The Irritations of Modern Life 30. Supermarkets
Wednesday 17 February 1999
Er, no. There's peach-flavoured yoghurt, strawberry-flavoured yoghurt, yoghurt with peach or strawberry chunks, yoghurt with forest berries (I've never seen berries in a forest), vanilla-flavoured yoghurt, chocolate- flavoured yoghurt, Greek-style with honey, creamy yoghurt with blobs of fruit puree in a separate compartment.
There's low-fat yoghurt and no-fat yoghurt, or rather - since spellings have to vary as much as the contents - lo-fat or lite. And just in case you think you've got a handle on the choices involved, there's creme fraiche and fromage blanc.
Out of my depth in dairy, I decide to go for the ordinary, unflavoured, unfiltered, unmediated, full-fat, plain variety. And I can't find it.
Perhaps I should retrace my steps and try to remember why I wanted yoghurt in the first place? Was it for pudding or salad?
If, by some failure of weekend programming, my family and I were to find ourselves at the supermarket together, my interior monologue on the merits and uses of various yoghurts would turn into a public debate that would inevitably end in one of those domestic compromises that leave each party feeling sour - and we end up leaving the shop with half a dozen different types and flavours of yoghurt in our trolley.
Without the interested parties present to debate their particular tastes, my nerve wavered. But I did not sink so low as to phone home on the mobile, as I see my fellow shoppers doing from time to time, and describe the display in front of me.
The whole point of the supermarket run is to shop quickly and efficiently and maybe even inexpensively under one roof.
The whole point of choice, on the other hand, is that it requires decision- making - a demanding and time-consuming process.
So the abundance of choice in our supermarkets - every year bigger, better, more - has transformed the business of stocking up on household staples into a day's work, involving detailed analysis of pros and cons and whys and wherefores.
The next item on my envelope is washing powder. The aisle is another expanse of different brands in different sizes and different packages and boxes. One declares itself to be "biological". What can it mean? Is it intended to sound healthy and natural?
The next box is equally proud of being "non-biological". I can have a soft pack. A cardboard box. A plastic container. A dispensing ball. A measuring cup. I could have a refill (what would I be refilling?). There are different flavours. I could, if I chose, walk around in lemon-scented jockey shorts, or sleep in pine-scented sheets. And how do I choose?
At this point I do what any rational person would, dazzled by infinite variety. I start loading the trolley at random. Then, dimly aware that I've departed from my crumpled list, I dump a couple of yoghurts (lo-fat banana flavour with honeycomb; Greek full fat with muesli) on the dog- food shelf. More choice for dogs.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after treatment by British doctors on brink of 'cure'
James Blunt finally admits the truth: 'You're Beautiful' is annoying
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
Batman v Superman: Side-kick Robin to be 'woman played by Jena Malone'
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
Lord Freud hangs on as MPs of all parties 'call for his head' over disability comments