I bought into the British-food-is-awful myth for years, until I got a roommate, or flatmate as she would say, from England. Her name was Natasha, though she pronounced it Natasher, and she quickly reinforced the food stereotype with such lunchtime gems as a Ploughman's Special (an ungrilled cheddar cheese sandwich) and Heinz beans on toast.
However, she threw me one night with a spicy and amazing chicken curry, and on her return from a trip home to London, Natasha brought me a Cadbury Milk. "I know what you're thinking," she pre-said. "It's not Swiss or Belgian." I thanked her, and was shocked to find that it was rich and creamy and every bit as delicious as any other fine European chocolate.
Recently, I saw a Cadbury Milk at Randalls, and bought it for memory's sake, but at first taste I knew something was wrong. It tasted grainy and dull, no different in texture from a common Hershey's bar. Then I looked at the wrapper and saw that the candy bar was indeed made by The Hershey Company, under license from Cadbury UK and "By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen.'
Well, I felt royally screwed, and went to Houston's best source of English things, British Isles in Rice Village, to ask Guy Streatfeild about the difference between American and British versions of the Cadbury Milk.
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"The Americans use soy as an emulsifier, which gives it a much drier taste, whereas the English, I believe, use grapeseed oil, which provides a smoother and creamier texture," he said. That is exactly the difference when I tasted the two versions side by side. The American Cadbury Milk had me reaching for a glass of water, whereas the creamier and more brilliant British bar had me reaching for more chocolate.
Is It Taste, or Price?
Streatfeild said that Cadbury Milks sold in all other world markets are made like the British bars, and that only the American one is different. He noted that Cadbury was just adapting to American tastes. Perhaps, but I surmise it's also about price. The 99-gram American bar is $1.79 at Randall's, and for the exact same $1.79 you can get the smaller 45-gram bar at British Isles (the smaller bar is also available at Central Market for $2.49).
A common American attitude is you're only getting half as much for the same price with the British bar, but I'd say with the American choice you're getting twice as much chocolate that's inferior for the same price. I'd rather eat the good stuff and save the calories for elsewhere, such as lunch at Red Lion Pub, home of genuinely delicious British food.