Taste Test: Doctor Scab’s Monster Lab

October 29, 2008

Halloween! Just the name conjures up visions of… repeats of US sitcoms in May, and… something about pumpkins… I think Charlie Brown‘s in there somewhere… no, I’ve got nothing.

Though there are unconfirmed reports of Australian children trick-or-treating in the outer suburbs, Halloween remains one of those strange American customs – like bright orange cheese, or trying to shoot the President. It’s never had any cultural traction in this country, which is a pity, because I can’t helping thinking the nation would be improved by adults wearing fancy dress with impunity. It doesn’t help that Halloween falls so close to Melbourne Cup – perhaps it would catch on if small children dressed as Phar Lap.

Our foreign correspondent Daniel Cardone recently returned from the US with Halloween candy in tow. In Outland Institute tradition we gathered a panel to test this spooky delicacy.

Doctor Scab’s Monster Lab is a bag of “creepy chocolaty flavored [sic] body parts”. It’s what the Easter Bunny would bring if the Easter Bunny had seen too many Saw movies. It’s a cavalcade of severed fingers, toes, ears and lips, plus “fudge filled eyes”, wrapped in gruesomely-detailed foil. Palmer, the manufacturer, has a Quality Pledge on the pack where they state “For over 50 years, Palmer has been a national brand making candy for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween… If you are not satisfied please let us know and we will make it right.” Two things here to note here – Palmer makes special occasion candy, but nothing you’d eat everyday – for reasons that would soon become abundantly clear. Secondly, the phrase “we will make it right” sounds quite ominous when you’re looking at a bag of edible body parts.

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Tim Tam or Not Tim Tam? That Is The Question…

October 16, 2008
As the world hurtles toward an economic meltdown, The Outland Institute looks at the most important issue of the day – which is the best Tim Tam-like biscuit? We put them to the test and you might be surprised by the results. Or you might not.

Tim Tam. Just the name sends a shiver down the Aussie spine. The chocolate biscuit is as true-blue an Australian icon as Donald Bradman, Mr Squiggle or casual racism. Like most Australian icons, it’s owned by America – since 1997 Arnott’s have been a fully-owned subsidiary of The Campbell Soup Company of America (you may know them from their work with Andy Warhol).

Wikipedia describes the Tim Tam as “two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate”, which I think takes away some of the magic. The Tim Tam is so much more than wafers and chocolate – it’s a delightful treat, it’s a straw for coffee, it’s a lonely girl’s companion. Launched in 1964, the name comes from a prize-winning American racehorse which Ross Arnott had seen win the 1958 Kentucky Derby (by a strange co-incidence, the horse that came second was called “Chocolate Wafer Biscuit You Can Drink Coffee Through”). Tim Tam (the horse) was inducted into The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985, no doubt leading to endless disappointment for biscuit-starved ex-pats visiting Saratoga Springs, New York.

As the old saying goes, “if you build it, they will copy it under a slightly different name”. So the original Tim Tam now competes with several similar biscuits on the supermarket shelves. How do they stack up? In the interests of science, The Outland Institute gathered a panel to do blind taste tests of four contemporary Tim-Tamalikes.

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