Why is it that the countries that hate dessert excel at snack-time sweets?
Take Germany. What's it known for? Nazis, beer, brown bread, and sauerkraut, right? But definitely not dessert. And yet Germany excels at candy, and have gifted the planet with Haribo and Kinpos.
Now let's look at Japan. Japanese food is probably my favorite cuisine in the entire world. But the saddest moment of my day comes when I'm brought the final course of a big Japanese meal: miso soup, rice, and pickles. Why? Because I know that the last taste on my tongue that night is going to be all-natural and wholesome. To add insult to injury, sometimes they’ll say there will be a dessert and in fact what you get are just a few slices of fruit. But before dinnertime it’s a totally different story: Japan offers up the best sweets in the world--so numerous that I won't even begin to name them. Oh but let me just name a few: Tokyo banana, mochi, and wobbly gelatinous things.
So why is this? Do they deny themselves dessert as ongoing atonement for WWII? Does rigid culinary structure breed a rebellion that manifests in snack food? As the existence of The Big Man Shop and 4XL suggest, we English and Americans never turn down a dessert. Perhaps our dessert culture—plus our low bar in terms of what we will put in our mouths—is the reason behind our own mediocre sweets. Think about it: what would you brag about as an American or Brit? Cadbury’s? Hersheys? (The one exception to this of course is my beloved Brachs.)
Anyway, back to the point of this post...or rather, it's probably about time I made this post have a point. So here it is: Pocky sticks from Japan. My sample above (from my wonderful Finland-loving friend S.) is in seasonal ichigo. You wouldn't think strawberry white chocolate would be tasty, but then you probably haven't had Pocky. You can pick up these wonders in most Asian markets in the US and UK, though I’m told strawberry is a bit harder to come by outside Japan.