We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Alex Casey laments the loss of a Kiwi classic.
Before we get to the ruinous truth: there’s no denying that Roses are New Zealand’s ultimate choco gift. Favourites are fine, but rustling your way through the long vertical box like a desperate catfish catcher gets degrading after a while. Scorched Almonds are good, but hurtful in large quantities to my soft teeth. Beyond the choc-lands, the Griffin’s sampler box is maybe Roses’ only challenger for nostalgia value, glamorous feel, flavour variety and grandparent adjacency.
These days, Roses enter my life through no good deeds of my own. My partner is a teacher, so he occasionally gets gifted swathes of delicious chocolate instead of, you know, the amount of pay he deserves. Nevertheless, I still welcome the rich bounty of Ferrero Rochers, the occasional Whittaker’s block, and even the well-meaning but despicable bliss ball into my gullet. But last Friday, something amazing happened: I opened our pantry to find a resplendent box of Roses. A gift from the chocolate gods… or so I thought.
I’m misty-eyed about Roses, and not just because of the cute ad with the oldies and the general sentiment of gratitude and niceness that pervades in a cold, hard world. It’s about the ceremony of it! You receive a box of Roses first as a triumphant pirate, unearthing a treasure chest filled with twinkling gems. Then you become a detective, studying the box for chocolatey clues. Finally, the MasterChef judge with the neckerchief: biting one in half and examining the nectar within while gurgling something about mouthfeel.
There was nothing more satisfying than making that gleeful first pick, after wryly weighing up the choices of everyone else in the room. With two dainty fingers, you’d pull each end of the wrapper and watch the saucy little chocolate twirl to reveal itself. As a kid, the journey didn’t even end when the box was empty. When I wasn’t saving up the wrappers to cover books, I would meticulously flatten out every glimmering square, sellotaping them together to make a technicolour quilt for my toys.
New Zealand, that magic has all changed.
First of all, the wrapper has morphed dramatically from a seductive wee wraparound number in the traditional “sweetie” style to an offensive, serrated, airplane food cutlery and/or actual condom packet nightmare. The poor chocolates now look like a dishwashing tablet at best, and a complimentary restaurant mint at worst. You can’t use the wrappers to duraseal a book, and I wouldn’t even give them to a rat to use as a drop cloth, let alone make a quilt for a soft toy.
The charming flower design? GONE! The twirl and flourish? GONE! But worst of all… Many beloved flavours… GONE. Here’s the comparison pic.
Through two highly scientific polls conducted through The Spinoff’s Kai Corner (high cuisine poshos) and The Real Pod Corner (reality TV trash monsters), I was able to gauge the pulse of the nation when it comes to classic Roses flavours. At the time of writing, the foodies in Kai Corner championed Turkish Delight as the finest drop, whereas the good punters at The Real Pod Corner rallied around Strawberry Creme. Sadly, Big Rose has chosen to quash the dreams, unsurprisingly, of the strawberry-loving working class heroes, replacing it with the hacky yet undeniably opulent white chocolate and raspberry.
Only one flavour unified both surveyed groups, collapsing boundaries in class, taste, and Michelin stars: Peppermint Creme. Alas! PC is also no more. It’s gone away for the summer holidays and has come back in a minidress and no glasses, aka now it has crunchy bits. Several anonymous sources have contacted The Spinoff to lament the loss of the creme element, to which I offer this solution discovered by Real Pod food scientist Kelsey Fletcher: just buy After Dinner Mints.
What about the flavours we’ve gained? Well, I hate to swear in a public setting… but it’s time to talk nougat. I fossicked through the remainders of the box like a vulture pecking at the last scraps of rotten flesh. It was all nougat. Vanilla nougat. Coffee nougat. Bury me in nougat. You could give it the benefit of the doubt and just pretend you are eating a Milky Way gone awry: but you and I both no there’s no intergalactic magic about nougat. It’s a slog, a chore, a long and winding chew.
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Roses used to mean thank you very much for the kind donation, for washing Rover, for gifting a pullover. Now, I’m not so sure what it means. While fans of Turkish Delight, various states of caramel and general hazelnut will remain unaffected, spare a thought for the strawberry stans and mint-heads during this time of national crisis and disruption. While Big Rose tries to divide us, we will remain united by one universal truth: 2018 could simply not get any worse than this.
Correction 15/10/2018: This article originally stated that the new peppermint roses now contain gluten, which is incorrect. While Peppermint Crème Crunch and the majority of Roses chocolates do not contain gluten, they do have a “may contain” statement on the box due to the line they are manufactured on. The Spinoff apologises for the confusing error.
The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.