Column: November 30, 2011

I ACCEPT that we have lost the battle against misleading packaging, but I really do take exception to blatant lies.

I had some supermarket paté at the weekend. I understand that Brussels paté has no sprouts in it, in the same way that mince pies no longer have bits of mutton in them. Yes, it is misleading, but I have moved on. If anything, I welcome the decision to remove them.

But this Brussels paté was labelled “Brussels Paté with Garlic: A smooth pork liver paté with a hint of garlic.” I do not know how you read that. I, myself, am quite charmingly literal. I expect a “hint of garlic” to be a waft of garlic, like a beautiful ethereal nymph whispering the word “garlic” in one’s ear.

This paté had a hint of garlic in the sense that garlic has a hint of garlic. It was virtually ALL garlic. If that is a hint, it is the sort of hint that a child might give regarding Christmas presents, ie, strapping oneself into a dentist’s chair, using a Clockwork Orange-style device to keep one’s eyes open, while he or she stabs a tiny finger at various pictures in the Argos catalogue.

If that is a hint, it was a hint of garlic in the same way as the women in Desperate Scousewives wear a hint of make-up to enhance their natural fresh-faced beauty, ie, painting their faces with felt-tips like Outspan the Clown. A hint?! I could have dislodged Artex with my breath.

But that was nothing compared with the tissue of lies wrapping the bag of pasta I struggled with earlier that day. “Easy open and resealable,” it coldly fibbed right into my face. But I had been down this road many times before . . .

I picked at the sticky resealable tab, prising it away from the bag with the care of a neurosurgeon operating on a Mafia godfather’s mother. It tore, almost instantly, making mock of the line drawing of the rolled and sealed bag of pasta next to the tab.

It was not going to defeat me, not this time. I was going to open the bag of pasta. I loosened the folds at the sides, keeping them intact. I mopped my brow. I was going in. I started to open the bag of pasta, as if I were opening a packet of Quavers, slowly, gradually, carefully increasing the force, ready to ease off if there was any risk of tearing. It was working, I was doing it! Then the bag exploded, the pasta flew everywhere, and I spent the next five minutes looking for penne under the kitchen table and saying bad words under my breath.

I wonder why the manufacturers of supermarket pasta use a glue that is actually stronger than the bag? And here I am, wondering . . .


MD: Figgis, sales of pasta have gone through the floor. Ideas?

FIGGIS: We could make pasta tastier.

MD: Don’t be stupid. The whole point of pasta is that it tastes of precisely nothing.

FIGGIS: We could make it easier to open the packet. And then make it resealable.

MD: Yes! We tell people the packet is easy to open and resealable. But then we make it impossible to open the packet.

FIGGIS: Do you suggest we lie to our customers?

MD: Yes. Then when they open the packet, it will explode all over the place, showering the kitchen with farfalle.

FIGGIS: That is a terrible waste.

MD: Exactly. To make up the shortfall, they’ll have to buy even more pasta. Everybody wins, except the customer. So just us, basically.

A former editor of mine once demanded a picture of a phoenix to illustrate a story. His staff scrabbled about, turned over stones and finally found a beautiful line drawing of a phoenix. “No,” said the editor, “I want a photo of a real phoenix.”

He might as well have asked for a photograph of a rolled and sealed bag of pasta.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s