Jayne Dawson: Marg is disappearing faster than greased lightening

SLIPPING AWAY: The taste of nostalgia as margarine goes the way of Angel Delight and tinned cream.
SLIPPING AWAY: The taste of nostalgia as margarine goes the way of Angel Delight and tinned cream.
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I’ll be straight with you, I don’t know what to make of it.

On the one hand, it feels like a direct blow to all that I hold dear, like familiar ground is shifting dangerously beneath my feet.

The shock news is that sales of margarine are falling, slipping down the grocery league faster than a Victoria sponge from a well-greased baking tin.

So fast that Unilever, the company that makes Flora and Stork, has put that part of its business up for sale.

This upsets me, which is puzzling because I’ve always secretly despised margarine. It tastes terrible, and I should know because I spent most of the 1980s and 1990s dutifully spreading the reduced-calorie versions across all my bread-based foodstuffs.

It wasn’t pleasant and it wasn’t pretty - and it became even more obnoxious if heated in a pan - but that’s what how we rolled back then, when sugar was sweet and fat in all its forms was the enemy. We suffered.

Now, the thinking has very much changed: it’s butter all the way, and no apologies. Fat, creamy, yellow and delicious. If I’m baking these days I’m going for luxury. I want Nigella crossed with Mary crossed with Delia. I don’t see them as margarine girls, Nigella never was and Mary and Delia have long since moved on, I feel certain.

So it’s not the taste of margarine that is making me feel a twinge of nostalgia for its demise , of that I am certain.

It’s more what the stuff came to represent - especially Stork. Somehow, Stork became infused with all sorts of good British attributes. From the spirit of the Blitz, to the homely capability of the Women’s Institute (before they began stepping out of their pinnies and, indeed, their undies.

Basically, it became Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies in edible form, which is a feat for a blend of vegetable fats, but that’s the power of advertising for you.

And the power of nostalgia. Everyone remembers margarine from their childhood. It was one of the things on which we post-war generations were raised, along with beans on toast, Angel Delight and Vesta curries for that touch of exotica.

Except in our house, where my mother always insisted on butter. It was unusual because we weren’t posh in all areas - my mother spent years with only two pairs of knickers to her name, one on her person the other drying over the hot water tank - but there you go. It was still butter all the way because she couldn’t stand marg on her bread and jam.

I didn’t let on though. Butter was a bit of an aberration, almost as bad as the cheese and pineapple on sticks she put in my pack-up for that school trip. Talk about embarrassed. I might as well have told the entire class I bathed in Babycham.

Maybe a clue as to why sales are down came at a recent reunion of old school pals. The nostalgic taste buds were in overdrive as we all remembered the meals served to us in our youth by our mums - always the mums back then.

There was talk of tinned fruit served with evaporated milk and bread and butter, of mandarin oranges in flan cases, of Plumrose cream from a tin spread over a homemade sponge, and of Angel Delight (that was me, obviously).

No one reminisced about the taste of Stork though, or eulogised its baking properties.

It has been on the go since 1920 but for many of those years it has been trading on its nostalgic appeal.

Even in 1980 the adverts were harking back to earlier times with scenes of perfect post-war life, all boys in long shorts, the glow of standard lamps and granny over for Sunday tea.

So maybe it’s time has been and gone, a slice of yesterday that is not to our taste anymore , but I find that a little hard to swallow.

I want somebody, somewhere to be enjoying Stork, that little slice of Britishness, even if I am not.


That thing you did, the last time you had mash, you thought that was peeling potatoes, didn’t you?

Silly sausage that you are, you believed your actions were straightforward and based on practicalities.

Because an unpeeled potato is not a thing of beauty, unless baked in the oven.

So you were peeling. But you weren’t, actually. What you were doing was “reconnecting” and “relaxing”.

I know this because potato peeling was recently the subject of a workshop in a major London department store.

At Selfridges, they are exploring what home means to people now, and food anthropologists are involved.

So the participants were not there to learn how to peel, they were there to learn how to find comfort and contentment in basic activities. What some people might refer to as “housework” or “chores” or even “getting the tea ready”.

But on this occasion, it wasn’t about any of that, it wasn’t even about the thickness or thinness of the peel, but about how it calmed down the peelers.

Some apparently found the activity blissful to the point of meditative.

Others realised something wonderful - that with both hands full of potato and knife, they couldn’t check their emails or Facebook and, since phones were banned, they couldn’t Instagram the moment either.

So next time you’re up to your elbows in spuds - remember to be grateful.


And while we are discussing food matters, let’s talk carrots.

They’re a good old staple, a splash of orange colour on your plate, a sunny contrast to that kale you are dutifully chomping your way through.

But maybe not for much longer. Not the orange version anyway.

There are now purple carrots and black carrots, and in some areas sales of these varieties are rocketing.

It’s partly the all-important attachment of a healthy word. The black and purple types are full of powerful anti-oxidants, and these can help to ward off cancer, reduce cholesterol and keep the heart healthy.

But it’s also our love of the new - purple broccoli or mini corn on the cob, anyone?

So it’s a bit ironic that the first carrot were actually black and purple and the orange types were the novelty interlopers, developed by the Dutch, just for fun.