Friday, January 05, 2007

Super supermarkets

When I'm in the UK, I love going to the supermarket (and yes, as discussed elsewhere, I do know I need to get out more). But this trip I've been consciously avoiding going, feeling I ought wherever possible to visit local shops and farmers' markets instead.

Anyway, Mum and Dad were going to Waitrose, my fave supermarket, today, so I decided we could justify joining them in the interests of research (but not before I'd given them a little lecture about finding a good local farm shop now they live in the countryside. God, how annoying I must be to have around sometimes). I'd also seen ads from Waitrose last time I was here offering locally produced goods in specific areas, helping consumers with the shop local thing, so, you know, they're the lesser of the evils, anyway.

Well, it was a bit night-and-day compared to good old Pecks of Narrowsburg. Waitrose offer an eco-friendly organic and/or fairtrade alternative or three to almost-everything - deodorant, biodegradable nappy bags, dried fruit and nuts, these things called e-cloths my Mum uses to clean the bathroom - I don't know how they work, but you don't need to use any cleaning products with them at all, baby bottom cream, shampoo, hairspray, muesli, yoghurt, meat, fish, bread, wine, fruit and veg, cleaning products, laundry detergent, tea, coffee, chocolate...and so on. Also in the fresh produce section all the British-grown stuff is helpfully flagged with a nice Union Jack so you can spot your local(ish) produce at 50 paces. Amazing. (Just to point out, it isn't an homogenously affluent area catering only to rich middle class people, so that isn't an excuse).

It wasn't quite as gratifying an experience as the organic-only Cirencester Organic Farm shop I blogged about a week or so ago (still one of the best shopping experiences I've had in years - like being able to get really drunk without getting a hangover because you can't go wrong, it's all organic) but it really wasn't bad. In fact, I found myself wondering if Waitrose isn't actually doing more good then harm by making all this stuff so readily available, even if it is a supermarket. (The Times had an article about exactly this yesterday, but it's inconclusive.)

God, it'd be so easy to be good if I lived in England (wouldn't have to keep taking those really bad flights across the Atlantic, either).

Speaking of locally produced food, by the way, the two main political parties in the UK have decided to make this a political issue. The head Conservative bloke, David Cameron, was asking on the radio on the way back from the supermarket why the army and British schools don't buy British food - they're huge markets. The scary thing about this is I find myself agreeing with the Tory leader. A slippery slope?

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At 6:47 PM , Blogger Jonathan said...

Lots of people are agreeing with the leader of the Conservatives these days - certainly more than are agreeing with a certain Mr Blair. :o)


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