Friday, 12 October 2012

Dear Tesco...

Today I thought I would have a treat for lunch, in the shape of your 'New York Deli Pastrami on rye bread' sandwich, which I will henceforth refer to as the NYDPR. “Ooh, look,” I thought. “It’s been ‘developed by dedicated sandwich chefs with peppery pastrami, fresh crunchy creamy slaw, hot mustard and gherkin mayo and thick slices of light rye bread’. How delicious, I love all those things, even if I question the place of slaw on a NYDPR. But let us overlook that, perhaps it is the ‘modern twist’ to which you refer. I shall sample this sandwich, it may well be the very treat I am after.”

Sadly, one bite was enough to put paid to such ideas. Let us first examine the bread. ‘Light rye’ you say. Is it possible you meant ‘extra thick white bread with the merest possible hint of rye, just enough to make it unpleasantly dry in texture?’ Because that would have prepared me better. Just so you know.

Now, as previously mentioned, I had some doubts about the presence of coleslaw. A NYDPR should contain, in my opinion and no particular order: gherkins, mustard, mayo, swiss cheese and pastrami. Coleslaw is outwith the realms of my experience but hey, I was prepared to go with it. Give it a whirl. Try something new.

Grated carrot is not coleslaw, Tesco. No matter how much bland mayonnaise you stir through it, it remains grated carrot. There is nothing wrong with grated carrot, per se. Many a dish may be enlivened by its presence. But it is not coleslaw. Even in countries where cabbages do not grow, people know that grated carrot is not coleslaw. At this point, I suggest, you should be looking at your ‘dedicated sandwich chef’ with some concern, and perhaps rifling through the personnel files to double-check that CV.

While you’re about it, perhaps you could question said chef on his or her understanding of the word ‘hot’. As in ‘hot mustard’. Anyone who has ever eaten the fabulously fiery French’s mustard from the interestingly yellow pointy bottles will tell you, hot means ‘with a kick’. As in ‘spicy’. ‘Nippy’, as we say North of the Border. There should be, at the very least, a tingling sensation on the palate. What there should not be, Tesco, is no trace of mustard whatsoever. I suspect the carrot juice and the bland mayonnaise entirely overwhelmed it and sent it back to New York to consider its behaviour and not come back until it has learned how to behave. I miss it. Pastrami and mustard is an excellent combination. Pastrami and grated carrot is failing to ring my chimes.

A touch of gherkin might have made a difference. Had there been one. Again, any gherkin actually present had been frightened into abject submission by the overly-aggressive carrot mayonnaise. Now, perhaps – just perhaps – you could get away with a NYDPR with added coleslaw. It is within the realms of possibility that you could even reduce the mustard to the faintest of flavours. But you cannot, I repeat cannot, have a NYDPR without gherkins. That, Tesco, is just a cured beef sandwich. With grated carrot. It’s really not the same, no matter what kind of bread you put it on.

I won’t even talk about the lack of cheese. Given the foregoing, a slice of cheese, even of the best Swiss cheese there has ever been, would have made very little difference.

To your credit, however, the pastrami certainly was peppery. Oh yes. Very much so. Almost to the complete exclusion of anything else, in fact. It was nearly enough to disguise the fact the distressingly corned-beef texture of the meat itself. I can’t fault you on that, however. Peppery pastrami you promised, peppery pastrami you most certainly delivered. Sadly, a profusion of pepper is not a replacement for cabbage, or mustard, or gherkins, or cheese. Extra pepper is not enough to convince me that your sandwich chef is as dedicated as you seem to think.

You know, what made the whole thing even more disappointing was the foregoing anticipation, which was heightened in no small measure by the ten-minute struggle I had to get the sandwich out of the packet. Sweetly designed, no doubt, in that rather cute ‘brown paper bag’ style, but when one attempts to open the top of the bag one finds it attached, extremely firmly, to the other side. Even when the two sides of the ‘bag’ separate, the layer of plastic that makes up the ‘window’ clings obstinately to the opposite side in a manner that suggests the glue may be made of boiled limpets. I was unable to break this seal. Instead I created a hole right across the top, through which my sandwich could be broken free.

Alas, to no avail. I managed to reach into the top of the now-ruined bag and grasp the little plastic tray within. I pulled gently. To my alarm, the tray gave a mighty wobble in the middle, threatening to collapse and precipitate my long-awaited lunchtime treat either right into my lap or even deeper into the bag, from where I was fairly certain it would never be retrieved. I shall not continue with a full account of my struggles. Let me just say encapsulating a rectangular-shaped sandwich inside a little plastic tray hinged lengthwise into two little triangles does not make for easy extraction of said sandwich from its outer covering.

My lunchtime treat, Tesco, turned into a lunchtime trauma. Perhaps it was karma’s way of telling me to stick with my diet; perhaps I was simply unfortunate enough to select the only sandwich in the shop created in such a manner. Whatever the case may be, Tesco, I leave you with a recommendation: do not continue with this range of sandwiches. Sainsbury’s does it better.

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