Perhaps I was born with the need to fall upon ‘bargains’ like a bird of prey upon its ‘prey’.
I was brought up in the 60s, post war, but not yet post poor. In truth, bargains did not exist back then. There were no reductions for ‘sell-by-date’ as there was no defined date at which something was ‘best before’. The rule of thumb was that if it stunk to high heaven, was mushy to the touch, ticked all the boxes of ‘rank’, it was not good to consume. Sometimes we consumed it anyway and this steadied our constitution.
I heard the rumour that spicy food was invented to hide the taste of food that was well into the dead zone. In northern England, there was no such thing as spices and, during the mini ice-age that descended upon Yorkshire during my childhood, there was little chance of anything ‘going over’.
The early part of my life was spent eating food that was only seasoned by conservative smatterings of salt and pepper. Only when I reached the age of sixteen did I discover the joy of curry.
No, that’s not fully true. My elder sister went to work at a store called Marks and Spencer. This was a posh store frequented by those people who had the money to indulge their indulgences. The food was so expensive that it was light years away from any diet that we could ever expect to participate in. That was when I first heard the term, ‘waste’.
Waste was the stuff that hadn’t been sold. It was the foodstuff that was likely to go off if it were to be saved over the weekend. And good old M&S thought it a good idea to give it to their employees for a very reasonable price. So followed lasagnes, chilli con carne, curries, pheasant pies and a whole range of sweet dishes most men had never previously dreamt of. Our family table became a cornucopia of all things tasty and exotic. My cup runneth over.
My love of good food continued alongside my love of a ‘bargain’. So when some bright spark in Europe decided that it was a good idea to label foods with ‘best before’ a whole frontier of bargains was suddenly declared officially open. Could life get any better?
As an older shopper I no longer have the desire for a bargain (he lies). No, I have. I just don’t tell any body. Actually, again that is an untruth. I love bargains especially when they come from relatively expensive stores. And it is that completion of the circle that brings around Marks and Spencer once more.
My town is moderately wealthy with lots of silver surfers who are often really quite wealthy. Some time ago, I started to adjust my shopping times in order to slide into the ‘best before’ reduction slots. This allowed me to grab a bargain whilst also playing the role of a modern hunter-gatherer. Things were going well until the ‘silver surfers’ began to turn up.
Before long the aisles of M&S were crowded with the trolleys of these affluent pre-dead. They had a certain way of pushing their trolleys by bending over them and using the potential energy of a promised fall to propel the shopping vehicle forward. They would wait in aisles waiting for the moment to pounce, and boy could they pounce. Once infront of the food reductions, a number of them would block off the entrance to ‘bargainsville’ and pick away at their leisure before leaving with a ridiculously and amoral amount of ‘best before’ at ridiculously and unethically low prices.
The world had turned.
Farewell all that is good with waste.