don’t want any reason for them to come back and try some sort of court action against me.” The Watsons also wisely reconsidered their original idea of applying for secured status for their deep-fried bar under the European Union's Protected Food Name Scheme.
So I think that if Robert Burns were still alive and visiting Stonehaven, surely he might say, “Nice seeing your honest, chubby face,” and “Give me a deep-fried—but unauthorized—Mars bar!” After all, if he liked haggis….
*Editor's note: Just to be clear, the Mars bars eaten in Scotland might not exactly be the Mars bars "you know and love," depending on where you happen to be. What is known as Milky Way in North America is known as a Mars bar in the United Kingdom. And when you ask for a Milky Way in Britain, you get what Americans would call a Three Musketeers. And what is called a Mars bar in the United States is apparently not available in Blighty. Fortunately for all of us, a Snickers bar seems to be a Snickers bar all over the world.
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