The biggest perks of youth is innocence and naivete. A sort of endearing gormlessness, if you will.
Like a puppy or kitten that plows full-speed into a glass door, for instance.
Wait, I take that back. The biggest benefit of youth is the ability to go on all-night benders and feel fresh as a daisy the next day. These days, I feel like death if I had more than three drinks and/or stay up past 2 in the morning.
Another benefit of being young is that you have amazing short-term memory. You tend to remember clear as day what you had for breakfast, which I’ll admit to having trouble with these days.
Wait, what was I talking about again?
Oh yes, that’s right. Youthful innocence and why it’s so awesome.
When you’re young, you tend not to ponder the big questions.
Questions such as: “Who am I, and what is my purpose here?” or “why don’t we get motion sickness when the orbital velocity of the earth is 30km/s?” or even “if oil is made from dinosaur fossils, and plastic is made from oil, aren’t plastic dinosaurs made from real dinosaurs?” (I can’t claim credit for that last one, I got it from a meme)
“What on earth am I putting into my mouth, and why can’t I seem to stop eating it?!”
Or the really big questions like: “What on earth am I putting into my mouth, and why can’t I seem to stop eating it?!”
And that’s Yan Yan for you.
As a child, and in addition to wasting huge tracts of my youth on video games, I lacked self-control. I could scarf down an entire package of Yan Yan in one sitting and still come back for seconds or thirds.
As an adult, I still waste huge tracts of my time playing video games, and retain the ability to scarf down three packages of Yan Yan in one sitting. You’ll understand this was done in the interest of scientific research, not because I’m a man-child with terrible control over my baser impulses.
So anyway, this Yan Yan stuff. If you’ve been living under a rock or are a new arrival to these parts, being a recent immigrant from Saturn, the premise is really simple—you crack open the pack, grab a biscuit stick and dunk it into the créme dip.
And it was here that my eight-year-old self learned the first of many important life lessons. In that manipulating your grandparents into getting you junk food behind your parents’ backs is remarkably easy.
But more seriously, while going hard at the start, and grabbing a huge gloop of créme with each bite will soon see you eating plain biscuit sticks before you’re halfway through. Not that the biscuit sticks are bad, mind you. They’re actually really decent and arguably the best part.
A child would beg to differ, however, given most children only have lizard palates and can only discern sledgehammer flavours. With that in mind, Yan Yan is truly a great teacher of temperance.
It’s also a great teacher, if you want to either get into the food sciences industry or chemical engineering. But in all fairness to Yan Yan, it never made any claims about being all natural or anything like that.
Yan Yan also comes in three “Premium” variants… which does make one wonder what the less-fine ingredients in regular chocolate, strawberry and vanilla Yan Yan are.
But if your royal highness requires more upmarket Yan Yan varietals, it comes in three “Premium” variants. Namely, tiramisu, berries & cream and matcha, “made with finer ingredients like mascarpone cheese and Japanese matcha powder”. Which does make one wonder what the less-fine ingredients in regular chocolate, strawberry and vanilla Yan Yan are.
Sugar, certainly. Spice, well, does hydrogenated rapeseed count? As for everything nice? It really depends on your definition of the term. If said definition covers the chemical tang of artificial chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, then yes, Yan Yan does indeed contain everything nice.
Now, to be certain, there are some people who like artificial flavouring. These people even seek it out and shun the real thing, like the people I know who will gladly eat vivid purple grape candy, but recoil in horror at eating an actual grape.
But I can see the point of artificial flavours done well. If nothing else, you have to salute the inventiveness of the human spirit and the innovations that modern science brings. The same inventiveness and innovation that saw some Japanese researchers figuring out how to extract vanillin from cow poop in 2014. I wish I was joking about this, but I’m not.
But while I would gladly dunk my Yan Yan in cow poop-derived vanilla créme (the researchers say it’ll most likely be used for non-edible things like soaps and shampoos, because people are squeamish about eating poop, who knew right?), I can’t say I was particularly enthused about Yan Yan as it stands.
The biggest problem isn’t in how it’s bad, as such, because it’s not. My biggest issue with Yan Yan’s mildly plasticky chocolate, strawberry and vanilla flavours is that they don’t quite go far enough.
What makes artificially flavoured grape candy and that virulently coloured F&N Fruitade drink of indeterminate flavour great is how they’ve both transcended our tawdry ideas of food and emerged in the incandescent sunlight (E110 Sunset Yellow FCF) and verdant green grass (E142 Green) of mad food science.
As naive young child, these were points I never pondered. How was a mere boy to articulate the crushing mediocrity of Yan Yan? This mediocrity can’t even be lifted by mixing all three créme flavours together to form an ersatz Neapolitan ice cream.
The resulting abomination somehow manages to get the worst out of each flavour. Where Neapolitan ice cream is a magical amalgamation of the bitterness of chocolate, the tartness of strawberry and the mellowness of vanilla, the Yan Yan version just tastes like a sugary, chemical slurry.
It’s like how you imagine threesomes would be amazing, but they invariably turn out to be just a tangle sweaty limbs, and you just know that sooner or later, someone’s going to take a knee to the face.
Cough. Anyway, where was I.
And how was my childhood self to know that the biggest sin in the snackinary world isn’t in failing, but in failing to try?
When one is young, one doesn’t realise they are tearing through an entire package of Yan Yan in a single sitting not because they enjoy it, but because they are compelled to do so. The grab-dunk-eat process leaves one in a sort of meditative trance. And when the positive feedback loop is broken, the comedown is swift. The cessation of the act of eating Yan Yan leaves a far bigger void than the cessation of Yan Yan itself.
When you’re eight-years-old, you’ll never stop to ask yourself, “Is this what it means to truly live?”
But at the age of twenty-eight, you’ll be far better equipped to answers those questions, and the answer to that is, “no, my friends, it is not.”
10-word review: Yan Yan fulfils a need, not a want, therefore, it wants.
Best paired with: Youthful naivete and a copy of the periodic table.