My local Sainsbury’s (Upton, Wirral), is, as I’ve banged on about frequently, a wasteland of empty shelves on a Sunday – and today was no exception. The deli counter was looking pretty sparse too. How, if the word Manager on your dinky little name badge means anything at all (other than to save you asking people who you are all day), can you have your store so massively under-stocked on one of the busiest days of the week? It’s insane.
However, for sheer, mind-numbing, stupidity, they excelled themselves today. To avoid the pork and beef sections being, mostly, empty, echoing, voids, they’d filled up the empty space with about a zillion packs of mince.
I wanted a decent-sized piece of brisket, to unroll, cut into chunks and cook very slowly, along with some kidneys. First pitfall, no brisket. I rummaged in a morass of dodgy-looking “roasting joints” so utterly devoid of fat they’d had what looked like slabs of processed suet strapped to them in the vain hope of encouraging the ignorant or unfussy to buy them (here’s a tip, guys – instead of adding fat, don’t cut the bloody stuff off in the first place!). And adding fact is an entremely poor substitute for that that’s an intrinsic part of the meat, and which carries a lot of the flavour..
Eventually, I turned up two pieces of sorry-looking brisket, one way too small and fatty – I like fat on brisket, but not when it’s been shoved in the middle and the meat wrapped around it – the fat, most of it anyway, and a fairly thin layer, should be on the outside. The other piece was a tad under a kilo, with almost no fat, not great – no attempt to roll it, it was just folded over – but viable, so I grabbed that.
Second pitfall, not a single bloody kidney of any description. I’d checked the website last night (I use the online shopping pages to compile my shopping lists, then just copy the trolley to Word), and all it offered me in a search for offal was “Did you mean Tefal?” Well, no – what sort of a numbnuts programmer could think to himself (they’re usually guys), “I know, if people ask for offal I’ll assume they want pans.” Jesus wept!
Searching for kidneys brought me kidney beans, steak and kidney puddings and pies, dog food, ready meals – hard to tell those two apart – plus a vast amount of totally unrelated crap, but no kidneys. So I wasn’t entirely surprised when I came up empty.
But why? They sell liver, not so much sliced as hacked up with an axe (look, if the people you employ have the knife skills of a blind plumber, don’t you think they’re in the wrong job?**), but it’s there, so why not kidneys? True, as there’s only two per animal they’ll go fast (though maybe not; there’s less taste for offal these days), but that’s no excuse for not stocking them at all.
**The website displays tray after tray of impeccably sliced or cubed meat – the reality is more like roadkill. They do take care with the expensive, hung for 21 days, stuff, which suggests they can do it if they want to, but I won’t pay such a huge premium when what’s been done to the meat is, essentially, nothing – it’s just been left on a hook in a cold-room for three weeks – it hasn’t incurred additional labour costs, or transport costs, just storage. That’s not worth double the price or more.
Back in store, the only offal I found was a couple of pathetic trays of lambs’ liver which were almost black and looked older than god. I’d have happily used lambs’ kidneys, but not liver – cooked long and slow it’d wind up as tough as old boots – you need pigs’ liver for that, and it really doesn’t go with beef (it’s very good, though, cut in strips and cooked slowly in an oniony tomato sauce).
So it’s going to be a basic beef stew (carrots, onions, beef, of course, and peas, added near the end). That’s OK, it’ll still be good. I might salt the beef first (you need kosher salt or very coarse sea salt, not flakes), to get at least some of the inevitable water out of it (if it was blood, not water, a good vet could have it back on its feet). And, as I’ve learned not to try to fry off Salisbury’s meat – just leaks wet gunk – I’ll just dust it with flour so it thickens as it cooks.
Then, to add massive insult to injury, I spotted a sign which said “Due to the lack of meat on display, why not try chicken or duck?” Not, you’ll notice, “Due to a shortage of meat beyond our control…” So, better yet, you dumb, useless, bastards, stock your goddamned store properly – better empty shelves than mince no-one wants in such vast quantity, and it’s fooling nobody – or bugger off and make way for somebody who can.
Anyway, why would I buy chicken or duck, if I wanted pork or beef? There seemed to be ample lamb, though.
And if you’re wondering why I continue to go there, it’s because I get a lift. Oh, and Tesco is even worse!