One unmistakeable effect of this no-supermarket challenge is that I simply don’t waste food anymore. Yesterday was the last chance to use up a lot of things I had left from the beginning of the week – onions, peppers, carrots, half a kohlrabi, mild green chilis, some quark. I made a big mixed vegetable curry out of all of it, using the quark to thicken it (something I’d never thought of doing before, but it works like a dream).
I probably wouldn’t have done that before. I would have looked at it and wondered what to do with it, because it doesn’t fit into the food-framing that Sainsburys does for you: it must involve meat, particularly chicken breasts, and vegetables are an accompaniment, not a feature (at Tooting, for example, meat is near the front door, vegetables are at the back). What’s more, there must always be a luxury ingredient, and you shouldn’t have to work too hard.
Now, I’m not saying any of this is necessarily explicit or Sainsbury’s fault, but it’s what walking round Sainsbury’s does to me. After 3 weeks of not going there, I feel like I’ve got my life back. I’m also aware that sometimes I’d just go to a supermarket and get more stuff that was easy to make into a meal, rather than work out what to do with what I’d got. There’s something insidious about the way that celebrity chefs, magazines, food journalism and food retail all work together to create a kind of a food-porn that reconstructs what cooking and eating means for us and sells it back to us as if it was what we wanted all along. It takes effort and definitive action to step outside it and think for yourself.