£177,000 study into the phenomenon of the deep-fried mars bar


A £177,000 study is being launched to understand the Scottish culinary phenomenon that is the deep-fried mars bar.

The calorific snack is to be at the centre of a new three year long study by the Wellcome Trust – a global health foundation.

The study promises to investigate the politics, class bigotry and anti-Scottish sentiment sparked by the consumption of the treat north of the border.

Dr Christine Knight – a Wellcome Trust senior research fellow and nutritionist at the University of Edinburgh – is heading the project, titled: “Stalking the Deep-Fried Mars Bar.”

mars bar web2
The treat has become infamous across the world


Knight has said that the snack acts as a “lightning rod” for all manner of other social issues – including matters of class, value judgements and English attitudes to Scots.

She said: “I arrived in Scotland from Australia around seven or eight years ago with no real impression about the Scots diet.

“But I can trace the moment when I became aware of a certain attitude to it to a specific conversation when I was at a wedding in England and someone said to me: ‘Oh, but doesn’t everyone in Scotland eat deep-fried Mars bars?’

“The more I looked into it the more I realised the deep-fried Mars bar is actually the flashpoint to talk about national stereotypes in the UK.

“Historically these things about food surface a bit more when there are political tensions. Food historians said this happened during the Jacobite rebellions and the Act of Union when there was satire about food like haggis.

“In the 1990s, when the deep-fried Mars bar arrived on the scene, a number of ‘ducks’ were lined up.”

“These “ducks” were obesity, heart disease, the debate on fatty food and the political changes going on between Scotland and England.

“But while many stereotypes have a grain of truth, the deep-fried Mars bar myth is used as lazy shorthand and does not necessarily go about the business of unpacking the real socio-economic problems of inequalities which are a factor in diet.”

“Whenever we make a moral judgment there’s an element of class. In a way, comments about national diet can also have a class slur which has morality, class and taste all rolled into one.”

The new study hopes to unpack these issues further – giving an in-depth explanation of the phenomenon that put Scottish food on the map for all the wrong reasons.

Celebrity chef Nick Nairn has also lamented the rise of the deep-fried mars bar as a symbol of Scottish cooking.

And now he has claimed he is looking forward to the new research to dispel the curse of the deep-fried bar.

He said:”The deep-fried Mars bar has been a millstone round the neck of Scottish cooking. It started as a bit of a joke but soon became the peg on which to hang all the ills of the Scottish diet.

“We have a kind of paradox here where we have one of the greatest larders on our doorstep with the greatest fisheries, wonderful agriculture, wild game and venison, but are known for the cursed deep-fried Mars bar.

“It has been a real distraction from positive health stories, and if this research helps get rid of it, it is welcome.”