Down with breakfast bars. Up with Jannis!
Greece, they say, has the best of everything. The seas are the bluest you’ll ever see. The walls are the most blazingly white, as if just specially painted for a detergent commercial. The priests have the bristliest beards of any priests anywhere (even Russia). The women are the most beautiful. The philosophers are the most philosophical. And so on.
Now, these are all stereotypes – which isn’t saying they’re not true. (Personally, I agree with all of them). But generally, they’re seen as arguable.
However, there is one ‘Best Of’ that is surely uncontestable, and it’s this: Greece has the best snack bars.
Now, take the “breakfast bar”.
Excuse me while I flinch.
I blame flapjacks. Which means I blame oats, and ultimately blame the whole agrarian revolution in the Levant around 10 millenia ago. As long as I have someone to blame for the glut of sticky, claggy, overpriced rectangles of unfulfillment that litter our supermarket shelves these days, I’m a happy man.
At some point a few decades back, some entrepreneurial wretch realised that money was to be made if you mass-produced flapjacks dotted with the occasional raisin and labelled them “breakfast bars”, with the promise of a healthy replacement to your breakfast meusli with none of that tedious ‘interacting with your family’ or ‘enjoying your food’ nonsense that wastes all that precious early morning time that could be better spent secretly surfing the Internet at work.
Then the raisins became bits of apple core, and then flecks of coconut husk. Snack food had never been so good for you! It was like a 6-week health farm, taken orally! Making your breakfast from ingredients? That’s like so prehistoric.
Now they’re all doing it: McVities, Kellogs, you name it, they’re machine-gunning the world with little bars of sugary gunk at remarkably ambitious prices. In some cases, “sugary” doesn’t even get close: take Kellogs’s Coco-Pops Bar, which was found to contain proportionally more calories from its sugar than milk chocolate. For breakfast. And all those fats. And all that corn syrup, all that wheat. But the worst, the very worst thing about these bars is that they’re junk food almost always claiming undeservedly to be examples of healthy eating. Junky snacks: fine. We all like. But let’s not pretend about it all.
So, Greece: the best breakfast in the world? Well, no. In fact they have the most non-existent breakfast in the world. This is a minor Greek tragedy in itself, because the best breakfast in the world is fresh fruit slathered with yoghurt – and Greece makes the best yoghurt in the world. Missed opportunity, guys.
Instead, Greeks wake their innards up with a mid-morning snack, often a sticky pastry or some kind of sweet pie. This can be forgiven by considering that most Greeks seem to go to bed at the time when the rest of us are irritably batting a hand at our alarm clocks, hoping we’ll hit the Snooze button. There is no “breakfast” because in Greece, there is no “getting up in the morning”.
Ruling the pantheon of mid-morning snacks is the Jannis bar. In 2007, these fuelled my jaunts round Athens, the Cyclades and the Peloponnese. Without a stick of Jannis in my back pocket at all times, I’d have run out of energy and tumbled under the wheels of an Athenian Blue Bus or over the side of a Blue Star ferry, never to be seen again. Jannis kept me upright. And now, these bookmark-sized slabs of pure joy are keeping me sane during my dayjob, ever since I discovered the Costcutter supermarket next door sells four varieties of them.
(Peanut, Almond, Hazelnut and Mixed Nuts. That’s one for every day of the week, plus Fridays for “what kind of nut sums this week up for me?”).
I’m so set in my Jannis-buying ways that today, a Costcutter staff member greeted me with “Do you have specific dietary requirements, or are you just incredibly boring?”
Why are they so good? A host of winning features, including mouth-feel, taste, obvious quality of ingredients and so on. But mainly, they’re just simple. You’ve got nuts, you’ve got some kind of peanut-brittle-like matrix holding them in place, and…that’s it. No hydrogenated mechanically rendered corn-fed pig’s bladder whey mixed with semi-skimmed cow buttock petroleum and vulcanised beta-carotene larding enrichment. No added gunk to keep it fresh until the sun burns out. Fat? Tons of it, but that’s nuts for you.
The main thing is, you eat one of these, and you’re genuinely full. That should be their slogan: “One is enough! No, really! Full!”.
Best snack bars in the world, I reckon. (Allegies aside).
Or do you have a better suggestion?