They say every day is a school day, but we didn’t expect this week’s education to be buttermilk-based.
Similarly to the age-irrelevant-penny-drop moment when you realise the nursery rhyme lyrics “this little piggy went to market” do not mean the swine went grocery shopping, or learning that bananas are meant to be opened from the other end (yes, the non-stem end), now it seems we all need to catch up on our knowledge of the supermarket dairy aisle.
On Wednesday, TikTok user Sara Abdul shared a video titled “My whole life has been a lie”, asking whether people were aware that Elmlea Double – those little blue pots of creamy-looking liquid – you can buy to “pour, cook or whip” for your apple crumble, are in fact not cream.
The product is instead a blend of buttermilk and vegetable oils (the vegan “Plant” option is not the same and does not contain buttermilk).
Abdul asked the question: “How old were you when you found out this is not double cream?” For lots of people the answer might be literally decades ago as this has been the case since 1984.
But Abdul is not alone in her ignorance. Aside from the 90,000 people who watched the video, there is also a thread for American expats in the UK titled “Elmlea is not cream!!!”, which has been read over 27,000 times, and a Reddit forum titled “I found out today that Elmlea isn’t real cream. My life is in shambles”. One respondent concurred: “Dammit, yes I only found this out relatively recently. Very cheeky of them to put it in the cream section at eye-level height.”
And that’s the thing – it’s not totally unreasonable to think that it might be cream. It’s sold with all the other creams on the same shelves and it says on the front “a deliciously creamy taste”. It also uses the language of cream – double and single to indicate thickness.
In their defence, Elmlea told The Independent that this product has not been cream for its nearly 40-year history (37, to be precise) and has always had the words “alternative to cream” also on the front of the pack (albeit, we note, in smaller lettering than the “deliciously creamy taste tagline”).
The spokesperson continued: “The ingredients, which include a blend of buttermilk and vegetable oils, have always been written clearly on the back of the pack too.”
They added that this not only gives it the advantage of not splitting when heated but also having a longer shelf life. We had wondered how a dairy-based product lasted so long without spoiling.
The spokesperson added that the description of Elmlea as ‘creamy’ is the same way “one will find a ‘creamy mashed potato’ or a ‘creamy body butter’, as an adjective used to describe the product characteristics.” [Side note, do not try and put body butter on your apple pie].
In a year that has already thrown so much confusion at us – that American lawyer who said he wasn’t a cat but certainly looked like one, and a man named Colin Pidgeon having to deal with an actual pigeon on a Zoom call – this is just another bump in the long road to realising we actually know nothing about anything.