Thursday, January 13, 2011


This blog hasn't had a magazine review for a while, so here's a new one. It's the Morrison's supermarket Jan/Feb issue and it's a classic.

"January is a month for looking after yourself and enjoying lots of healthy food ..." are the first words you come across in the editorial. It's not just the editor who thinks so, either.

"January is a good time to cook nutritious meals that taste great and make you feel great, too", says Aldo Zilli on page 31.

Well that's all right then. I'd like to know though which are the months when I shouldn't be looking after myself, and when it is a bad time to cook nutritious meals (or maybe just ones that don't taste great, there's a logical conjunction in there that needs analysing). Should I start on Feb 1 with a big pile of chips? (Actually you can treat yourself to some "moreish" Morrisons chocolate which is much cheaper if you buy two bars*, but I'm not sure when you're allowed to get started on that.)

We know what they mean. We didn't get the Nov/Dec issue but I bet it was all about treats for Christmas (I'd have money on the phrase "long winter nights" turning up, too, no cliche unspoken) and adverts for lots of chocolate. So having persuaded you into all that, now they can press on with ".... lose those extra festive pounds ... how do you cut back without feeling you're missing out?" (I'm back in the editorial again).

If you think I'm cynical, I'm sure I'm not the only one, the Morrisons' (and others') marketing department is there too. Oh, I beg your pardon: "Editorial opinions expressed ... are not necessarily those of Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc ..." Maybe Morrisons don't think I should look after myself in January and Jenn Cooper will get a rocket for saying so? Who can say?

While we're being healthy, Michelin-star chef Paul Rankin "tells us why he loves chip butties". Er, mixed messages? He's got a favourite ingredient .. how cheffy is that? The temptation to put extra-virgin olive oil in his butty must be overwhelming. Or not.

Now some things to put in your diary, I hope you've got plenty of space:
23-29 January is Farmhouse Breakfast Week. No you don't have to go out into some wild cottage in the country thankfully, but it's a campaign to start the day with this important meal. There's a picture of a boiled egg and French bread but otherwise I don't have a clue what a Farmhouse Breakfast is, so you'll have to go to the website to find out the events in your area (maybe there is a farmhouse to go to, wouldn't that be fun?) and "inspiring" breakfast ideas.

February is National Heart Month, including Wear Red day on the 25th. The British Heart Foundation is 50 so is having lots of celebrations to raise money (sic).

Bramley Apple Week starts on February 6. It's the best apple for cooking and it's grown only in Britain. I think we should stop being so mean to other countries and export them some trees.

And Feb 3 is Chinese New Year (celebrations on the 6th in Leicester Square) so there are some "healthier" recipes to celebrate. Do you think the Chinese will mind this insult to their culture? I wonder if they produce healthier Christmas dinner recipes for us and what Morrisons would think of them?

(Helpfully, all the recipes in the magazine tell you how much salt, fat etc there are in "one serving", whatever one serving is. I feel a spreadsheet and lots of graphs coming on.)

And don't forget Burns Night on January 25. Start the day with a Farmhouse Breakfast and finish with haggis, neeps and tatties and a whisky sauce (now you're talking).
And the Brighton Half-Marathon on 20 February. I think it's a bit late for me to sign up now though.

There is helpful advice too.

"Wrap rhubarb in plastic and store it in the coldest part of the fridge for up to a week." (Paul Thornton). I wonder if he means to say " ... no more than a week"? Perhaps it's the other way of looking at it.

Now one piece of advice I don't understand though. They give in five categories (energy, sugar, fat, saturated fat, and salt) a Guideline Daily Amount (GDA). This is a new one to me. Is it a recommended amount, a maximum, or a minimum? And why not call it one of these?
The sugar one is called total sugar so that one's clear but the other's aren't so-called, suggesting rather that they're what you should have or work towards - and 2500 calories for a man seems on the low side?

Why's it matter?

Back to the editorial: " .... we've included a few more indulgent recipes to treat yourself to - 30 per cent or under your GDAs". Er, but should I be making sure I get somewhere near the other 70% too? Maybe the chocolate will help me get there? Or a swift couple of pints with the lads?

There are some good things. There are some nice recipes and some for children to get them cooking too. There's very little overtly from "nutritionists" (but I think we need to look at this GDA thing and just how much fat you should have) and the keep fit advice is sensible and practical and not overdone with encouragements for vitamin pills and whatnot. I note that Zumba is an "exiting" (sic) new dance craze. Maybe everyone leaves early?

You can forgive the adverts and it's interesting where the chickens come from (and that the correct weight is 2.25 kg).

Three heaped tablespoons of cooked lentils count as one of your five a day. Geez that's a lot of lentils.

One excellent piece of advice when going shopping. Make a list and "you'll be surprised how much money you save ... you're not tempted to buy more than you really need" I wonder how much the store managers approve of that?

Oh I have to report one piece of sexism before I finish.

The tasting panel (soup this month) has 4 members - all mothers. Not even a token man, far less a balance. Maybe men are thought to be incompetent? Or maybe it's laziness. Must do bettr, Morrisons. But then there's no male customers at all pictured; I suppose some of the letters could be from men. Oh there is Scott, 15, and the packed lunches his mum makes for him.

I wonder what March and April are good months for?

*£1.19 each or 2 for £2. Er, two please!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Money (That's What I Want)

There aren't many upsides to having a not very active bank account, but at least you don't get phoned up by the bank all the time (actually I did the other day, but they haven't troubled to phone back). But my wife does.

Which is interesting. We haven't given them this phone number. And it's not in the book under the name they have. So how did they get hold of it? They have had to actively seek it out .... he doesn't know that we KNOW that.

My wife asked them. He didn't know (I didn't get the name clearly but I don't think it was James this time, it has been him several times before when we lived elsewhere). Or he wouldn't say. We'll call that a fudge rather than anything else. But the lies do come later.

We asked him to delete the number from his records. He said he would. I believe that to be a lie. Even if he wanted to or was able to, his managers wouldn't let him. Because then they couldn't pester us.

We tried the being nice "we know you've been told by your manager ... you've got a horrible job .... but we don't want phone calls" etc. No good. He persists even when it's clear we have no interest in what he wants to say.
He asks if we are satisfied with the service we get from the bank. We say no, the major problem being that they phone us up out of the blue when we do not want it. He doesn't take the hint.

We explained that we know that they phone up because they want to interest us in new "products". He says they don't. So that is lie number 2. Much as it would be lovely to believe what he says - that he sits around thinking about us and worrying that we are not happy with our bank account - it is difficult to believe that the bank would under-employ him in that way. We know he has to make a certain amount of phone calls to show that he is trying to sell some new product (God help him if he has a target quota of positive responses, he's on a loser at this house).

At least this time he didn't try to say - as James once did - that it is not secure having money in their bank and we should move it (over the telephone, for goodness' sake, who the hell is this man, what proof of who he is can he give us?) to an account in which we can't just get at OUR money, we "just" have to phone up to organise it, how is that an improved service?, when the clear answer to insecurity is we should take the whole lot out of this insecure bank. We like having our money on call without having to phone up and all the identity checks that would involve. Oh that time we had "too much" money. He'd sharp complain if we had too little - oh no that's right he'd actually love it as then he can charge us for an overdraft; no we're not falling for that one. We will keep a sufficient float, thank you, he doesn't know our circumstances and we aren't telling him.

Even his own words don't make logical sense, we are doing well he says, so why do we need something different? There was a lot more that was self-contradictory but mercifully I've forgotten it.

Apart from the bloody cheek of the banks trying to advise us how to manage our money, when they can't manage their own. Socks under the bed full of money have never looked so attractive.