Advantages Nearly everything is ready-prepared.
Disadvantages Nearly everything is ready-prepared, transported by air and expensive.
I had to go and get some dog food yesterday morning. Right next door to the pet shop is a new Marks and Spencer's Foodhall and, joy of joys, I had £20 of M&S vouchers which I thought would minimise the damage that I was bound to do to my credit card. Peter was coming along to heft the sacks of dog food, so I reckoned I'd be spending a fortune.I should have been warned when I saw that there were piles of baskets at the door, but I had to go hunting for a trolley. They obviously weren't expecting me to buy a great deal. I finally found a Zimmer-frame-with-basket trolley and we headed off for the first aisle.
Rounding the corner our eyes were drawn to the display of colourful vegetables. Runner beans, peas, sweetcorn were all elegantly presented and, considering that they had come from Kenya, they looked remarkably fresh. My heart sank at the thought of the miles they'd travelled and the pollution caused by the air transport. It sank again when I looked at the prices: £1.69 for a handful of beans which would just make a decent helping for two of us and similar prices for all the other vegetables in this display. The range of imported and prepared vegetables was extensive, but they were not what I was looking for.Where were the more mundane vegetables then? Well, they were behind us. The layout of the store meant that we wouldn't have found them if we hadn't gone looking for them. The loose sprouts, carrots and other seasonal vegetables were all attractively presented and the quality was reasonable if not brilliant. Peter picked up a couple of baking potatoes for a light lunch. Both proved to be bruised when I washed and prepared them – suggesting that they'd been handled roughly at some point. At 91p for two potatoes I expected rather better.
Like the vast majority of sellers of vegetables Marks & Spencer fall into the trap of believing that they must be clean. Most root vegetables deteriorate when they meet the light and a little dirt is good protection. These vegetables were aggressively clean and more expensive than I would expect to find in what is, after all, basically a supermarket.I was impressed by the encouragement given to people to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. There were prominent signs showing that seven strawberries would make a portion; that just a few chunks of pineapples or apricots would count as another. I was almost upset at the cynical little voice in my head which pointed out that there were far cheaper ways of eating a portion of fruit or vegetables and ones which didn't involve eating imported food. These weren't so well marked though.
Peter loves pineapple and I did buy a pack of prepared chunks. My original intention was that he would enjoy it on his cereal in the morning, but we decided to have it at lunchtime. The pack weighed 240g or about 8½oz if you still think in pounds, shillings and pence. At a pinch it would have sufficed on its own, but it was improved by the addition of a sliced banana.
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