DCSIMG

Chitra Ramaswamy: To deli and back

SUNDAY afternoon in what C would call a sprauncy supermarket. We have an empty trolley and two £25 vouchers burning a hole in our pockets.

Fear not, this column isn't about to turn into an episode of Supermarket Sweep. There are no clues nestled in cereal boxes, no Dale Winton at the checkout, and C and I are not running around in matching lemon sweaters.

Our mission is to boldly go past the cleaning products aisle, where no wo(man) has gone before – to the deli section, a tiny oasis scented with aspiration and truffle oil and populated by bottles of balsamic vinegar that cost more than a palazzo in Modena. Speciality teas, organic pulses, stocks and sauces, biscuits as thin as paper – everything here can be yours for a small fortune.

Look, the vouchers were a gift. I don't make a habit of hanging out here. But C and I made a decision over breakfast. We would feel no shame. We would buy things we have coveted for years. We would display them in our kitchen. Eat them, even.

It's a rarefied section of the supermarket. I'm surprised they haven't done it out in wood panelling, piped in some chamber music and started charging people £9,000 a year to get in. Who are these folk, I wonder, flinging tiny bottles of saffron into their trolleys with such gay abandon? I pick up a giant tankard of mustard with fancy French lettering and a red waxy stopper. It is a thing of real beauty, the Ava Gardner of condiments. It also costs £6. Yes, a jar of mustard that costs more than six pairs of pants in M&S. Oh, brave new world. That has such ‘poupon' in ’t. (Sorry if my jokes are getting pretentious. It's the deli effect.)

Every fibre of my being resists this kind of splurge. I can practically feel Ma Ramaswamy on my shoulder, marching me towards the reduced-price section. C orders me, in the manner of Pulp Fiction-era Samuel L Jackson, to “put the [insert bad word here] mustard in the trolley". Deep breath. The mustard goes in.

And on it goes. Posh Illy coffee that comes in a tin? We have argued over whether to buy this extravagant item for eight years. Today, it goes in with just a slight raising of the eyebrows. A jar of heather honey? Let's do it. The ‘finest' croissants? Oh God, OK then. Steak?

Shame that most of the products in our trolley are going to kill us. We may as well have filled it with poisonous snakes. Because, people, according to the latest research from the University of Making You Feel Bad About Yourself, red meat will kill you prematurely (it is being blamed for one in ten early deaths). So your full Scottish is a loaded gun. And that's not all. Your morning coffee, in a fancy tin or not, is the enemy of your heart. Bacon is bad. Sausages are sinister. Ham is, erm, spam. Oh, and five a day will rot your teeth.

Still, we reason, life is short. While we're here, and with a £50 voucher to boot, we may as well commiserate over a steak and a glass of red wine. We head for the checkout.

At home, our tankard of mustard gets pride of place on the shelf, more like sculpture than food. “Tea and toast?” asks C. Then we realise: we forgot to buy bread.

 

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