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There Is No Substitute

When Australians living in Scotland congregate, the conversation will inevitably swing to Is The Food Here Shit Or What!? at some point.

We all know there's actually an abundance of deliciousness, but when you meet your fellow countrymen there's a strange compulsion to get misty-eyed about vegetables that don't come shrink-wrapped from Kenya and checkout chicks that don't ask "What the hell is this?" when you buy some passionfruit. That cost £1.20 each.

Sometime last year Rhiannon, Jane, Rory and I were pining for Mint Slices. They are a true classic of the Arnotts family – a delicious chocolate biscuit with a layer of peppermint cream, elegantly coated in smooth dark chocolate. They marry the adultness of an after dinner mint with the dunkability of a biscuit.

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"Oh yeah," piped up Gareth, the only Scotsman in the room. "That sounds just like a Viscount!"

We shot him doubtful looks, certain that the country that gave the world the deep-fried pizza would be incapable of producing anything near the standard of a Mint Slice. But he bravely faced the panel of Australian critics, bringing a pack to our next gathering.

I was excited, as I was by anything that combined chocolate and mint. You get to scoff the goodness of chocolate and bonus! – your mouth is left minty-fresh like you've just brushed your teeth! It's like the calories never happened!

The Viscounts came individually wrapped in green foil. We turned them over in our hands, slowly unwrapping, regarding them suspiciously. After examining from all angles we all took tentative bites.

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"It's pretty good," I said diplomatically.

"No. Nooo," said Rhiannon, "It's all wrong."

"It's not quite the same," said Rory, "The biscuit isn't chocolate, for starters."

"And the chocolate coating should be dark. This is low-quality milk."

"The mint isn't evenly distributed across the surface of the biscuit."

"It's basically nothing like a Mint Slice at all."

"Oh," said Gareth.

"Well I think they're alright!" I said brightly, and promptly shovelled down three more. One, because I am a big fat guts and two, because I desperately wanted to get into Gareth's pants.

A few months later I was reading Women's Own on my lunchbreak and came across this disturbing article that confirmed the inferiority of the Viscount once and for all. Can you imagine the horror of the daughter of Mrs Engel-Gilmore of Eastleigh, Hampshire when she found a DEAD BEETLE inside her Viscount?

That would surely never happen to a Mint Slice!

This is the first entry in a special series on Scottish Cuisine, the result of eighteen months of exhaustive research and lard consumption. Stay tuned!

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


26 thoughts on “There Is No Substitute

  1. R & R – this all happened so long ago i know i have not quoted anyone verbatim, let me know if you’d like anything refined! 🙂

  2. It was all a big mistake, that beetle business. It turned out we’d inadvertently purchased Burton’s Large and Minty Dead Beetles, which of course come in a similar package.

    Sara Engel-Gilmore
    Eastleigh, Hampshire

  3. I’m familiar with the “pining for Tim Tams” or “pining for meat pies” or “pining for Aussie beer” issues, but pining for *mint slice*? C’mon!

  4. I recently had my English penpal of 16 years over here to visit, and introduced her & her sister to Tim Tam’s and Mint Slices. I created monsters! The 3 of us went through 12 packets of chocolate biscuits in a week, along with endless cups of tea & coffee & hot chocolate for the slam dunking of the Tim Tams. No wonder I’m so fat :o)

  5. It is funny that when you are far from home how you really want to taste familiar things sometimes.

    When my guy and I were in France a while back, all we wanted was some good old cheddar cheese. It was all we could think about. Of course, we couldn’t find any. It seemed like a cruel joke at the time- the LAND OF CHEESE has no cheddar?!

  6. there is a reason why I haven’t strayed from Australia for more than 2 weeks during my life – Arnotts!! If I ever get up the guts to live OS, my mother will have to send me Aussie Care Packages, filled with the entire Arnotts range, on a weekly basis.

    Do you want me to send you some Mint Slices and Tim Tams and other aussie goodness? 🙂

  7. hehe…

    rory – EXACTLY! when he’s had to live off orange cheese and Frozen Haggis Bites for a week we’ll see how he goes!

    mel – that’s okay m’dear! monkey and mattay have kept the supplies up, plus tim tams are readily available over here!

  8. Shauna, Jane reckons you should do an in-depth report on Venetians and Arnott’s Cafe Selection Florentines. “Mmm, crunchy sweet.”*

    *Actual quote.

  9. P.S. She would be prepared to be a guinea pig if any testing was required. Statistical significance usually requires a sample size of 40.

  10. mint + chocolate = mmmmmm
    and i say unto you: “mint patties”!

    and “we in Europe” made me laugh like a drain.

  11. I remember when I was living in Ireland, the one thing which really gave me the shits was that their sauces were ALL WRONG!
    The Irish do a great brekky, but they looked at us like idiots when we asked for BBQ Sauce to go on our sausages. Eventually they brought us something with the illustrious name of Brown Sauce. It LOOKED the same as BBQ Sauce but just wasn’t. The same thing happened with Tomato Sauce (which of course they call ketchup). Theirs is all watery and weird tasting! Nothing like our delicious tomatoey sauces!!
    It really got to me after a while. Maybe I was just eating too many sausages (my pants just nodded in agreement).
    Keep up the good work Shauny – and hey will I, Asshole ever be back???

  12. Now , you wouldn’t know about this, being presently all foreign and everything, but the nice biscuit people have brought out something called “mint slice bites” which is a packet of tiny little yummy nummy nums pieces of mint sliceness. At least I assume so, as I have been too frightened to purchase them for the fear of lifelong servitude.

  13. Like the “mint slice bites” that Zoe mentioned (haven’t seen those) there is a new Arnotts product in my supermarket too: “Mint Slice Icecream”. It is more delicious than you can ever imagine. There is also Tim Tam Icecream – which I haven’t tried – why bother when the M/S I/C is so delish??!
    Lovin’ the blog Shauny.

  14. In Canada we have a classic candy that goes by the name of Smarties.
    Now, if you are ever in the U.S. DO NOT eat the Smarties, and disregard any comments of “hey, we have Smarties here as well”. Smarties in the U.S. are not the same. They are horrid, pastel, powdery, mini hockey pucks and they are NOT chocolate.

  15. mmm crunchy sweet…

    i cannot BELIEEEVE they have Mint Slice Ice Cream. The only thing better than the mint/chocolate combination would be the mint/chocolate/icecream combination. NOOOo way! i am getting the first plane back to Sydney.

  16. I crave a good laksa soup whilst over here in UK. Have only found one place who did one as good as the Malaysia House in the QVB and they have subsequently shut down, the heartless bastards. But anyway, more importantly, did you end up getting into Gareths pants??

  17. shauny, over the last week i’ve been slowly eating a packet of mint slice biscuits and everytime i take a bite i think of all you poor expats.

    i can’t vouch for the mint slice ice cream yet, but based on cath’s comment i’m going to have to buy some.

    damn.

  18. traybakes! sounds super sweet, ab, but i’m up for that…

    heather – the bastards! laksa! have been craving that lately! do you know where you can get it over here? have had no luck at the local asian grocer. and yes, i got into his pants, still there, lucky me! 🙂

    pippa – i envy your self control to eat the packet slowly! let us know what you think of the ice cream!

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