Editor’s comment May 2016
- Credit: Archant
Editor Mike Lowe on the tricks of the supermarket trade and essential pub etiquette.
As it’s Open Farm Sunday next month, I thought I’d line up a couple of places to visit. How about Nightingale Farm, a name I saw at my local supermarket? Sounds like a nice place. Farmer Giles pouring the cider while his rosy-cheeked wife serves up home-made bread and cheese. Horses to stroke and pigs to pet. So I fire up Google and have a look for it. That’s odd. No sign of it anywhere despite its name being plastered all over the entrance to my local supermarket.
Never mind – there’s always Willow Farm, a name I’m sure I’ve seen on a packet of pork steaks in the same establishment. Nope, no sign of that anywhere. OK, let’s try Woodside Farm, Rosedene Farm, Boswell Farm and Redmere Farm. How peculiar. None of those appear on my map either. Hmm... either the Cotswolds has become some kind of mysterious graveyard of invisible farms (call the X-Files team) or someone’s taking the mickey.
It is, of course, the latter – a marketing ploy dreamt up by some hipster-bearded clowns who obviously think it funny to pull the collective plonker of we simple country folk. Nightingale Farm and the rest only exist in the fertile imagination of an advertising agency, who’ve convinced their clients that attaching romanticised names to their mass-produced meat will help with sales. In reality, Farmer Giles and his rosy-cheeked wife are actually cashing in their chips in the casino of a Mediterranean cruise ship while a team of poorly-paid Eastern European labourers ‘farm’ his pigs for him in a gigantic industrial unit in Suffolk.
Should we be bothered about this deception? Well yes, I think we should, because it is deception after all. At a time when we’re all far more interested in where our food actually comes from, the issue of trust between supplier and consumer is critical. I don’t want some joker trying to convince me that my Finest rump steak has come from a farm just down the road when it’s part of the same mass-produced process as the packet of Value mince next to it, because that’s the impression they’re trying to create.
This is shabby, misleading and unfair to both the customer and to the real British farms whose reputation is at stake here. It needs to stop, now.
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The summer drinking season is now upon us and while it might provide some relief for struggling publicans, it can be more problematic for tap room regulars. It’s the occasional drinkers, you see; those who don’t understand essential pub etiquette. So, to help avoid this alcoholic angst, I’ve come up with a few tips for people who rarely trouble the top shelf.
• Try to decide what you want to drink before you actually reach the bar. Try to order something alcoholic and easy to pour. Ordering four coffees at 9pm won’t endear you to anyone.
• Put your phone away before engaging the bar staff in conversation. Always order the Guinness first. Do buy in rounds and don’t you dare try to pay with a credit or debit card.
• Don’t ask for a pint of ‘the usual’. You haven’t been on the premises since Christmas and Katerina, the Polish barmaid, only arrived in the UK last month. Don’t ask for a pint of ‘lager’. There are many different kinds all clearly displayed along the bar. Choose one, because if you leave it up to the staff you’ll be paying £6.99 a pint for some weird Ukrainian pond water.
• Anything that involves blenders, sieves, cherries or paper umbrellas is a cocktail. There is a very nice cocktail bar just down the road. Go there. The ‘menu’ is crisps or nuts or, if you’re lucky, a day-old cheese roll from a glass cabinet. If you want dinner, go to the chippy.
• Once you’ve been served, take your drinks and make way for someone else. Do not stand around chatting to your mates, the staff or your mother on your phone. There are people behind you whose need is now greater than yours.
Follow Mike on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor