All the world’s a stage, but everyone’s too busy making dick jokes to notice. Shakespeare said that. It’s true: homo sapiens have been poking fun at the ol’ pork whistle since early man pointed at an oblong rock and screamed, “Penis!” Most recently, Twitter erupted in angst after one user posted a photo of what appeared to be a completely smooth Snickers bar. Per the internet at large, the bar was missing its signature “dick vein,” the hard layer of drizzled chocolate that typically adorns the top of the Snickers.
Snopes confirmed that the photo was a fake—but why are people so obsessed with the dick vein? Specifically, does the vein have any bearing on the flavor of a Snickers? To find out, we checked in with a food scientist.
The scientist, who asked to remain anonymous, explains that seeing a vein-free Snickers bar creates a sense of cognitive dissonance. You know you’re looking at a Snickers, but there’s something off. “If you see a smooth Snickers bar, you might think they’ve changed the texture of the bar overall,” the scientist says. “That’s a big part of the experience—you eat with your eyes. Ultimately, these are iconic brands, and people have an expectation of what an iconic brand should be. When you change something about an iconic brand, a consumer is going to be very sensitive to it.” In other words—if the bar is smooth on the outside, what does that mean for the inside of the bar you know and love?
The scientist also points out that the actual texture of the so-called vein impacts the “taste experience” and the way consumers perceive flavor. “If you were to taste a sugar solution where you have water, a sweetener, and acid, you’d perceive it one way,” they say. “But if you were to put the same flavor into a protein shake or into a yogurt, the structure of the components has changed.”
Think of it this way: If someone condensed a Snickers bar into a thin rectangle without changing its ingredients, that rectangle wouldn’t taste exactly like a standard Snickers. “All of this can impact flavor,” the scientist says. “It’s chemistry, chemical composition, and the way the flavor molecules distribute themselves in the ingredients in the product.” The vein also contributes to the bar’s mouthfeel—literally, the physical sensations that occur in your mouth as you take a bite.
Ultimately, flavor is a delicate balance between chemistry and psychology. And while the veins aren’t going anywhere—the official Snickers Twitter account has confirmed that the “veins remain”—it’s worth taking an extra moment to appreciate the more delicate qualities of a Peckers bar. Er, Snickers bar.