SAINSBURY’S ON-THE-GO HONEY AND MUSTARD CHICKEN WRAP

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By Mansour Chow, jet-setter and coach-getter

On Friday, I took a coach to Bristol with my wife. Before the journey commenced, my wife grabbed some sandwiches from Sainsbury’s from their aptly named ‘On-the-Go’ range.

I suppose the range is aptly named for the circumstances of her purchase, but I can’t speak for all purchases. Then again, in a sense, unless we’re staying perfectly still, aren’t we always on-the-go? And even if we’re staying still, we’re still burning calories, our hearts are still beating, our bodily organs are still functioning, unless we’re dead, of course.

Okay, then, let’s try to come up with some sort of truism to summarise these thoughts. Hmm, how about this: we’re basically all on-the-go unless we’re dead.

But come to think of it, even when we’re dead, we’re kind of on-the-go, in that our flesh and organs are still subject to decomposition. And for up to a few days after our brain and heart have given up on us, our skin cells remain alive. Furthermore, once the brain goes, that part of it that sent a signal to our sphincter to stay closed (until we need it to open at a time of our choosing) disappears, meaning we actually urinate when dead. We can also fart and shit, and some people (your mum, for example) even ejaculate.

But for the sake of a pretty non-existent argument (until I raised it), let’s just say that we’re not on-the-go when we’re dead. Let’s also say that some idiots create a range of sandwiches aimed at dead people, and they give that range the name ‘On-the-Go’. Can we all please agree that that would be ridiculous? Firstly, you’d normally have to go to the dead people in order to have any chance of selling the sandwiches. And even then you still wouldn’t be able to sell sandwiches to them, because they’d be dead. Dead people don’t choose to do anything because they’re no longer capable of making a choice. Only the most ludicrously determinist philosophers would say that there’s little or no difference between a dead person and a living person in terms of choice making capacity.

I’m confident, if you didn’t already agree before, that you’ll now almost certainly agree that a sandwich range aimed at dead people would be a really fruitless venture. Even a fruit range aimed at dead people would be a fruitless venture.

I think we just have to be honest about people who are no longer living. They are no longer masters of their domain, if they ever were. They have no domain. To put it simply, dead people are, well, dead. It’s no good saying that they’re still looking over you, because they’re not. Their eyes no longer send signals to the brain; the brain no longer receives signals from the eyes. And while we’re at it, can we please agree that it’s ridiculous and idiotic to think that there’s an afterlife. I mean, what’s the point in life if there’s an afterlife?

One of the sandwiches my wife purchased from this on-the-go range was a honey and mustard chicken wrap. Once the coach had departed and we felt marginally more settled (which was about as settled as we were ever going to be), we opened that sandwich, having ourselves half a wrap each (there are two half-wraps in a pack).

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Unable to find image of actual product under review. Here’s something vaguely similar.

Midway through eating the wrap, we both stopped for a moment to discuss how utterly disappointing the sandwich was. It was, as I told Sainsbury’s via tweet, “one of the most underwhelming experiences of my life”.

Why, you may ask, did I feel the need to tell Sainsbury’s of my experience eating their sandwich? Mainly because I was a bit bored and it would help to fill the time, but also because that’s what people do these days, isn’t it? They just whine to huge companies who are so worried about their reputation that they usually just hand over money or vouchers to you to try to make you feel better. Complaining to companies via Twitter is now en vogue. I could write an entire essay about this form of societal decay, but now is not the time. However, for a quick comfort break from the heavy intellectual themes of this essay, here are what I consider to be good examples of the sort of complaints via Twitter I am referring to:

tweet simonTweet TusharTweet Mansourtweet Zeus

And we’re back. Where were we? Oh, do keep up! We were at the point where I told you that I had complained via Twitter to Sainsbury’s about their fucking rubbish sandwich.

Steven was the first one to reply. He was “sorry” I didn’t enjoy the wrap or at least that what’s he told me, and he wanted to know more about why I didn’t like it. About a minute before I received Steven’s message, I had actually written a further message to Sainsbury’s, adding the Average Food Blog Twitter handle, saying:

tweet Mansour 2

Somehow though, Steven’s message replenished some added hope in humanity, that someone – even if it was simply because they were being paid to – actually cared enough to ask me more about my abject experience, as if perhaps they might want to do something to cheer me from my folly. Thanks to Steve, I managed to pluck back up enough strength from the depletion that eating that wrap caused me, in order to tell him my thoughts.

Basically, it didn’t taste of anything. It tasted how I imagine most sandwiches would taste if I smoked 100 cigarettes a day for 50 years. I don’t smoke, by the way, only the odd one on a night out – a sort of cheeky cigarette when I’m tipsy or drunk. But I’m not a smoker per se.

There was no detectable mustard taste to it. In fact, there was no detectable taste for any of the ingredients. The chicken just about had the texture of chicken, but none of the flavour. I’m ashamed to say that my wife and I still ate it all which kind of reminds me of the joke in Annie Hall at the start about the two old women eating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrxlfvI17oY

Technically I wrote all that in a serious of tweets and had missed out the word ‘no’ in one of the tweets (I’ve also tidied it up a bit here and there too), but I’m relatively confident they could read between the lines.

Angie from Sainsbury’s responded three hours later offering me a refund. But I was curious. Had she ever tried the sandwich? Did she agree with me? I wanted to know whether she had tasted this sandwich and, if so, what she thought, so I asked via another tweet.

Ewan responded saying, “I can’t speak for Angie but I personally love it!” And he re-offered me a refund.

Ewan tweet

Well, after Ewan’s response, I needed to know more. How could he love it? There is really nothing to love about it. I mean, I can see how someone might love it. For example, if it became available to them during a famine. But aside from those sorts of exceptional and unrealistic scenarios, I couldn’t get my head around how he could love such a shit sandwich.

The only possible benefit of the existence of this sandwich is that the phrase ‘shit sandwich’ may have been coined as a consequence of eating it. But to love the sandwich, that is whole other thing. What kind of sick and twisted individual would one have to be in order to actually love it? What low expectations would someone have to have to allow them to enjoy eating that sandwich? As I contemplated the latter question, I actually felt a bit sorry for Ewan.

But I still couldn’t let it rest. I needed to know what he liked about it and what score he would give it out of ten. So I asked him. But given that I had originally been asking Angie about her opinion on it, I asked him whether he could ask her too.

Roughly five and a half hours later, Aisha replied to say that her colleagues weren’t in and that she’d never tried the wrap. And she offered another refund. But this had turned into something far more important than the money. I needed to try and get my head around how Ewan could like such an appalling sandwich.

Over nine hours later, I asked Aisha if they were in the office and if she could ask again. And then Ewan replied:

I’ve spoken to Angie and she said she loves the sweetness mixed with the savoury flavour of the mustard. Along with some Kettle Chips and a bottle of Lucozade, it would be a 10/10 meal deal. I personally love mustard with chicken, I think it’s a great combo along with a bottle of Irn Bru and original Pringles, it would be a 8.5/10!”

At first, I was not sure what to make of this reply nor was I sure what to make of Ewan’s professed love of such a terrible sandwich or Angie’s high appreciation for it. But I think I am beginning to come to terms with these matters.

On the one hand, I remain terribly troubled that there are people that exist who enjoy this sandwich. On the other hand, they are the sort of people who, when asked to do something simple like rate a sandwich out of ten, instead rate a meal deal which incorporates the sandwich.

All this, unfortunately, still leaves me and my wife with the dreadful memory of eating such a terribly disappointing sandwich. Yes, we can at least take some solace in the fact that we have much better sandwich taste than Ewan and Angie, and that we will be getting a gift card sent to our home address (presumably for the cost of the sandwich), but I don’t think the wretched experience of eating that sandwich will ever fade from our memories.

To be fair, I feel worse for my wife. Years from now, she will keep seeing people who look familiar to her, perhaps on a bus or on a train. She will wonder why that person seems familiar and how she might know them. And then she will suddenly work it out – that person resembles the one who sold her the On-the-Go Honey and Mustard Chicken Wrap.

In No Longer Human, Osamu Dazai writes:

It was a cold autumn night. I was waiting at a sushi stall back of the Ginza for Tsuneko (that, as I recall, was her name, but the memory is too blurred for me to be sure: I am the sort of person who can forget even the name of the woman with whom he attempted suicide) to get off from work.

The sushi I was eating had nothing to recommend it. Why, when I have forgotten her name, should I be able to remember so clearly how bad the sushi tasted? And I can recall with absolute clarity the close-cropped head of the old man his face was like a snake’s wagging from side-to-side as he made the sushi, trying to create the illusion that he was a real expert.

It has happened to me two or three times since that I have seen on the streetcar what seemed to be a familiar face and wondered who it was, only to realize with a start that the person opposite me looked like the old man from the sushi stall.

Now, when her name and even her face are fading from my memory, for me to be able to remember that old man’s face so accurately I could draw it, is surely a proof of how bad the sushi was and how it chilled and distressed me.”

We will remain chilled and distressed for evermore.

Sainsbury’s On-the-Go Honey & Mustard Chicken Wrap

0/10

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CLUB SANDWICH

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Club sandwich: the publicity image

If nothing else, dear handful of readers, I do hope Average Food Blog, when in full flow, has proved that mediocre foods can at times transcend their mediocrity and provide a stunning experience.

This is something no club sandwich anywhere has ever done.

There is mediocrity and there is mediocrity, and the club sandwich represents the most soul-sapping sort of foodstuff available. It is the menu option offered by lobotomised pseudo-chefs snorting coke in the back tooled up with the note they robbed off the last club sandwich eater.

Recently, I have eaten two club sandwiches. This, admittedly, says as much about me and my current mental state as the kitchen coke fiends mentioned above.

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Club sandwich: the half-eaten truth

This plate-based melee of proteins and carbs is the Cinderella’s ball of blandness, never anything but spectacularly disappointing. Crap meats between toasted but still slightly-soggy bread, a straggling bit of lettuce and tomato offering a pale parody of health food as you continue your headlong plunge into the grave selecting this consumable, when there could potentially, possibly, be art and beauty all around you.

You’d think that the few slightly-overdone chips would be the end of the insult, but oh no. The stick. The wooden stick of the type only associated with plant pots and club sandwiches, holding this shitshow together. Note to club sandwich-offerers of the world: this is not a gourmet flourish.

I would go as far to conclude that the club sandwich is not even a food; merely a reminder that, beneath our t-shirts and hair-cuts and music tastes and football fandom and affected interest in experimental theatre we are all average; so damn average.

Stop the tape, this is done.

Club Sandwich: [no rating]

UNCLE BEN’S GOLDEN VEGETABLE RICE

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avuncular or what?

I have a fair few uncles. My mum has three brothers – Ian, Neil and Richard. And my dad has two sisters, both of whom have husbands*. Which makes five uncles.

Or six, if you count Ben.

Ben looks like a nice, avuncular bloke, albeit with the wrong amount of melanin to conceivably be my uncle in any genetic sense. I guess he could be my uncle by marriage, or adoption. But he isn’t. I’ve never even met him. Hell, I’m not even sure if he exists.

All I know is that Uncle Ben, or some entity purporting to operate on his behalf, makes a decent packet of parboiled, microwaveable rice.

Making rice from scratch, you see, is a bit of a ball ache. Obviously I have never made it from scratch from scratch, in the sense of going to the paddy fields and husking it myself; I mean that actually going to the trouble of boiling rice oneself isn’t much fun. For starters, it takes absolutely ages. And it leaves a vaguely repulsive sticky white scum in the pan. And if you want all peas and sweetcorn and stuff in it, you have to PUT THEM IN YOURSELF! The indignity.

Unless you have Uncy-B to do it all for you, that is.

Now I’m not claiming that Uncle Ben’s Golden Vegetable rice is a great dish. It tastes like what it is – rice with vegetables. It’s not exactly ‘golden’ – more a sort of urinous yellowy colour – and it’s not especially flavoursome. A quick interweb search reveals that the dish actually has only a very modest number of additives, although one of the ingredients is genuinely listed as ‘a bit of UNCLE BEN’S® know-how’ which, on some less-than-charitable interpretations, sounds vaguely ominous and perhaps even euphemistic. It really does seem to be almost as healthy as if you’d knocked the dish up yourself, it’s just that Uncy-B has gone to the trouble of doing it for you.

Uncle Ben’s Golden Vegetable Rice is, in short, comfort in a packet. It’s not going to set the world alight, but frankly, if you are expecting macrocosmic pyrotechnics from a packet of rice, you’d best take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. It does it’s job. It’s adequate. It’s a 2:1 from a Russell Group university.

Uncle Ben’s Golden Vegetable Rice: 7/10

*or ex-husbands. Let’s not go there.

 

ELITE CRACKERS

Elite crackers

There’s a lot of talk about the elites these days. It’s often pejorative, and mostly comes from either Owen Jones or Nigel Farage.

But Elite crackers, found across the Mediterranean nations, are the kind of elite even they might publicly get behind, perhaps even without an appearance fee.

These are modestly-priced cracker for the 99%, and considering their limited constituent parts, represent something of a triumph in the ranks of Average Food.

A common criticism levelled at cracker makers is that they lazily, unimaginatively get by on their crack, while ignoring the possibility of a greater range of notable characteristics. This is not the case among the skilled bakers, nay artisans, of the Elite brand. This cracker transcends crack.

There is an entire range of flavours, incorporating semi-natural and entirely-synthesised ingredients heavily focused around herbs, seeds and cheeses, and the sub-types I have sampled have all convinced. They are moreish, one might even be bold enough to postulate.

These snacks arrive in simple packaging, not flaunting themselves in a chauffeur-driven blacked-out Mercedes, but make no mistake, they represent a low-end luxury of sorts.

You can mark me down as a full-blooded supporter of Elite-ism.

9/10

BAI ANTIOXIDANT INFUSION: KULA WATERMELON

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Nobody knows what ‘Bai Antioxidant Infusion’ means; least of all its makers.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped them.

This drink is absolutely disgusting. Working off the strange mouth-drying sensation that Oasis fruit beverages do so well despite their liquid form, Bai Antioxidant Infusion takes the reigns and rides that horse off a cliff.

Watermelons are nice. Most teas are nice. This is nice hung, drawn and bottled, and all for well over £2. I can’t begin to work out how they could’ve fucked up a theoretically simple beverage so absolutely.

Naturally, I can only write about my experiences with the kula (again, meaning unknown) watermelon model. The other fruit flavours in the range may well be delicious. But just because the possibility of a thing exists, doesn’t make it in any way likely.

To make matters considerably worse, the label features a completely nonsensical story about Robin Hood in the most afterthought piece of narrative branding the world has ever had inflicted upon it – see below.

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That’s right, the marketing team behind Bai Antioxidant are advocating for its product to be made illegal. Edgy. Banter. Both. Or Something.

Given that is a company that is shifting enough units to justify a Super Bowl commercial starring Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken, I can safely say I understand the world less than ever.

If this is what antioxidants are all about, then I’m throwing my hat in with the oxidants.

TASTE/ EXPERIENCE: 1/10

TASTE/ EXPERIENCE + MARKETING: -5/10

PINGVIN LÆKKERMIXEN

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Average Food Blog does not shy away from niche international foodstuffs, and after a Danish friend left a half-finished bag of these Scandi snacks in my home, it provided a perfect opportunity to slip back into a subgenre of mediocre food writing we know so well.

First things first: on the packaging reads the words ‘Blød SKUM’. This means ‘blood SCUM’, and I have no desire to hear the views of either a) Google Translate or b) Danes as a means of proving me otherwise.

The pingvin after which these sweets are so named is also illustrated on said packaging, taking on a downright threatening pose. Armed with knife and fork, instruments of no traditional role in the eating of liquorice sweets, it is a blatant admission that the blood scum in question is of human origin.

As it transpires, the liquorice/blood scum mix is very pleasant.

I am an unashamed Liquorice Allsort fan, against all whims of fashion and good taste, and despite the addition of blood scum, these are very much playing on a similar stage. In fact, with all due respect to Bassett’s, the murderous polar bird sweets are the headliners, to Allsorts’ mid-afternoon set.

There is a broader palette of flavours here, from a deeper, more oaky liquorice than the British tongue is quite used to, to the tang of fruit. The sugary bits are more subtle than Bassett’s, more an exciting courtship than a hook-up in a pub toilet.

While this is not a Euro sweetmeat selection on a par with Isleri + Eurocrem or even Salam de Biscuiti, it is a solid, varied and worthy effort from our north European neighbours. Ultimately, though, not one for the squeamish.

7/10

TESCO 7 CHEESE SELECTION PACK

7-cheese

 

Guest blog by Dan Simpson

 

A cheeseboard at Christmas is de rigueur these days, and the supermarkets want to make it easy for you by offering a convenient cheese selection pack. Why spend two minutes choosing your own cheeses from the same shelves for a lovingly custom-made cheeseboard when you can just buy this and be done with it? I’ve eaten three of these atrocities over the holidays, and I’ll tell you why.

I have attempted to write individual reviews of the seven cheeses on offer in this selection: a difficult task, given that were you to spear a bit of any of these cheeses at random, you would not be able to distinguish one from another. The box says to “Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow flavours to develop” – though you needn’t bother, since the flavours develop like a poorly-taken low-light night-time photograph: you wonder why you even bothered in the first place.

Brie

Brie is a bad karaoke version of cheese: the coward’s Camembert. And Camembert is itself a spineless cop out in the face of Vacherin. To choose Brie is to say: I don’t know what I’m doing, and I despise taste. But we have not chosen Brie: it has been chosen for us in this box of cheese-approximations. Which is appropriate, given your decision to buy this selection in the first place.

Cheddar

Some will say that cheddar – the most popular and, yes, often blandest of British cheeses – deserves no place on a civilised cheeseboard. Those people are snobs, and wrong: an aged cheddar, full of flavoursome bite and crunchy tyrosine crystals, is a strong part of the line-up, holding its own against the blues and soft Frenches. This cheddar is not that. This is a disgrace: not just to cheddar, but to all cheese.

Red Leicester

Indistinguishable from the cheddar, aside from the highlighter-pen-neon orange.

Edam

When chewing on this theoretically hard cheese, all rubber texture and polybutadiene taste, you may be forgiven for thinking that you forgot to remove the plastic that each of these cheeses comes vacuum-sealed in. Looking down to check and realising that no, this is it, this is the experience of this cheese, it may cross your mind to fish the packaging out of the bin and eat that instead.

Stilton

This is acceptable, in the way that Stilton often is. It tastes like a blue cheese: no more, no less. Your cheese selection is in trouble if this is the best thing on offer.

Austrian smoke flavoured processed cheese

This cheese doesn’t even have a proper name, merely a description of what it is. It’s an obvious joke told by an observational comic – with a bad Austrian accent designed to cover the deficiency of thought behind it. Adding ‘Austrian’ to the name to give it some continental gravitas is a superficial marketing trick no one is fooled by. And, given what Tesco have already done to Edam and Brie here, I can’t blame the EU for wanting nothing more to do with us.

Wensleydale with Cranberries

Grow up and buy some chutneys, and allow people to decide what fruit-flavours they want with their cheese – instead of foisting dried-up bits of cranberries into our mouths, which have the consistency and appeal of dead flies.

Summary

The word ‘selection’ in this product is a lie – it implies that thought and care has gone into the choosing of these cheeses. This is a magnificent smorgasbord of sub-mediocrity, adding up to much less than the sum of their parts. A cheeseboard can be a glorious showstopper: a bountiful overflowing of colours and shapes, textures and taste. Thoughtlessly bunging out this greyed-out selection box wastes that potential, and makes a mockery of indulgence at Christmas. Am I saying that this cheese selection has the power to singlehandedly ruin Christmas? Bitter experience says: yes.

TESCO 7 CHEESE SELECTION PACK: 7/10*

*It’s still cheese, and cheese is always welcome