I am far too old for them to have been a staple of my school lunches — semolina and cheese pie featured on the menu then — but turkey twizzlers were a mainstay in the 1990s. Cheap to produce, cheap to buy, no wonder educational catering firms with an eye on the bottom line fell in love with them.
Children did, too. After all, what’s not to love? There’s a delightful name, a satisfyingly crisp outside and soft inside, and a tasty kick in this spiral of processed meat.
What’s not to love? Oh, the fact that they were only around one-third turkey, perhaps. (More accurately, 34%.)
So what else was in them? Water, pork fat, and rusk, mostly. But they might have soldiered on as the perfect partner for smiley potato faces and baked beans if Jamie Oliver hadn’t declared war on them.
In 2005, the celebrity chef featured in a series of programmes called Jamie’s School Dinners. In this four-episode documentary, we saw Mr Oliver valiantly attempting to improve the quality and the nutritional content of school meals. Quite a challenge when the daily budget for each child’s meal was 37 pence.
Mr Oliver singled out the Bernard Matthews’ Turkey Twizzler as the perfect emblem of what should not be in a school dinner: over-processed, nutritionally poor, complete with added sugar. Scolarest — the company that supplied meals to more than 2,000 schools — went into full damage-limitation mode: it simply banned them from its menus.
Bernard Matthews stopped producing the screw-shaped tidbits in 2005, to sidestep any further furore and negative press coverage.
Never mind. For those who like their meat in shapes that have nothing to do with the source of the product, you can still buy turkey dinosaurs. (“Jurassic fun for kids”, apparently.)
Not content with their dinnertime dinosaurs, however, passionate fans have launched a petition — an actual petition — to get the turkey twists back.
I’m not entirely sure at whom this petition is aimed. The Prime Minister? The late Bernard Matthews? Nevertheless, what better way to deal with the increasing problem of childhood obesity than bringing back a turkey?
Or 34% of one, anyway.