Chocolate fish, Toffee Milk, and the end of the world as we know it

by | Jul 3, 2024 | Around NZ, Opinion

Great news for beleagured sub-editors as Cadbury’s announce production of ther sepia-tinted, marshmelllow-based chocolate fish has been halted and supplies are disappearing from our shelves forever. The news media has wasted no time noticing that the chocolate fish in question are shaped like actual fish and has gone pretty hard on the puns, comparing the discontinuation of a once mildly popular snack with ecological collapse and mass extinction. Lol!

Here’s The Herald chuckling about ‘dwindling stocks’ complete with a jaunty quip from a Cadbury’s spokesperson who goes all in with the line: “Ironically it is not a case of overfishing that led to the demise of the bigger member of the species, but the opposite.”.

Our oceans are dying but I feel nothing except a vague sadness for a snack made of sugar and cow hooves I enjoyed as a seven year old!

One News gets in on the act, possibly drinking from the same press release well, with: “You might catch some rare species in some places, but they will be the last of the breed.”

It’s a cross-species tragedy the likes of which humanity has never experienced and we brought it all on ourselves but I feel better if I think about a dimly remembered and mostly fictional past. Gumboots! Buzzy Bees! Marching girls! Paua shell ashtrays!

And Stuff says something about having to cast nets ever wider to find the last of the nostalgia-inducing treats, the inference being that you shouldn’t worry too much about dolphin by-catches or habitat destruction or whatever.

Jolly japes all round, then.

Delicious, enticing, but ultimately too spenny: the Queen Anne chocolate fish

Of course the Queen Anne chocolate fish will still be available but it’s safe to say that despite being delicious and beautifully wrapped (or maybe because they are delicious and beautifully wrapped) they can never quite take the place of the Cadbury’s (nee Hudson’s) originals. The phrase “that kid/ man/woman/ phd candidate/ band of ruffians deserves a chocolate fish” suggests a snack that is cheap, readily available, and good to eat. it suggests a utalitarian reward that crosses class boundaries and harks back to a less unequal, more uniform period of New Zealand history. A time when you could have any cook book you wanted so long as it was Edmond’s. A happier (so long as you were white/ straight/ a man) if ever so slightly shitter time.

My own enduring memory of chocolate fish is being able to buy them loose, sans wrapper, straight out of the box or – in your flasher dairies – from a perspex container on the counter with little plastic tongs don’t you know. Which in a post-covid world seems wreckless and weird but also somehow subversive and thrilling – let’s call the practice raw-fishing.

The move from raw-fishing to wrapper (I’m struggling to pin a date on it) I believe was the beginning of the end for the chocolate fish. Once it went into the wrapper the chocolate fish immediately put itself on the same shelf as larger, tastier, more robust treats such as your Pixie Caramels, your Moros, your Crunchies, and your Picnics. Swimming in the those waters the humble chocolate fish… goddamit now I’m doing it…. the chocolate fish just couldn’t compete.

As anyone with a functioning adult set of teeth knows, marshmellow is a just okay basis for a snack. Cover it in a thin layer of chocolate all you want, it’s never going to hit the heights of nuts, nougat, caramel, wafer biscuits, and so on. So the end of chocolate fish doesn’t really bother me. What did provide me with a brief jolt of actual feelings was the news from Whittaker’s that they are phasing out another raw-fishing hero of the New Zealand 80s dairy scene: the Toffee Milk bar.

Now that was a delicious and brilliantly cheap snack. I remember it being 10 cents. 10 cents! And, thanks to the firm toffee centre, it lasted for ages. It was like a mini Pixie Caramel but actually much tastier – the chocolate was better and the caramel less cloyingly dense.

I spent a great deal of mental and moral energy as an eight year old weighing up the feasability and indeed, the desirablity, of snatching the entire box of Toffee Milks from the counter, weaving through traffic on Thornton Road and into the dark safety of the bamboo forest that covers the collar of Te Koo Utu lake.

Could one child eat a whole box of Toffee Milk bars in a single sitting? Probably not. And what would he do with all that naked chocolate he couldn’t finish? He couldn’t bury it. The ants would get to it under his bed. If he left them in the fridge at home Questions Would be Asked.

So that box of Toffee Milks remained unsnatched. Fortunately, ten cents wasn’t hard to come by in the affluent Cambridge suburbs, so eating the box one bar at a time while remaining within the bounds of the law was a realistic alternative.

Did I ever consider nicking that perspex container of chocolate fish? Reader, i did not.






About the Author

David Wrigley

David is a writer and musician from Kemureti/ Cambridge. He has been published in Noble Rot, Nourish Magazine, Turbine|Kapohau, New Zealand Poetry Yearbook, and is currently working on his first novel. He has done his time in restaurants in Aotearoa and the UK. Oh, yes. He has done his time.

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