Jayne Dawson: Supermarket snobbery

Pancake anyone?
Pancake anyone?
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Let me take you back to Pancake Day.

Come on, humour me.

Let go of the fact that there are more landmark days – Christmas, Easter, the day you put the green bin out - and visualise Shrove Tuesday.

What were you putting on your pancakes? Sugar? A dash of lemon? Bet you were, but that’s enough about you, let’s talk about my pancakes.

Mine were a vision. First of all I created the batter in my new mixer, the one I’ve had since Christmas and hadn’t actually used until that point. I don’t feel guilty. I think of my mixer as more of an ornament and inspiration for my future kitchen than an actual working appliance. You know, like in those adverts where you show them a random object and they create the perfect kitchen for you.

Well I’ve got my object now, and one day, one day I like to think I’ll have the other important part of the winning formula, known as the cash.

But that’s enough about the black hole that is my kitchen. Back to the pancakes.

My pancakes were adorned with nothing so common as sugar and lemon.

Well actually they were but there was an addition.

At the side of each pancake (some were a bit freeform but no matter) was a little ruby red pool of ...raspberry coulis. I agree! Totally, indisputably posh!

The way it happened was this: the night before Pancake Day I investigated my fridge and discovered it contained no eggs, which is unusual because my fridge usually contains many eggs, some of them old enough to have grown into hens and created a family spanning several generations, if life had turned out differently for them.

Because of this catastrophe I was forced, the very next lunchtime, into an unusual shopping routine, and thus it was that I found myself, for the first time ever, in a branch of Waitrose.

Now I’m not stupid. Not entirely. I know about Waitrose, I’ve taken part in conversations about Waitrose but, until that day, I had never crossed the threshold, because I’m more of a low-tier shopper myself

But I knew what to expect. I’d been told about the wide aisles, and the thing that allows you to tot up your bill as you go, and the men in suits you’re likely to spot there. And the fact that it’s the perfect place to meet potential husband material – I’m making it up as I go along now, but I’m thinking it very well might be.

But hearing is not experiencing, is it? Anyway, the security guard let me in – I was wearing my best coat – and I immediately came upon a little stand all set out with pancake ingredients, up to and including raspberry coulis, so I bought the coulis, and also the bottle of pure, unadulterated and quite expensive maple syrup standing next to it and, indeed, the free range eggs, from chickens raised in a luxury chicken hotel with excellent spa facilities.

It was all beyond delicious but the key point here is that I had dipped a toe in the water of truly top drawer shopping for the first time.

Because food shopping is increasingly a class-based activity, isn’t it, now that our clothes don’t mark us out quite so clearly as they once did?

As a rule, I’m on the wrong side of the tracks. I like to shop in places where a trolley full of fresh produce marks you out as special, and I like a bargain, and I like being able to shop even if I haven’t washed my hair.

Not that my trolley ever is particularly full of fresh produce but, on the times when I have determined that me and mine shall become healthier, I always secretly hope a neighbour will see me and be impressed by the amount of broccoli I’m buying.

My sister, on the other hand, has taken a very different path. She is never knowingly, at any time, more than six feet away from a loaf of artisan, organic, seasonal, hand-milled, fair trade, baked-in-the-Aga-next-door olive bread.

You can always rely on finding a parmesan crisp, or a sweet potato crisp, or even a mint crisp at her house – but never a multi-pack of salt and vinegar crisps.

This is because my sister recognises that the class divide is now more food-based than ever since the democratisation of fashion made social status inconveniently hard to spot on the high street.

The phenomenon of cheap, disposable clothes means that, from a distance and before you’ve subjected your garment to the rigours of the washing machine, we can all look pretty much the same. So the divide now is food-based instead.

But it’s relatively new this supermarket snobbery because there was a brief time when food followed the same path as fast fashion – and became fast food.

In the 1960s, supermarkets began to pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap, and the customers all piled in too.

It didn’t really matter whether they were dead rough or dead posh, everyone thought a steak and kidney pie in a tin was a fabulous thing.

If it had been created in a laboratory, if it came in a rainbow of artificial colours, if its constituent parts had been dried, tinned, sliced, aerated or plasticised, then it was a superfood. Heston Blumenthal was not the first to invoke food and science by any means – let me just say Angel Delight here, and move on.

But not any more. Now we divide off into our food tribes. Cheap and well-preserved on one side, expensive and organic on the other. Never since the invention of Mother’s Pride bread has the gap between us been so wide.

And I know which side I’m on – it’s just that I can’t stop thinking about that raspberry coulis

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