“The art of shopping”

06 October 2019, 09:37 am
Fine Food by Charles Campion

Having successfully negotiated a summer that has seen us giving Boris the benefit of the doubt, we are now head down and tail up peddling hard in the race towards Christmas.

Times, (and the retail environment) are a-changin’ and for once it is the supermarkets that are paying the price for faulty planning.

Once upon a time Tesco’s Metro stores were a new and convenient way to do the family shop. But the summer of 2019 has seen a programme of cutbacks. It’s ironic, but earnest food writers have long espoused switching away from the jumbo weekly shop to buying fresh food more frequently – a couple of meals at a time. Tesco was faced with the switch from once-weekly shoppers to devotees of convenience stores. This has meant a good deal of “simplifying”, ”restructuring”,
and thousands of redundancies in the Metro estate.

The way we shop now is changing. Elderly readers may well remember grocers shops in the 1950 and 60s as places where you could ask the helpful chap in a brown coat for half a pound of raisins and watch him fill one of those blue paper bags before folding it closed. Sadly, we are unlikely to return to the kind of service made famous by Arkwright (AKA Ronny Barker). But some of the values from Open All Hours are unsettlingly near the mark. We live in a world that is reappraising everything from plastic packaging to eco-friendly paper coffee cups and straws. Is it time to consider Arkwright’s paper bags? Is it time to consider the merits of buying grocery staples from bulk?

We all know that the customer is always right and currently that same customer is doing his or her share of pondering. Bring back the blue paper bags. People who have their own hens are understandably proud of their eggs and will happily bore all-comers about the deep orange yolks and firm whites. The egg section in supermarkets has had to become inventive. Selling eggs in ten egg packs; or blue shelled eggs; or very brown eggs; or varied sizes in the same packs… and now you can buy pullets’ eggs – the hen fruit of young birds and about one third the size of the standard eggs. The PR spin suggests that pullet’s eggs are prized by chefs because each contains less white and more yolk. Pullets eggs are also a seasonal treat (the young birds only lay for so long before they become large birds and start a lifetime’s full bore production). Despite these complications pullet’s eggs now command a premium and sell in packs of four for about 50p an egg. Because of their lack of size you’ll need to allow a dozen for each omelette.

Dean and Danny Thomas are Cornishmen that fly the Black and White flag of St Piran over the burger and burrito restaurant they opened near Saltash. So far so good, but when it came to the name they tripped up. The brothers called it “Foreign Muck” which turned out to be a sure way to incense the anti-racism lobby and the brothers found themselves embroiled in a storm in a media teacup. Who knew burritos had feelings?

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