And that, to me, seems far more enlightened than the current climate of near-hysterical sucropprobrium, which has recast the sweet stuff as public health enemy number one and provoked the removal of smoothies, yogurts and even cereal bars from many thousands of blameless lunchboxes. Blanket prohibition only makes children more likely to binge on the sugariest foods they can find (usually on the way home from school), and risks giving them an unhealthy attitude to pleasure generally – i.e. that because it’s something you can never actually earn, it has to be taken surreptitiously in one big burst that makes you feel incredibly guilty and sick afterwards.
But the part of the whole sorry affair that I find hardest to understand is why anyone is still listening to the dietary scientists who start these panics in the first place. These, after all, are the people who spent the best part of 50 years telling us not to eat fat, 20 years telling us to switch to organic produce and 10 trying to persuade us that we all needed to drink eight litres (!) of water a day, but have recently been forced to admit that all of this guidance was at best groundless and at worst positively dangerous. So why are they all up in sugar’s grill now, I wonder? Gosh, I don’t know – could it be that they just want to keep their jobs and don’t know any way of doing that other than to manufacture yet another spurious but attention-grabbing health scare?
I’m not suggesting sugar isn’t in any way bad for you, just that it is exactly as bad as it’s always been – which is to say, not that bad (as long as you don’t overdo it). So perhaps we should all just calm down, fish those cereal bars out of the bin and bear in mind that the only way to avoid being tortured by our temptations is to give in to them occasionally… even crisps and chocolate.
• It may shock you to hear this, but I’m yet to be tempted by the so-called phenomenon that is the ‘adult colouring book’. I’m sure it’s true that the act of colouring something in can indeed fill your soul with a sort of eerie calm but, if so, I rather suspect that’ll be because it’s a physical cue for your brain to recall a time when it had fewer responsibilities – i.e. your childhood. You could probably get exactly the same result by wearing an enormous nappy and never actually going to the toilet when you need to, and it would certainly be no less “adult” an experience than sitting for hours with your tongue hanging out and felt tip over your fingers.
The top-selling adult colouring books are all called things like “Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom” and “Enchanted Forest: an Inky Quest”. What can these books possibly contain that isn’t suitable for children (I know those baboons can grow a bit frisky, but still…)? It all puts me in mind of the days when adults first started reading Harry Potter books, which the publisher duly repackaged to look like Sisters of Mercy albums so no one would have to feel like a tit reading them on a train; then, as now, the disguise is so pathetically thin that the only appropriate response is, “We can all see what you’re doing, clowns!” Colour in, by all means – nothing inherently wrong with colouring – but don’t kid yourself you’re not making a kid of yourself.
• The creeping infantilisation of mainstream culture may also be a factor in the current vogue for all things “pulled”. It doesn’t seem to matter how bad a cut of meat is any more – if you tear it to pieces and then whack it in a brioche bun, you can charge 20 plus nicker for it. No one will complain, because we’re all inexplicably convinced that there’s something uniquely classy about food that’s been interfered with in this way. Isn’t it a bit like getting your mum to cut your meat up for you, though? And doesn’t the result look like that stuff you see mama bird regurgitating into her babies’ wide open beaks in wildlife documentaries on TV?