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Eat Your Words

When Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly was having a bad day, she went to Tiffanys to calm her down. I go to Marks & Spencer Simply Food.

Instead of a croissant and a Givenchy gown, I belch over a can of Fanta in ill-fitting trackpants, but it has the same soothing effect. Shopping in Princes Street always fills me with an irrational rage. The baffling multi-level shops, the dawdling tourists stopping every five metres to take another photo of Edinburgh Castle, the old folk and prams and beggars cluttering up the pavement like abandoned cars; all conspiring to piss me off.

So I take refuge in M&S. For those unfamiliar with Simply Food, they describe it as a "meals solution store for busy people". They have all manner of ready meals and pre-packaged products so you can pay maximum price for the minimal effort dinner. There's something so relaxing about being there, bathed in fluorescent light, watching wee old ladies select their individual Steak & Kidney pies and singletons frowning at nutrition information panels.

M&S are truly the masters of the ready-meal universe. While their meals are of superior quality to your Iceland Chili Con Carne, they're still trying to flog pre-packaged processed preservative-laden stuff. But they make you want it bad by giving their products the most beautifully overblown names and descriptions. I spend ages wandering up and down the aisles, dreamy and content, just reading the labels. They plump up nouns and roll them in succulent verbs so skillfully that they could make a plate of gravel sound like Michelin-star dining.

Witness how they sex up a humble BLT: Combining the spirit of America and Italy; maple cured bacon with gorgonzola cheese dressing, sliced tomatoes, lettuce leaves, mayonnaise and red onions on pumpkin seed bread.

Let's wash that down with some lemon cordial, your basic nasty cocktail of glucose and E numbers. But no! M&S call it Mediterranean Lemon and Mexican Lime High Juice. Now that's what I call fusion cookin'.

You could spend an hour looking at the yogurts alone. How to decide? The Greek-Style English Strawberry and Cornish Clotted Cream Yogurt made with Channel Island Milk? Or the Champagne Rhubarb and Madagascan Vanilla? I swear I'm not making that up.

(But how I wish I could. Where does one apply to become a copywriter for M&S?)

The produce section drives me wild, because it's really just like any other produce section, but they make me question my fundamental beliefs about fruit. When is an orange not an orange? I stood there one afternoon, frowning at the orange cupped in my hand, thinking it must surely be worth 70p and taste better than every other orange that had previously passed my lips because it had been Bathed In The Florida Sun.

I'm sure we're all being watched. There must be men in white coats behind a two-way mirror, watching the shoppers and making frantic notes. Can the shoppers resist the Irresistible Choc Caramel Mini Bites Oozing With Buttercream? Are they unwrapping the Hoisin Duck wraps with their eyes? Is anyone getting a boner over the Boneless Pork Loin Joints Decorated With Bramley Apple Puree?

Then perhaps the Head of Marketing barges in and screams, "We're not shifting the Scottish Cod Loin Fillets! Not good enough! I want the aisles puddled with drool! I want to get out the DANGER WET FLOOR signs!". The hapless copywriters are handed a thesaurus and a stack of Barbara Cartland novels then chained to their desks until they come up with something sexier.

Meanwhile, back in the shop, after half an hour of label-reading you tend to get whipped up into quite a state. The mind swirls with bloated adjectives and tantalising verbs and your fingers ache to open your wallet. Must buy something, something… but what?

A few months back I found the mother of all magniloquent products: a cereal called Deliciously Nutty Crunch:

Go nuts! A sumptuously sweet blend of delicious toffee-flavoured crunch with almonds, brazils and tasty pecans!

So I spent the equivalent of AU $10 on Deliciously Nutty Crunch, a cereal so lacking in nutritional value I'd be better off eating a tub of lard. But what fun to eat something so ridiculously titled. Remind me to put that on my epitaph:

Here lies Miss Shauny
1977 –
Deliciously Nutty To The End

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


17 thoughts on “Eat Your Words

  1. Imagine still if we all indulged in a little cannibalism, how do you see yourself being described to the hesitant shopper?

    I have to say [though I’m sure you’ve heard it before], you have quite a way with words…I enjoyed that thoroughly!

  2. At last! Someone else whose eyes glaze over in M&S simplyFood. Luckily my commute has temporarily changed, or my tummy would be twice its current post-crimble size! Feel sorry for me that I have to walk PAST that shop TWICE A DAY on the way to work.

    Those little ‘steam cuisine’ gadgets. Their ready-peeled-and-chopped fruit with-a-slice-of-lime. Their range of mouthwatering-sounding dinners. Their handy (but GDP of small african republic-priced) salads. Their cake selection. Their dessert-in-a-very-nice-ceramic-dish-yes-thankyou selection.

    Oh, and their fresh-baked Eccles Cakes are to die for…

    Shauny, you evil monkey. I’m having M&S cravings now… and I thought I’d conquered my addiction, I’ve been clean for 8 WEEKS! Damn you to hell!

  3. I used to hit Sainsbury’s and buy box after box of Strawberry and Banana Crunch. There was an entire paragraph devoted to the creamy flux of white chocolate and oat clusters, to the “taste explosion” of the strawberries and bananas. I attributed it to the Brits’ making illegal outrageous product claims, such as we have here in the States. “Best cereal you’ll ever taste!” crows your typical box of Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran, Froot Loops. Something about it made me so happy I could have cried. But damn, the UK knows how to do cereal right. No nutrition! All taste!

    Right on.

  4. regarding employment with M&S, this is might give you a lead … http://www2.marksandspencer.com/thecompany/ though I couldn’t find anything about their marketing area (that might be handled externally to the company).

    I think you’d make an amazing copywriter. If not for food products, have you ever thought about writing radio jingles?

  5. It’s the addition of that vital ingredient, the “almosts” to the Deliciously Nutty Crunch that makes it so special.

    Mmmm … sun-ripened adjectives.

  6. I am a female officer in the U.S. Army currently deployed to Afghanistan. My entire diet consists of the Scooby-snacks sent to me by loving friends and family, and the following delectables:

    Processed Cheese Food, low-salt
    Processed Frankfurters in Sauce
    Processed Ultra-Pasteurized Eggs, scrambled, Ready-t0-Eat

    See the pattern?

    So do these folks ship to Central Asia?

    I did enjoy reading it, though, and I’m sure the boys will think they are the cause of the drool on my uniform. Whatever gets them through the day.

  7. Love the writing style. And we seem to suffer the same problem all the way in the southern hemisphere as well. Must be the common genetic heritage… I always get duped by the labels into buying foods that I would never usually eat. And yet, I never learn… Urgh.

  8. thanks everyone!

    doug – special thanks to you for publically correcting my spelling… i’ll get you, my pretty

  9. I look forward to being “got”.

    Unleash your winged monkeys!

    (No, seriously, I wrote my present entry before reading your “I’ll get you my pretty” … honest, I’m totally innocent.

    … No, please no … not my typing fingers … for the love of god Shauna, put the rusty html coding down … no no no – garrrrgh!)

  10. I blame Nigella entirely and I believe the official title for such titilation is Gastroporn.

    Please tell me when you’re brining out your first novel, I know it will be a fabulous read!

  11. Mmm, gastroporn. US food catalogs indulge in this particular sin as well… serious offenders being Trader Joes and Williams-Sonoma.

    ($12 US for a jar of flavored olive oil? I must have it!!)

  12. Ooooh, it all sounds a delight! In our 2.5 days in London, I managed to purchase a M&S fruity trifle. I can’t remember it’s fancy copywriter name, but it was bloody delicious, well, in a stodgy trifly way. Oh I love trifle.

    As an aside, Shauny. Just cos I have to let you know. A guy in my neighbouring office has been playing crazy chanting music all afternoon. And he keeps sighing or exhaling, really. Like a groan. Really loud. He did one just then. I’m disturbed and in need of trifle.

  13. poor mo… i am sure it’s in every basic workplace agreement that chanting music is just as bad as smoking in your cubicle. i’d see your OH&S Officer if I were you.

    Mmm… trifle.

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