I wonder if, when Marco Pierre White became the spokesman for Bernard Matthews Turkeys anyone said: “That’s a principled decision. I respect him for that” ? That thought came to mind today when it was announced that Slow Food is to be sponsored by Booth’s supermarkets. Now, as far as supermarkets go, I know that Booths are marginally less evil than the rest. And as it’s five years since I ventured inside a supermarket I thought I’d better check and see, in case I was hopelessly out of date and they have become, as the press release implies, a paragon of virtue. So I popped into Booths in Ulverston. They have a fresh meat counter from which they sell beef which is labelled “From the region”, which is as vague as it gets, and as no breed is specified, you can be certain that it is the usual suspects- i.e. Limousin and Charollais- in other words beef bred for size with no regard for quality. There are other token gestures to local and seasonal food, but the overwhelming mass of the goods on offer is the usual junk, with whole aisles devoted to pre-packed ready meals and BOGOF frozen pizzas. I picked up a pack of lasagne which had a meat content of 23% with no indication as to where the meat came from.
The principles of slow food are “Good, clean and fair”, where “good” means “not junk”, “clean” means “free of chemicals and preservatives and excessive doses of salt and sugar” and “fair” means that the producer gets a fair price for his produce. All supermarkets talk a lot about ‘local ‘ and ‘organic’, but they make their money by piling up the junk food, which is full of chemicals, preservatives, sugar and salt. Booths survive in this very competitive world with more of the same. I’ve no objection to their trying to become the Waitrose of the Northwest but I wish they wouldn’t do it at the expense of the principles of Slow Food.