You know that person on Twitter who puts ‘vegan’ or ‘communist’ or ‘activist’ under their name? Or that person on Facebook who constantly assails you with their threepenny’s worth regarding the issues du jour? Well, there’s every chance that such a person is a decent, principled specimen who is merely standing up for what they believe in, and that’s fine. But there is also every chance that they are a virtue-signalling narcissist who cares more about how they are perceived than they do about Peruvian quince farmers or the internecine wars of Bougainville.
Pret a Manger, or ‘Pret’ as the kidz on da street call it, clearly falls into the latter camp. They are more concerned with advertising their virtue than they are with producing decent food. Every item of Pret produce comes emblazoned with proclamations of self-ascribed moral rectitude: sandwiches are ‘lovingly handmade throughout the day’ and are ‘free of obscure chemicals’. Walking into Pret is a bit like entering a ‘safe space’ at Goldsmiths College, except that the enemies in this case are concentrated juices rather than Zionists.
Pret is adamant that none of their comestibles are produced in ‘factories’. This proclamation is doubtless intended as some sort of badge of artisanal wholesomeness; however, at the risk of putting the ‘anal’ into ‘artisanal’, AFB suspects that this is a matter of semantics. For what exactly is a ‘factory’? My dictionary defines it as a ‘building or place where products are made for commercial purposes’. Which is exactly what Pret is. What Pret surely means by this statement, however, is probably something more along the lines of ‘made in-house’ by humans as opposed to machines. It’s bizarre, then, that in spite of the apparently ‘handmade’, individual quality of their sandwiches, every item tastes the same, no matter which branch you walk into, from Dartmouth to Darlington. Who makes these things? Robots? Or is the procedure so tightly-controlled and administered that it may as well be a ‘factory’ anyway. Touché, Pret, touché. You are clearly no match for a semi-employed food blogger with a masters in Philosophy.
Now, if the taste of Pret’s food was as beyond-reproach as their ethics, then this would all be moot. AFB can forgive most things if it results in good food. This is why we barbecue kids.* However, me thinks Pret doth protest too much, for their sandwiches are often not particularly ‘fresh’ at all, and I have, on a number of occasions, been shocked and appalled at the stale nature of their croissants (a first-world problem, granted). Their smoked salmon sandwiches also all-too-often have those horrible grey ‘salmony’ bits in them.
Look. Pret is kind of adequate. Most of their items are not disgusting. But every time I go in there a little piece of me dies. Which may be a good or bad thing, depending on where you stand regarding (a) me, and (b) death.
*RELAX! We’re talking baby goats, not humans!**
**RELAX! I don’t eat baby goats (or humans). I just like shit jokes.