A View From The Tower

We Are What We Eat

August 20th, 2010 by Raven Garcia

Today I felt a bit peckish so I went into Greggs in Roman Road to grab a bite to eat.

They had some sandwiches called “Oval Bites” which looked quite nice. They were basically a soft brown seeded roll with a choice of fillings; Chicken salad, Tuna & Mayonnaise and Mexican Chicken. I decided to go for the Mexican Chicken one, and an iced doughnut, which came to about £2.50.

I took a look at the sandwich. It was wrapped up in plastic, with a sticky label holding it in place which read: “Mexican-style chicken with salad and fajita mayonnaise”. I’ve never heard of “Fajita Mayonnaise”, so I took this to mean the light-pink coloured stuff which was smeared on the inside of the packaging. The “Mexican-style chicken” was a few slabs of processed meat given some sort of colouring on the edges to make it look as if it had been chargrilled, and was covered in some bright orange stuff I took to be the Mexican flavouring. A few dark, wilted leaves of indeterminate origin flopped out of the sides.

Here’s a picture of one, looking a little better.


‘Oh well’, I thought, as I took a bite.

The first bite I took happened to have a lot of chicken in it and absolutely no sauce. My first thought was “That’s chicken tikka”. Puzzled, I took another look at the label, convinced that my taste buds or prehaps my eyes were deceiving me. Indeed, it still read “Mexican chicken”. However as a curry aficionado, my taste buds have over the years evolved to withstand temperatures of up to 8,000° Fahrenheit,  correctly identify, blindfolded, any type of Indian dish imaginable, and detect 1 millogram of vindaloo sauce in an olympic-sized swimming pool. I know chicken tikka when I taste it. Just to be certain, I removed another slice of chicken and ate it straight up, without any outside interference from the bread or salad. It was chicken tikka alright. That sort of bog-standard chicken tikka flavouring they normally put on those Matteson’s ready-to-eat skewers you seem to only get at petrol stations. But chicken tikka none the less.

Then onto the sauce. Fajita mayonnaise? I’d never heard of such a concoction, so I was intrigued. First of all, it was this colour. A kind of salmonella pink. What hadn’t oozed out of the sandwich onto the plastic packaging had migrated to the other end of the sandwich. Taste wise?? Well, my first impression was thus. You know that thousand-island sauce you get on prawn cocktail? It tasted exactly like that. Second bite… and I instantly revised my previous statement. It was that thousand-island sauce you get on prawn cocktail. Again, I am more than familiar with the taste of this. Many times in my youth I made my own version of it by simply mixing salad cream and ketchup.

So, there I was, eating faux-Indian chicken smothered with seafood sauce and sorry-looking mystery salad between two bits of bread masquerading as a “Mexican Chicken Oval Bite”. So what did I do?? Take it back to the shop and demand my money back?? Write a strongly-worded email of complaint to Greggs’ head office, copying Jamie Oliver in just for good measure??

No. In fact I finished the lot. And it was quite nice.

It’s a classic example of that “food that you know you probably shouldn’t eat but do anyway”. Not necessarily that it’s bad for you, just that it’s not real food.

After my initial doubts, I had no problem with the sandwich itself. I was hungry and it made me not hungry. But I wonder how many they would sell if they were honest and just wrote “Chicken Tikka with Thousand Island Dressing” on the label and stopped trying to pass it off as something else. Trying to pass that sandwich off as Mexican would be like trying to pass Lionel Ritchie off as Japanese.

By the way, if you ever buy an iced doughnut from Greggs and the person serving you asks if you want a bag, always say no. It’s better to have slightly sticky hands than to be handed a paper bag, only to find out halfway down the road that it contains just a ring of bread and some icing stuck to the inside of the bag.

I used to just shove food nonchalantly into my gob, but lately I have gotten into the habit of reading the labels of things before I eat them. Here is another great example of stuff that’s just ‘wrong’ to consume. After my run-in with the imposter Mexican sandwich, I felt thirsty and went into a newsagents to buy a can of one of my favourite soft drinks, grape soda. This comes in a black can and is made by this company whose range also includes pineapple soda and “Karibbean Kola”, whatever that is. (The latter started appearing on our shelves just after Mortal Kombat came out, and it subsequently became the fashion to spell every “C” word with a “K”. But the grape soda is my favourite. However I happened to catch sight of the ingredients on the side of the can. My heart nearly stopped. “FLAVOURINGS: (BLACKCURRANT, CARROT)”. The total grape content of the beverage was, in fact, 0%.

There has to be some kind of law against that. I know certain groups of people go mad these days if you call sparkling French wine “Champagne” and it isn’t made in the Champagne region, because the EU food standards people poke their noses in. But what about the other end of the scale for grape-based drinks?? Surely there must be a law against them containing absolutely none of the fruit that they are claiming to be composed entirely of?? Or perhaps this is just sour grapes on my part (excuse the pun).

This is the one I mean. Not sure if that’s “KA” or “KIA”. – (Aren’t they both types of car?) Is that palm tree supposed to double as a letter I?? And is it a real “K” or just a “C” that’s been given the Mortal Kombat treatment??

I still like grape soda and will continue to drink it, but I challenge them to release a limited edition “Blackcurrant and Carrot Soda” and then count how many people realise that it tastes just like grape soda. That would be interesting. Or maybe I could invent a drink made from turnips and butternut squash and sell it as lemonade.

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