Friday, October 29, 2010

Communist supermarkets and how I became the Empress

Communist supermarkets and how I became the Empress

So I'm taking a week off from cooking. I did make some puddings I could blog about, but I'll save that for next week. For anyone who read my first post, you'll know that I promised to explain how my regal nickname came about. It's time to cash in on that promise, so here's how I came to be known as the Empress.

Emperor D and I met over ten years ago working for the same company. It's a financial services company and, back then at least, had a cracking social scene. One of Emperor D's colleagues and workmates - who we'll call Chappers - has a penchant for bestowing nicknames on his mates. His nickname for Emperor D is The Admiral. After all these years, I actually have no idea why. The Admiral, or rather, Emperor D, is not a particular fan of boats or anything. But, nevertheless Chappers christened him The Admiral.

I was nicknamed The Empress. There's probably a deeper reason to it, but I think it basically stems from my nickname Jo being somewhat close to Josephine, also the name of the French empress. (And no, my name is not Josephine.) Since that time, Chappers would always greet me as The Empress. And I kind of like it. Beats being a mere queen. Thanks Chappers - The Empress bestows credit where it's due. With the advent of social media, I needed to come up with a pseudonym that would fit all forums and forms of Web 2.0. I hit upon Empress Jo. So there you have it; the birth of an internet age empress in a nut shell.

A Muscovite spoiled for choice
in his local supermarke
For some of you, what I'm about to write could seem like deja vu. And for that I apologise, but I think it's important everyone knows my opinion on the communist, Soviet-era like supermarket chain (and my local one in particular), Woolworths.

When I think of Soviet-era supermarkets, I conjure up the image of bare shelves, or if they are stocked, filled with one or two brands of a product, one of which will be the favoured, state-sanctioned one. That's my local Woolworths, where I've been shopping for ten years. Perhaps it's a case of familiarity breeds contempt, but it seems every week that Woolworths finds a new product that they decide to stop stocking. And it's always one of my favourite brands or products. Sometimes I feel that they take the information on what I buy when I go through the checkout and deliberately stop stocking that item just to annoy me. And it works. And for the ones they do continue to stock it seems like they've always 'just run out of stock'. I recently tried three times in a week to buy my favourite brand of tea. Nope, out of stock. But even other Woolworths stores managed to have it. They have a small variety of products and an even smaller variety of brands for each product from which to choose.

'Hello! Is there a fully-stocked
supermarket anywhere for
my comrade and I?'
What really annoys me is that they stop stocking some brands of a product, only to infiltrate the shelves with their own Select brand - which I refuse to buy. If Woolworths is like a Soviet-era supermarket, then Select is like the state-sanctioned brand you imagine Soviets or people in East Berlin being forced to buy. We are an unashamedly capitalist society, so why not have the choice that goes with it? I guess that same principle is what led Woolworths to develop the Select brand in the first place - more profit to them.

You're probably reading this and thinking why don't I just go to another supermarket? And you're right - I should. But there's something comforting and familiar about going to a supermarket you know so well that you know exactly which aisle and where in the aisle to find something you're looking for. Nine times out of ten Woolworths has what I need, even if it means I need to compromise. But I hate compromise, at least when it comes to ingredients and cooking and eating with something you know and love. These days, if I can't find something, then it's usually a job for the gourmet supermarkets, and I'm not far from quite a few of those. This is just a vent - but I really do wish that Woolworths would stock more of my favourite brands.

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