It started as a youngster’s quirky request for a sweet snack but over more than two decades has become as synonymous with Scotland as heather and shortie.
And now the famous or infamous, depending on your palate deep-fried Mars bar is to be the subject of a £177,000 study to find out just what damage it may have done to the perception of our nation, rather than anything to do with the harm inflicted on the health of a generation of hungry fans.
Over the next three years, the global charitable health foundation the Wellcome Trust will fund the six-figure investigation Stalking the Deep Fried Mars Bar to uncover the impact on the stereotype of the Scottish diet.
The high-calorie treat, first created in Stonehaven fish and chip shop, has been described as everything from a culinary delight to a stroke waiting to happen.
Wellcome Trust senior research fellow Dr Christine Knight, a nutritionist at Edinburgh University, will lead the study, and the treat will be the subject of a talk at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh this week to consider why it provokes such a strong reaction.
Dr Knight said: “I arrived in Scotland from Australia around seven or eight years ago with no impression about the Scots diet, but I can trace the moment I became aware of a certain attitude to a specific conversation when I was at a wedding in England and someone said to me: “Oh, but doesn’t everyone in Scotland eat deep-fried Mars bars?
“The more I looked into it, the more I realised the deep-fried Mars bar is actually the flashpoint to talk about national stereotypes in the UK.”
She added: “Whenever we make a moral judgment there is an element of class. In a way, comments about a national diet can also have a class slur which has morality, class and taste all rolled into one.”
Chef Nick Nairn had said the deep-fried Mars bar is an unwelcome paradox to the fantastically diverse natural larder which Scotland boasts.
“It started as a bit of a joke but soon became the peg on which to hang all the ills of the Scottish diet.”