Saturday, 2 August 2008

A Wet Weekend At Waitrose

Hasn't the weather been gorgeous? Been in the garden? Had a barbecue? It's been fabulous, hasn't it? Or not, if you happen to be in charge of the ordering department for Waitrose stores. For you, last weekend was a washout. You must have been the one person in Britain who opened the curtains last Saturday morning and thought, "Oh shit, it's sunny."

Determined to make the most of the summer now it's actually arrived, midway through last week we decided to invite a few friends round for a bit of a get together in the garden, as you do. With British weather being a touch on the taciturn side, I thought it would be a good idea to plan a weather-proof menu - a barbecue if it turned out nice again, a couple of lasagnes and a vat of chicken curry available should the weather decide to rain on our parade, and a massive strawberry Pavlova (or Eton Mess if it all went horribly wrong) for pud. Simple. I knew that whatever wasn't used could be frozen and eaten at some later date, apart from the Eton Mess of course which we would have to eat until we made ourselves sick. But either way there'd be no problem. I'm adaptable, me. And a little bit greedy.

So last Saturday morning off I went to Waitrose. At the risk of being labelled rich/old/posh (I am definitely none of those things, especially not the middle one), I have to say that I've always loved the store, their food and the staff so I make no apology for using the W word so gratuitously. I know it would be much cheaper to go to Aldi or Asda but frankly I just can't be arsed fighting my way round those megastores - and besides, they don't do Waitrose Gourmet Sausage which, frankly, are worth every penny. So there am I with my list, my recycled jute tote, my Bag for Life carriers, expectantly pushing my trolley round when, whoah, what's all this then? Or, more accurately, what isn't all this then? Hardly any Gourmet Sausage? No burgers (and these aren't just any old burgers, these are lamb and redcurrant or pork and apple burgers) and no strawberries? No fresh rolls or crusty bread? But why? What's gone wrong? Am I in so early I've got here before the delivery truck?

Apparently not. They have none. Bugger all. All gone. Maybe try tomorrow. Or Monday. I go to another Waitrose store (there's loyality for you) and when I speak to the manager, the story is the same. He says he is sorry, madam, but they've been caught out by the weather. At this moment I want to ask him if he's related to Michael Fish, but resist the temptation. By the look on his face I don't think he'll find it at all funny. He says that they didn't realise it was going to be so nice this weekend and had been told it was going to be wet, so they didn't order enough. It being summer and all.

My ghast had never been so flabbered. A store like Waitrose falling to order enough strawberries because someone told them it was going to be wet? How silly. Surely I can't be the only person who eats strawberries when it's raining, or cold, or even just a little bit nippy? I'd eat them with my raincoat on and thigh-length waders if necessary. Any why so low on sausages? Don't try and tell me that they're seasonal too. Surely sausages transcend season, you can eat them any time of year, any time of day or night. You don't need a weather forecast to tell you how many sausages to order, do you? Apparently, you do.

Ironically, despite the distinct lack of seasonal foods, Waitrose could have supplied me with everything I needed had I wanted to cook a Christmas dinner, a stew or roast pork. But nothing for my summer party. Drat.

So I did the only sensible thing, I left my half full trolley, took my list, my jute tote, my bags for life and my debit card and buggered off in a huff to summery Sainsbury's where they had loads of English Organic strawberries, and plenty of everything else too. Obviously they must have a better weather forecasting system or a more accurate piece of seaweed*. Or perhaps someone on their staff has bunions which play up when it's going to rain, and as she was tripping the light-fantastic throughout the previous week, totally pain-free, they knew we were going to have great weather at the weekend and ordered a shed-load of barbecue food. Or maybe they are simply more worried about keeping their customers happy than they are about having a couple of punnets of strawberries left over at the end of the day, should the heavens open. Who can say?

On the up side, on Tuesday, having forgiven Waitrose enough to pop in for some low fat yoghourt (back on the diet again), I was able to fill my freezer with all the unsold and reduced priced roasting pork, braising steak and as many Gourmet Sausages as I wanted.....

.... which goes to prove that every cloud has a silver-lining, or even that it's an ill wind which blows nobody some good, or any number of other weather-related proverbs.

Braised beef and carrots, anyone?

* For those of you too young to understand this obscure seaweed reference, in the olden days pre weather satellite, we used to be able to tell what the weather was going to be like by looking at a piece of seaweed which you'd hang up outside the back door. If it was shrivelled, it was going to be dry. If it was not, we were in for a rainy spell.

Or alternatively we'd just stick our heads out of the door, and if we got wet we knew it was raining.


DogLover said...

Yes, here if we can see across the valley, we know it's going to rain. If we can't, then we know it's already raining.

Norman said...

Yes I can remember being in a supermarket looking for bagel where there were none. Upon enquiry I was told ther's not much demand for them and.......

wait for it........

....I was the 200th person to ask for them that morning!!!!

So much for market research.

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Doglover, so simple, yet so true.

Hello Norman, I have the same problem asking for organic lettuce. My argument is that if they haven't got any, how do they know there's no call for them? Duh!

Debra in France said...

If there is one thing I miss from the UK it is Waitrose. I have always been a dedicated Waitrose shopper. When I go back to the UK, which is not often I have to go and have a look around.

Miss Understood said...

At 40, I've done them all. Sainsbury's and Tesco, Asda and Aldi, Somerfield, Iceland, Costcutter, Quick Save, Spar, you name it, I've done it.

Why oh why have I never been to Waitrose? Do we even have one down here?

I think I need to investiagte.

Frog in the Field said...

Your ghast has never been so flabbered?
I'd better pour you a drink..

Expatmum said...

Or, you look at the cows (to see if it's going to rain.) I was always told that if they're sitting down, it's going to rain. My American husband finds this hilarious and points out every sedentary cow we ever see!

travelling, but not in love said...

I love waitrose. My local branch was the brand new one in Lichfield, which is a treat all in itself.

I'm going to be in the UK (in Brum, yay!) for the whole of August (from tomorrow) so I'm looking forward to Waitrose shopping, british bangers, cottage pie, oh my goodness - I'll come back to Paris like the side of a house...!

Frog in the Field said...

Ah yes, the theory about the cows lying down.
It's not quite that simple, it is:
When the cows are lying down in a group, at the top of a field, it's going to rain.
Ours do just this when rain is coming..honestly, they're just so awfully clever!

Millennium Housewife said...

That post was LOL funny, cheered me up good and proper it did. Love waitrose too, a new one just opened in Kenilworth if you like visiting new places. There's a good castle to visit too, but make sure you get waitrose in first, it closes at 8.30 (4 on a Sunday) and you wouldn't want to miss it. MH
PS they have a piece of seaweed up over the door, you've just solved a mystery for me.

Pam said...

We had no peaches this spring, I'm assuming because of the horrendous drought in Georgia. So I can understand the seasonality excuse with strawberries, but sausages??? Sounds a porky-pie to me.

Swearing Mother said...

Debra, know what you mean about Waitrose, it's a lerve thang.

Hi Miss Understood. Waitrose is one of those supermarkets that grace you with it's presence and you are honoured if one gets built in your locality. Honest. I tell you no lie. If you have a Waitrose in your neighbourhood, it apparently adds to your property value, so petition to get one ASAP.

Frog: make mine a double!

Expatmum: Hi. We go round looking at the position of cows too. Am going to suggest it to the Waitrose ordering guy next time I see him, although I think he's hiding from me now.

Hey Travelling, you in Brum for the whole of August, eh? I am sure to bump into you at Lichfield Waitrose, so remember to wear a pink carnation at all times when shopping. Either behind your ear or in your jacket, I'll still spot you.

Hello Millenium housewife, will definitely visit Kenilworth Waitrose as it's very near my home town of Leamington. Gotta be done.

Pam, think you could be quite right there. They have plenty of everything today, needless to say!

Stinking Billy said...

can somebody please tell me what is meant by "I less than three your (whatever)"?

elizabethm said...

Ah but the whole supermarket thing is so tricky isn't it? should i shun them altogether as satan incarnate? should I embrace the credit crunch and extol the virtues of aldi and lidl? (great jam, shit meat if you are asking) or should I rise above it all and shop virtuously with my french style and stylish basket at local small shops with limited and wilting stock?
who knows? pass me another glass.

valley girl said...

I too love Waitrose - there are some things there you just can't get in other supermarkets, like the salmon and watercress tartlets (the only 'quiche' my boys will eat - there's spoilt children for you). And like you, I love it despite its flaws (like the carparks that always have tiny spaces). Breaking up is so hard to do.....

Housewifeinthehighlands said...

We only had one supermarket and when they ran out it meant a menu change. Then Lidl opened and it was such a big event that the local radio station set up camp at the shop to report on the opening and interview the customers.

GoneBackSouth said...

I'm a Sainsburys girl by heart but now work 2 minutes away from a Waitrose and can only get Sainsburys if it's delivered to my door. Funny ain't it, that we expect these stores to have everything, all year round. I know I do.

Anonymous said...

I get my super sawsages at the local butchers -all organic and my strawbs and veg at the local farmers market
I have decided I am not going to support global any more
well unless I am forced to

Norman said...

Ey oop its still grim oop north! There's no Waitrose north of Brum. Definitely not in Lancashire.
Sainsbury's, Asda, Morrisons, Somerfield oh and the local one. Booth's. Marks and Sparks is the posh one. You need a mortgage to shop there.

merry weather said...

I used to shop at Waitrose regularly. In my part of Surrey Waitrose shoppers wear gold sandals and sour faces. I felt like a sore thumb in jeans and no make-up...

However, financially I had to economise and so went to Asda instead. And found it was just as good for many things and so much cheaper. I wouldn't swap shops now but I do miss the calm atmosphere and the politeness - it's a classy place that's for sure.

Miriam said...

SM, so glad you're back! I got a great laugh from this post, when I really needed one, wish I could write like you do. I love organic food, even if it is expensive, but I have to confess to buying a lot in M&S, i just find there's very little waste with their stuff. We don't have Waitrose in Ireland, but Superquinn sausages are famous and very good, if you're ever over here! Has not been BBQ weather here tho, so they have to be grilled, mimi

Swearing Mother said...

SB, I think <3 is supposed to make a heart picture, on it's side, but not all that sure. Let me know if you find out for certain.

Elizabeth M, you made me roar with laughter at "shit meat". That's just what I say too.

Hi Valley Girl, we've come such a long way from when we used to feed kids luncheon meat with a bear's face on it. Salmon and Watercress tartlets no less! What, no nuggets?

Housewifeinthehighlands, hello! I know what you mean about local celebrations when a supermarket opens, we were in Dartmouth the day M and S food had it's opening day celebration with balloons and what sounded like a cannon salute. Ah bless.

GBS, you are so right. We want everything, and we want it now!

Valleys Mam, hello! Know what you mean, but round here the supermarkets have done for all the local shops unfortunately. We still have a market at Lichfield though, which is fab.

Hiya Norman, I think Waitrose seems to be a southern thing, but we don't have a Morrisons round here (that's about the only one though). Spoilt for choice, supermarket-wise, but unfortunately no small shops left.

Hi Merry, lovely to read you again. Waitrose here is much the same, full of yummy-mummies and glam grans. Don't quite know where I fit in. Love ASDA's bread but it's a drive away so we don't go that often. We can walk to Waitrose, so I am kidding myself that shopping there is a green issue.

Hi Miriam, I agree with you that there's very little food wasted when you buy from M and S, I think it's because it's so expensive that you use every little bit in order to get your money's worth. And of course it's usually top quality so you don't end up throwing anything away because it's all good.

That's my argument anyway for shopping "posh" (as my kids call it) and I am sticking to it!

Maggie May said...

Our Waitrose is a bit far away. We have Tesco near to us.I try & snap up the bargains (only if I like the items though)
Really annoying if you make the effort to go & find all your favourites off the shelf.

CrazyCath said...

Oh it is so good to have you back on form. I have missed you.
I admire your loyalty to your store, and that you are loyal but NOT so far as to cancel a BBQ. Good on yer!

knifepainter said...

Hello luv.

Took a break, had a holiday, back now.
..........You 're still very worth reading, I'll have to get a grip to keep up ! X

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Maggie May, glad to read that you like a good bargain too.

Hiya Cath, too right, there's always another supermarket just up the road.

KP, so glad to see you're back again, was getting a bit worried you'd been abducted by aliens.