The Loop: All you can eat

Smorgasbord buffet

Welcome to The Loop, the Magazine's letters column, including the best of your thoughts from Twitter and Facebook.

Food has dominated things this week, one way or another. Last Friday we devoted an article to the love-it-or-hate-it taste of salty liquorice or salmiakki. And the response was predictably polarised.

Lesley Bell says of the stuff: "If I have to 'learn' to love something that is meant to be a treat then, for me, this defeats the purpose. I learn to tolerate foods that are healthy and beneficial but a treat? No thanks".

Diana Von Rettig puts it more succinctly, but less grammatically: "Eeeeyurgghhhkkkk"

But for Isaac Stern the taste of salmiakki is as potent as Proust's famous madeleine: "My first encounter with salmiakki was almost six years ago when my Finnish couch surfer eagerly presented me with some. I unsuspectingly popped it in my mouth. The confusion that followed twisted my face into a strange mix of surprise and disgust as I rushed to the sink to spit it out. I couldn't understand why this innocent, beautiful Scandinavian girl who I was graciously putting up for the weekend was clearly trying to poison me. Over the last six years with my now girlfriend, I too have experimented with all the forms of salmiakki you spoke of and then some. It has become inextricably linked to my feelings for her. Now, whenever she's away and I'm missing her, I reach for the samiaki and as my face inevitably twists I feel that little bit closer to her."

On Monday we posed the question - have the gift shop and the cafe become bigger attractions than the attractions themselves? It was prompted by the news that Stonehenge is to get its own visitor centre after many years. Hannah Barber is unimpressed: "What an ugly waste of money, just shove a burger van in the car park. Less hassle and won't ruin the stones' mystery."

John Cunningham on Facebook: "I wonder how many naysayers there were when the original stones were put up, or the monument was changed: 'Ooo, you can't put those stones there. Quite spoils the view."

It's doubtful whether salmiakki is going to be on the menu at Stonehenge. It's also open question whether National Trust tea rooms will ever offer the cronut, the duffin or any other hybrid bakery items which are now routinely offered by cake shops, and which were investigated by Jon Kelly.

Dave Foy from St Helens ruminates on the range of possibilities laid open by this brave new world of mutant bake-offs: "Regarding your feature on hybrid bakery, there are seven different confections involved. So the maximum number of variations using just two of the seven is 5,040. That would be something of a challenge for a patisserie to provide the full range, but suppose you started to combine more than two? I'll leave that to the mathematical minds involved in Radio 4's programme 'More or Less'."

From food to drink - namely, how much water do we need? Chris Van Tulleken looked into the claim that we need to drink eight litres of the stuff daily. Readers added their own reflections on Facebook - this from Nicola Doherty: "When water was something we drank from the tap i.e. it was FREE, then we didn't seem to worry much about how much we were drinking. Now we drink it from bottles, that we have to buy... suddenly our bodies have an insatiable need for litres of the stuff on an hourly basis."

Finally the Magazine hosted its first ever live chat on Twitter this week, when Dan Snow answered questions on his piece about the problems plaguing the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite its being one of the world's most resource-rich countries. As befits the subject, it was mainly a serious sort of discussion. But the inevitable question did pop up towards the end from David Manning, among others: "Do you drink Um Bongo whilst in the Congo?" Dan Snow rose to the occasion: "And finally. The Umbongo thing. Everybody asks. Mbongo in a local language means money. So kids in the street shout it at you all the time."

So there you go. Although the question of whether the python picked the passion fruit, the marmoset the mandarin will have to be answered another day.

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