Why Scotland needs to say goodbye to the deep fried mars bar

I’ve only ever had a deep fried mars bar once, from a Chinese takeaway in Dubai.

It was the night of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and a house party of expats decided to tuck into what’s become as synonymous with Scotland as tartan, haggis and Nessie. Except, unlike the other twee stereotypes, this one is damaging and just really tiring. Last week my colleague attended Keir Starmer’s visit to Glasgow, where food that was served included, you guessed it, deep fried salted caramel Mars Bars. This trope of overly sweet, unhealthy, fried fodder plays into a patronising look at our nation’s food habits and people as a whole, that was summed up in a recent article, which suggested that Scotland’s cuisine was not easy on the eye, light, healthy or fancy. In fact a quote reads: “Deep-fried Mars bars swimming in glugs of grease, stodgy bowls of lumpy, stumpy oatmeal. Potatoes boiled to within an inch of their lives, dressed up with sides of bloody sheep guts, swede and a swig of Tennent’s lager.” It went on to enlighten readers that Scottish food may be all these things but, as it’s now being peddled by chefs in London who happen to be using haggis on their menus, it’s now trendy and ‘acceptable’.

Scotland has an enviable larder of amazing fresh produce, from seafood and fish to wild produce such as mushrooms as well as beef, rapeseed oil and salt, and a whole host of producers and businesses geared towards showcasing what Scottish produce really is, without anything touching the inside of a deep fat fryer. Recent TV shows such as BBC’s Food Fest, The Great Food Guys and the Hairy Bikers Go Local have made inroads into showing off these independent businesses and restaurants that are reflective of modern Scottish produce and cuisine yet we can’t seem to shake off the deep fried mars bar. What started out as a dare in a Stonehaven chippy looks set to haunt us for the rest of our days.

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While it’s undeniable that Scotland does have a problem with obesity and health, much like our relationship with alcohol it’s a complex issue that is linked inextricably to deprivation and poverty rather than a lack of light, healthy or fancy food.