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

food-to-go-sainsburys-600

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).

SainChickWrap2

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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GRANDE STARBUCKS AMERICANO COFFEE WITH A DASH OF MILK AND SUGAR IN A TAKE AWAY CUP

starbucks

Guest blog by Mansour Chow

Okay. Let’s get this part over with before I can truly begin.

Yes, it was from Starbucks.

I know. I know. It’s a company that thrived through an unethical and aggressive clustering model, opening multiple stores near independent businesses so that the overall share of coffee sales for the independent businesses drops significantly causing them to stagnate, or worse, to fold because they don’t have the vast resources to ride out the storm. Naomi Klein, in No Logo, describes it as this:

The idea is to saturate an area with stores until the coffee competition is so fierce that sales drop even in individual Starbucks outlets.”

It worked because, again, according to Klein:

“…while sales were slowing at individual stores, the total sales of all the chain’s stores combined continued to rise. Put another way, Starbucks the company was expanding its market while its individual outlets were losing market share, largely to other Starbucks outlets… but the chains’ aggressive strategy of market expansion has the added bonus of simultaneously taking out competitors.”

So, yeah, I bought the coffee from Starbucks: a company that, until the practice was exposed and became too controversial, undertook lease-poaching against independent coffee stores, offering higher rents to landlords under the noses of those independent businesses, causing closures and evictions for the independent coffee shop, only for it to quickly be replaced by a Starbucks.

We’re talking about Starbucks: a company which in 2012 had ten-year sales of 3bn in the UK, but paid only £8.5m in corporation tax (and nothing from 2008-2012). This is a company with *arguably opaque accounting practices, *arguably using creative accounting to give the impression that they’ve made losses in order not to pay corporation tax. A company that currently appears (*arguably) to be using the same sort of creative accounting to give the impression that they make less profit than they actually do in order to pay very little in corporation tax.

Yes, I know. Starbucks: a company that has only just starting paying the national living wage, significantly less than what the Living Wage Foundation recommends.

Yes, Starbucks: a company whose coffee is alleged to be extra-roasted (burnt) to disguise the poor quality of the beans. Starbucks, whose coffee frequently performs poorly in taste tests.

And yet I knew all that and still had a coffee there. What does that say about me? I’ll tell you what it says about me. It says I’m a piece of shit. Okay. I admit it. I’m a god damn piece of shit. What more do you want from me?

Oh, you want to talk about the takeaway cups? Well, good. So do I. Let’s talk about the takeaway cups. 

I know they can’t really be recycled. I know that Starbucks deliberately (*arguably) gives the impression to customers that the cups can be recycled, even when only two extremely specialist recycling plants in the UK can do it.

I knew all this and yet I still had my coffee in a takeaway cup anyway, even in that knowledge.

Okay? Are you happy? I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again. I’m a piece of shit. I’m scum. What more do you want from me? An apology? Okay, I’m sorry. I’m genuinely sorry. Are you happy now? Of course you’re not happy. Your kind will never be happy.

***

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can actually tell you about something far more important: the so-called warning on the cup. It reads:

Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.

Can you believe that? Let me write it again in case you don’t believe what you’ve just read.

Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.

Okay, I copied and pasted that one. So let me truly write it again (technically type it, but I think this qualifies as both nowadays, doesn’t it?).

Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.

The fucking cheek of those bastards. I mean, seriously. You know what I’m getting at, don’t you?

How they hell do they know I’m going to enjoy it?!  How dare they assume! I’ll be the bloody judge of whether I enjoy their beverage or not. I won’t have it suggested or NLPd into me. I won’t allow it, and I won’t stand for it. Capitalist pigs. 

Notice they say ‘extremely hot’. Extremely hot. Extremely hot, not just hot, but extremely hot. Fucking show-offs.

Well, if it’s extremely hot, then how the hell am I about to enjoy it? As far as I’m concerned, if it’s extremely hot then it’s too hot. And if it’s too hot then I’m not going to enjoy the fucking beverage.

And how the hell do they know it’s extremely hot? How do they know when I’ll choose to drink it? What if I wait for it to go cold? Then their fucking smug warning on their cup is a complete lie.

But it was a fucking lie anyway.

It’s all a lie. We have been raised in a consumerist society of blinkered and distorted vision. It creates idiots like me who buy coffee from unethical companies in cups that I know are bad for the environment. It confuses us into thinking we can’t make a difference. It throws doubt into our brains so we feel any actions to cause less harm, minimise risk or even do good are a drop in the ocean.

It’s the same system that tells us everyone can be a winner, but it’s all a fucking lie. I mean, look at me. Tell me honestly, do you really think someone like me can ever be a winner? Come on, just tell the truth. You couldn’t even say that with a smidgeon of conviction. Just be honest with me. I can take it. Exactly, I am a disgusting piece of shit and my existence is beyond worthless.

As for the coffee, I don’t think it’s as bad as snobs say.

Overall rating: 5/10

*Please don’t sue. I’m skint enough as it is

TESCO SALAD BAR-TYPE-THING SALADS

SALAD

A guest Average Food Blog by Mansour Chow

“When I acted like a liar, they called me a liar. When I acted like a rich man, they started the rumour I was rich. When I feigned indifference, they classed me as the indifferent type. But when I inadvertently groaned because I was really in pain, they started the rumour that I was faking suffering. The world is out of joint.”

So incredibly moved by recent books, articles and documentaries highlighting the environmental plight of our world, and the need to drastically change our lifestyles and replace the grossly unfair and corrupt capitalist system in order to save our planet, I’ve taken, over the last few months, to purchasing [mainly] vegan salads every lunch-break….

…from Tesco.

Hadouken! Take that capitalism!

Quinoa, couscous, falafel, beans, grains, olives, and some other salady shit. I should feel good about eating these salads, but they’re just so fucking uninspiring.

I imagine you weren’t so different from me once upon a time. I imagine (like it used to be for me) that eating lunch is probably one of the few things that you actually enjoy doing during your working day – that and leaving. Well, that used to me before I started eating these salads.

Okay, the editors have asked me to talk about some positives (they haven’t), so what I can I say? I can at least say that they generally keep me full and I’m getting more nutrients than I would have if I had continued my previous eating habits. But at what cost? Is this all there is for me now? Am I reduced to eating lunch forever-after in depressed resignation?

“The weak fear happiness itself. They can harm themselves on cotton wool. Sometimes they are wounded even by happiness.”

I’m awfully unhappy. And the only thing I’m happy about it is how much less guilt I feel for my happiness, you know, given that I don’t have any anymore.

These salads are ruining my life. I’m increasingly viewing my existence and all existence as completely meaningless, which rather negates bothering to eat these salads in the first place, or turning up to work, or boring you with this nonsense, or even bothering with anything.

“Whenever I was asked what I wanted my first impulse was to answer ‘Nothing.’ The thought went through my mind that it didn’t make any difference, that nothing was going to make me happy.”

The entire purpose to my existence has been stolen from me and replaced solely by my need to instruct you about how meaningless life is, and how nihilism is the only looking glass through which we should see the world. And, as I’m sure you’ll understand, this makes my argument self-refuting because I have created meaning to my life in that I see some meaning and importance to telling you how meaningless life is.

This is a very messy concept to deal with and certainly not one which provides me with any comfort. When I think more about my existential-nihilism (or is it nihilistic-existentialism?), it actually makes me feel that life is even more meaningless than I did before (which is weird because I didn’t know it was possible for something to be more meaningless than meaningless), and it only increases my desire to warn you all of this for your own good. I’m in a horrible, spinning mess of self-refutation. I can’t even say for sure that I’m even human anymore, or that I ever was.

This is all from eating those fucking vegan salads from Tesco. But at least I am single-handedly saving the world (not that there’s any point to that).

Overall rating: 7/10

“Everything passes. That is the one and only thing that I have thought resembled a truth in the society of human beings where I have dwelled up to now as in a burning hell. Everything passes.”

SEAFOOD STICKS (AKA CRABSTICKS) AND CHEDDAR CHEESE TOASTED SANDWICH

seafchedtoast

By Mansour Chow

Allow me, if I may, to review a concoction of my own creation. Please allow me this self indulgence; it’s important for my self-worth.

Recently I had “crab flavoured surimi sticks” with cheddar cheese in a wholemeal toasted sandwich. And it was bloody delicious.

Okay, okay, so it wasn’t fucking gourmet! What is this obsession with gourmet? Not everything has to be Michelin-starred to be enjoyable, you know. Sorry, it doesn’t contain rabbit meat or quinoa. Yes, obviously I’d rather eat a meal at Hawksmoor but I don’t know who you think you are turning your nose up at my creation.

What? You’re okay with salmon and cream cheese sandwiches yet you have the audacity to shake your head at my crab stick and cheddar cheese toasted sandwich? Well, go on. Keep it up. Keep that snide look on your face and I’ll fucking deck you. I’ll punch your bloody lights out, if that’s what you want. You want a fight with me? If you want a fight, I’ll give you a fight. I’ll fight you right fucking here if I have to. What have you ever created that you have the ilk to insult me like that? I’ll punch you in the groin and the face at the same time. I don’t care if it’s a low-blow. If you’ve got a problem with my sandwich then say it to my goddamn face. So what were you saying? Yeah, I thought so.

What makes this such a good meal is that it’s cheap, nutritious and very easy to make. All you need is a toaster (or a grill), some cheddar cheese, maybe some flora or mayonnaise (I used my housemate’s Flora in my sandwich – remember: stealing is cheaper than buying) and some crab flavoured bites (I used about six but you do what you fucking like, I’m not your mother).

LOVELY REAL-LIFE PHOTO MONTAGE:

IMG_1614IMG_1615

What really pushes this meal up an echelon is its accessibility. It’s a meal for the Everyman. You want an unnecessary analogy about it? Okay, here you go. It’s the school-lunchtime equivalent of playing football with your mates using a tennis ball. Yeah, it’s not as good as a football, but it will do, especially if you’ve forgotten to bring a ball or you don’t have the money for a football (or you’re too lazy to go and get one).

If you don’t have the money and you’re that desperate for a proper football, I suppose you can always sell some of your stupid pogs or tazos (or whatever you kids do these days), or you can complain to your mum that everyone has a football, and, later, cry your bloody eyes out because she got you a Sondico instead of a Mitre Delta.

“I’m not bringing a fucking Sondico in to school with me, mum. Do you think I’m some sort of cunt? They’ll all bully me,” you might say. “It’s bad enough that I’m walking around in fucking Clarks when all my mates are wearing Kickers, but now you want me to bring a fucking Sondico in. Do I have cunt written on my forehead? I’m calling social services. This is fucking abuse if you expect me to come to school with a fucking Sondico,” you’d be pertinent to add.

Your mum would then probably say something about being ungrateful and unreasonable and about how much she works and how hard she tries to support you and how she wishes you’d appreciate how difficult it is for her. “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” she’d finish with, which would really set you off.

“I know money doesn’t grow on trees,” you’d say. “I’m not a fucking idiot, mum. Do you think I’m an idiot? Do you think you have to tell me that money doesn’t grow on trees for me to realise that money doesn’t grow on trees? Don’t you dare think you can fool me into pitying you, you shithead. You’ve already ruined my life by making me wear Gola’s in PE class. Now you’re literally trying to kill me. I hate you. I fucking hate you and I hope you fucking die.”

In conclusion, teenagers are awful.

SEAFOOD STICKS (AKA CRABSTICKS) AND CHEDDAR CHEESE TOASTED SANDWICH: 9/10

KELLOGG’S SPECIAL K

The last time I tried Special K* I shat myself at a festival and had to clean myself up using copious amounts of baby-wipes. I then had to disguise the lingering, putrid smell with Lynx Africa for the next two days. Somewhat reluctantly, I thought I would try again.

special k

Oh, dear. I’m not sure if that’s the right way of phrasing it. No one is forcing me to try Special K. I purchased them from the shop. No one forced me to purchase them from the shop. There was a whole variety of other cereals I could have purchased. I don’t think I can really say that I’m about to try Special K reluctantly when I’ve chosen to purchase them and I’m choosing to eat them. I’m using my time to actually eat a bowl of Kellogg’s Special K and then write a review about it. That’s how I’ve chosen to use my time. There is an entire essay to be written about how I spend my time, but now is not the time.

I digress (and later I will digest).

It’s important when trying cereal that you don’t just eat the cereal on its own. That’s not how you’re meant to eat cereal; you’re not a student anymore. Even if you are a student, you should be better than that. For god’s sake, it’s disgusting. Just the image of eating dry cereal from the box makes me angry, so don’t do it. It’s antithetical. I just wanted an excuse to use antithetical twice, and now I’ve done it.

I’m trying it with milk; semi-skimmed milk. Some people use skimmed milk in their cereal, but those people are philistines. And you can’t use full-fat milk (or the euphemistic whole milk) with Special K because that’s antithetical. Okay, three times is getting excessive.

So I’ve tried it now and what did I think? It tastes of palatable paper, but good quality paper — perhaps paper of about 130gsm (that’s grams per square metre for any unknowledgeable dickwads reading this) with a matte finish. And crunchy. Crunchy paper. Its blandness is its virtue. There is nothing overwhelming or underwhelming about it.

If you litmus tested it, it would almost certainly come to pH7 and be green. That wouldn’t stop you spilling it on your leg and then claiming it was the equivalent to a jellyfish sting, but we all know why you’d be saying that and I’m not falling for that again, you filthy fucking pervert.

Incidentally, I did spill some on my leg and I can confirm no ill-effects. I wiped it away with the sleeve of an Adidas hooded zip-up cardigan style jacket. I didn’t even wash my leg until the next day. Still no ill-effects. This is a bonus. It’s important that we can freely spill food on our skin with no ill-effects. This is something that I look for in food. I don’t want to spill food on my thigh and wake up with only one leg. That would be terrible. I still harbour the crude idea that some sort of scout might watch me playing 5 a side and see something special in my football ability that no one else did.

By the way, I’m not talking about boy scouts. I don’t ask boy scouts to watch me play 5 a side football. I’m 32 years old and that would be highly inappropriate. People would talk. They would say, “Do you know he keeps bringing boy scouts to watch him play football?” I might not get invited to play football anymore. I imagine I would get an email first, saying something polite, like, “Look, the lads have been talking about it and they feel really uncomfortable with you bringing boy scouts to watch you play football and we’d much prefer it if you didn’t bring them. We hope you understand.” Imagine if I just carried on bringing boy scouts to watch me play anyway, despite the email. Eventually, I wouldn’t even be invited anymore. And I wouldn’t blame them. I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

If you’re going to bring boy scouts to watch you play football as a 32 year-old man with no prior involvement with scouts or scout leadership, then the moral of the story is that you’re probably going to be asked politely not to bring them and eventually asked not to play at all or simply not invited to play.

RATING: 6/10

*In the interests of fairness, I’ve never actually tried ketamine (that I can recall). This revelation won’t offend the sort of pretentious people who love telling others that they write ‘creative non-fiction’. Others will be less than impressed with this silly lie. Johan Hari informs me that he is somewhat sympathetic.