Since they took over what used to be the local Somerfield, local shopping has become so much more pleasurable. Sure, I love to use the local stores – and Greens Health Food Shop in particular – but shopping at Waitrose is such a civilised experience.
It is cool, calm and collected with relaxed, helpful staff and a real variety of produce – both exotic and every day.
So, when I saw the advert asking for applications to take part in an ‘accompanied shop’, I jumped at the chance.
My initial understanding was that it would be a ‘free’ shop and I had visions of Dale Winton and Supermarket Sweep as I made my way down the organic meat aisle using my widespread arms to hoover up antibiotic-free, fairtrade consumables.
However, as it transpired, I was followed around by the silent Sue, who took a lot of notes at my various moments of indecision or calculation. At times it was a little unnerving as she scribbled down comments on my selections.
I think the main reason I was chosen for the gig was because I do a lot of shopping for some very different dietary requirements. I have teenagers who need to be tempted with delicacies that will encourage them to stray from their traditional foodstuffs of pizza and pasta. But I also have my own predilection for avoiding all foods containing yeast, processed wheat and sugar, which precludes a whole raft of pre-prepared ready meals. And then there is my regular visitor who follows a vegans diet. (Apostrophe deliberately not used for keyword purposes – before you tut about my punctuation.)
So, just to recap, that’s no meat, no eggs, no fish, no dairy, no wheat, no sugar, no yeast – you can see the problem.
The adults tend to eat a lot of vegetables and pulses, which the kids would find abhorrent.
To be honest, when I was first introduced to the idea of a vegan diet, I thought I would starve. But, whilst there is no way I could become a full-time vegan, due to my love of a nice little lamb chop from time to time (organic, of course), I have discovered a whole range of meals that the old me would never have considered. Wild rice, couscous, quinoa, sweet potato noodles, corn pasta, bulgar wheat, pearl barley and the ubiquitous lentil. They all provide a nutritious and delicious base to a variety of recipes which can be adapted to suit both the vegan and the carnivore.
As a result, I spend a lot of time scouring the ingredients in the deli section, working out who can – or will – or might be persuaded to – consume unusual combinations of falafals and stuffed vineleaves and the like. This is what I love about my local Waitrose – even though it is a fairly small supermarket, it has a big range of interesting products from all over the world designed to spice up the standard meat and two veg of the normal British weekday dinner.
The reason they indulge in these little experiments is to assess ways in which they can improve customer service, store lay-out and product placement, and the appeal of current stock.
It was great to be able to chat to Sue afterwards about my reasoning for choosing one item over another and for not selecting from the fresh produce stand – I hadn’t even noticed the fresh fish counter! To be able to put forward my pet bugbears like not putting sugar in the tomato pasta sauce, not putting egg or milk into all the deli products and producing vegetarian/vegan friendly ready meals that don’t automatically include cheese was a great opportunity to vent a major frustration.
And then to get £30 off my next shop.
What’s not to like?