The Three Bears

It’s a true fact that there is more than one type of olive oil in this world. Sometimes I wonder, why is that? It’s olive oil. I expect olive oil to be oily – you know, sort of warmer and thicker-feeling than water – and it should definitely be derived from olives, but beyond that we’re into the territory of mere implementation details. It’s olive oil – where’s the room for differentiation?

And yet, there’s still a lot of ostensibly different types of olive oil that you can buy: extra virgin or not, perhaps flavoured with different ghostly flavourings, and so on. What’s that all about, eh?

Here’s another area of choice on the supermarket shelf: muesli. And now you know that I’m either going to say that it’s just like olive oil in this respect, or that it’s completely the opposite. It could go either way. Well, no, of course it couldn’t, because you’re no idiot, you know about things, and you’ll have already realised which of the two it is. Because there is a lot of room for differentiation in the field of muesli, in fact. One might think that it’s all just oats and fruit and stuff, but they’d be wrong. Is not just meaningless ink on the label – a few different words in the name can reflect a completely different outlook on life. It’s amazing.

For differences, look to the ingredients. Often, among the oats, there is wheat – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot of it. The most wheaty types of muesli tend to be incredibly dense, sort of like pulsars or volcanic ash or something. The consequence of this is that one can only manage very few spoonfuls each day. And you end up buying less. And these long-lasting carbohydrous black holes are quite easy to find in most everyday shops. To a value-added–preaching businessperson type, it must sound like corporate suicide, but it happens, and that pleases me. It would be a chance to stick it to the man, except it turns out that lots of processed wheat flakes do not make for a very pretty taste in the mouth. Back to the more fast-moving higher oat content it is, then.

So: I took a break from writing this, and happened to see that of all people Peter Preston has been shopping for his grandchildren. Great minds in similar places, fancy that:

Bring on pure, unadulterated Weetabix of childhood memory. Spoon-size or (ugh!) chocolate coated? Perhaps some simple granola? The baked apple with a hint of cinnamon packet? Not sure kids will take to that, any more than to oat bran sprinkles or super high fibre. Try basic muesli instead. The one with “succulent chunks of pineapple, mango and papaya”? With “Brazil nuts, almonds and hazel nuts” or our old chums “tangy cranberries, blueberries and blackcurrants”? Is that the same as “with luscious berries and cherry muesli” or subtly different?

Preston is a columnist, probably one who has to meet a deadline, and it snows, but still it’s a dimly interesting notion. He tries to invoke the eurozone crisis, and stuff, but one clear thing is that he’s not smitten about this “alien, confusing world, a world of infinite, baffling, useless choice”, or at least that it’s misplaced. He’s probably right there, but now here’s my question: if we accept for a minute that there is going to be all of this consumerist choice, is it “better” someone has gone to the effort of making the things all different, “better” or that it’s really all the same?

Also: muesli with mango pieces in it! I have got to try that.

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