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Carb bombs & café woes


I have gone off cafés. I don’t ever seem to be able to find any where I can buy myself or my kids stuff that feels healthy and a reasonable size.


It’s not that there isn’t plenty to eat – there is – but it all seems to be variations on high-sugar, high-carb or high-fat stuff that would put me, the diabetic, into sugar-induced lethargy and my children into a sugar-crazed cranky hyperactivity. There’s a retro love-affair with the Edmonds cookbook going on, mashed up with a McDonalds supersize mentality.


Is it too much to ask for, to able to choose small savoury or sweet treats where we can go through the ritual of sitting at a café, imagining that we are European, sipping coffee, nibbling on a little something and having conversations about the latest philosophers and YouTube clips and pop stars?


There’s also the children’s drinks question – the two choices seem to be either a sickly sweet hot chocolate with marshmallows or some oversized fizzy drink that has been branded the new evil and the cause of obesity.


When it comes down to it, K bars are relatively harmless about about 10 grams of sugar versus the 40 grams of sugar in a bottle of ginger beer.


I used to like getting scones or muffins to go with my flat white, but these have grown over the years – or maybe I’m less likely to split one with a friend, more likely to drink coffee alone – and I daren’t order them because they are carb bombs, softball-sized, meaning I have to inject myself with large amounts of insulin twice: the first time for the initial carb hit, the second time for all the carb that took its time to absorb thanks to the high levels of butter.


I really don’t hold with cookies the size of people’s heads. Maybe some people think they are getting their value for money, but I’m much more likely to be seduced by a little biscuit or pastry that costs half as much and I can imagine I might walk off on my way up the hill. And why are there so few savoury little somethings? There’s this perception that you have to have something sweet with coffee, but people drink coffee with their bacon-and-egg brunches, so obviously that impulse is misplaced. When my grandmother used to invite us for afternoon teas, the savouries always had to match the sweets.

So I was thinking about all the things I would like to see in New Zealand cafés, in the hope that other people might feel the same way and there would be a ground swell to end the tyranny of boulder muffins and paving stone slices. It did occur to me that what I really wanted was to go and live in Spain where it was okay to drink sherry and eat octopus at 10am in the morning.


What do you guys think? Am I alone in my café frustrations?

17 Comments leave one →
  1. William permalink
    02/04/2016 8:52 pm

    So true, we always share anything as it is too big and too loaded for one

  2. Vanessa Berry permalink
    02/04/2016 10:21 pm

    Boiled eggs yes!
    I’m with you – “boulder muffins” are a scourge.

  3. Navina Clemerson permalink
    02/04/2016 11:39 pm

    Completely agree – Clarke’s at Wellington City Library is an exception, they offer salads, both savoury and fruity, and they also have some very small sweet things, and wonderful fresh vegetarian sandwiches…(Am just a regular customer, don’t have any interest in the business otherwise.) Also when you ask for a tea you get a teapot with about 3 cups of tea in it…

  4. 03/04/2016 7:17 am

    I’ll join this revolution. I’ve dropped quarter of my body weight over last two years, essentially by almost cutting out sugar and limiting the carbs (& cutting the wine back ‘a tad’). I don’t mind treating myself with sweet from time to time, but I (once) loved taking a book/paper et al to a cafe over coffee, by myself (hugely impt that), and can only do that now by ordering coffee and ignoring the display cabinets. I would love a selection of reasonably sized savoury / meaty treats, but they don’t seem to exist. I blame Cookie Time and those ludicrous giant cookie bottles of a decade or so ago; that’s where this over-sizing carb fetish started (I’m thinking).

  5. tintin permalink
    03/04/2016 8:51 am

    Oh, yes. AGREE!

  6. Marion permalink
    03/04/2016 9:18 am

    I think we tend to rate cafes by the quality of the baking display – it has to look good and the description has to make your mouth water. Size and chocolate come into that mix. It’s lovely but it does force you to do the reject temptation struggle while you order your coffee. I regularly go out in a threesome and we tend to huddle over a shared date or savoury scone which are always big enough to feed 3 comfortably. Must be hell with kids.

  7. 03/04/2016 10:11 am

    Same ugly trends in Oz. Luckily our local cafe, run by Italian bakers, does make small sweet things. But not savouries other than their very yummy lunches. Mostly I still share with my partner.

  8. Hannah Alleyne permalink
    03/04/2016 12:29 pm

    I’m with you all the way. Love it.

  9. Jacqueline permalink
    03/04/2016 4:25 pm

    If cafes can do bite-sized savoury and sweet items for high teas, surely they can cut up slices, etc into smaller sizes for everyday use?!

  10. Mary permalink
    03/04/2016 7:20 pm

    I couldn’t agree more!!

  11. 03/04/2016 11:16 pm

    Couldn’t agree with you more …. this is a thing that drives me nuts. I would come to your version of a cafe any day!

  12. Amanda permalink
    04/04/2016 10:49 pm

    This drives me crazy. I refuse to buy muffins when the kids only ever want 2 bites. Any cupcake just gets the icing licked off and a fluffy or babycino gets about one sip because its really about the marshmallow. I’ve been avoiding cafés a bit because it’s such a waste of time and money. I feel your pain! I love the idea of half size portions. Makes so much sense.

  13. 05/04/2016 10:11 am

    Oh yes, I join your movement to clamour for cafes with little savouries. I hardly ever go to cafes because I can never find a savoury for less than $5. Also they need to offer more herb teas in bigger pots!

  14. Lucy permalink
    05/04/2016 1:54 pm

    YES! A hundred times yes! Though, I have found a spot that delivers some, though not all of the things on your wish list – the lobby cafe at The Bolton Hotel (just off The Terrace). They make tiny tarts, miniature choux puffs, delicate little friands – and you get to sit in a plush hotel by a pretend fire on a cold day. The tea comes in a teapot, too. I’m very taken by the description of the boulder muffins – explains why after eating one I feel the urge to curl into a ball and hurl myself down the street.

  15. 07/04/2016 9:17 pm

    Yes! Love your list. I like sweet stuff with coffee, but as well as being huge, cakes & slices are often far too sugary. Little friands are the way to go (Salvation on Adelaide Road do good ones).

  16. 26/07/2016 11:20 pm

    trying to get the kids i nanny to eat food that they like while not giving them too much sugar…it’s a tough job!

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