On the same day I discovered that Britain has a higher percentage of obese adults than any other European country, I went to the cinema (to see the new Woody Allen film, since you ask). It was the Odeon in Oxford, an establishment just like hundreds of others throughout the land. And, like everywhere else, if you wanted a sweet treat, or a soft drink, to take in with you as an accompaniment to Woody's sharp social observation, you had to buy it in wholesale quantities. Cartons of popcorn as voluminous as coal bunkers; cardboard cups of Coca Cola the size of milk churns.
This is a land of Brobdingnagian portions, where regular means enormous and large means... well, frankly absurd. You could consume your entire daily allowance of calories before the trailers had finished. So it was with some interest that I noticed, as I was queuing up, a standard-sized tube of Smarties. Perfect. And how sensible, I thought. I can't be the only cinema goer in the country who finds the size of the usual offerings off-putting, and at last they're giving us something more manageable and, indeed, appetising.
Not only that, here's an entertainment conglomerate which is taking the obesity epidemic seriously, and deciding to downsize rather than supersize. So with my little tube of Smarties, I made my way to the till. The server looked at me incredulously. Are you serious? She explained that the Smarties were not on sale. What? Well, not quite. They weren't on sale on their own. They could only be bought as a package which included a soft drink and a pantechnicon-sized box of popcorn. But I don't want the popcorn, I said. You have to have the popcorn, she said. And so it went on, rather like, appropriately enough given the setting, the scene in Five Easy Pieces when a young Jack Nicholson is trying to order a chicken salad sandwich without the salad. And indeed the chicken.
Hold the popcorn, I said, I just want the Smarties. (By this time, I would willingly have paid £5 for my perfectly-proportioned snack.) So far from instituting a regime to strike a blow against obesity, Odeon appeared to be doing the opposite. Yes, you can have a lovely little tube of Smarties. But only if you eat your own body weight in popcorn.
It is hard enough to navigate one's path through the maze of sugary temptations - did you know that a typical coffee frappuccino contains half the recommended daily amount of sugar? - without trouble being put in our way by a cinema chain with an eye on its bottom line, no matter what it does to the bottoms of the nation. A friend of mine told me that she used to go to a picture house in America - the land of the free, and the home of the obese - where they sold carrot sticks. Can you imagine that? You're trying to concentrate on Cate Blanchett's tour de force and there's someone chomping carrots in your ear. It's as much of a nightmare as someone holding up the queue arguing over a tube of Smarties.
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