FOOD / Gastropod

THE GASTROPOD has done some grisly things for money over the years, but could never contemplate doing Edwin Rose's job: he eats pet food for a living. That is to say, as the chief buyer for Safeway, he has a duty to check the consistency of each brand of cat and dog food sold by the chain, by sampling them on a regular basis. 'The job was sold to me as a career enhancement, a chance to prove myself,' he confided.

He has been put in charge of the largest product-tasting exercise ever undertaken by Safeway, in preparation for the launch of its own-label premium pet foods. Two thousand cat and dog owners were canvassed to see which flavours their pets preferred. Then Mr Rose tried them.

Some of the recipes make even him gag. The most repulsive is Prime Cuts Tripe Mix, which has a flavour and aroma that is appealing to dogs, but highly unpalatable to humans. On the other hand, some of the classier cat food is not too different from the stuff Mr Rose used to sample when he was in the tinned fish department. After all, it ultimately comes from the same place, if not via the same factory.

His favourite is Gourmet Sardine in Smoked Salmon Flavour Jelly: 'I reckon you could put that in a sandwich and, so long as you cut the crusts off, I don't think you'd offend too many people at the vicar's tea party,' he claims.

SPRING is at last in the air and there is good news for lovers of sprightly wheat beers, not unlike those offered by Michael Jackson on this page last week. Hoegaarden Blanche, the Belgian 'white' beer with a citrus nose and hint of curacao ('a world classic,' according to Mr Jackson), which has hitherto been available only in bottles, will soon be on draught at around 50 outlets in London.

Ask for 'Her Garden', which seems to be the accepted English mispronunciation - perhaps because 'Who Harden' can be so Flemish when spoken with an authentically Belgian rasp.

NUTRITIONAL correctness rears its head in the annual Asda report on Health and the Family Diet, which concludes that we are a nation of fatheads. The survey found that although we may pay lip-service to the importance of healthy eating, and most of us believe we eat a balanced diet, we are in fact kidding ourselves.

Statistical analysis of the responses to such questions as 'Is brown sugar better than white?' and 'Does unhealthy food taste better than broccoli?' has enabled Asda to categorise the population according to our attitudes to healthy eating.

The most nutritionally correct are characterised as 'Anxious Annekas' - presumably after the hyperactive Ms Rice - who follow every health fad. At the other end of the scale are the 'Misguided Meldrews', whose motto is 'I don't believe it'. In between are the 'Doubting Duckworths' (who, like the Coronation Street characters, think that fish and chips are what a body needs), the 'Gorging Gazzas' and the 'Lithe Linfords' (who are well informed about health and highly motivated to eat well, but are not fanatical).

A mere 13 per cent said they are strongly influenced by nutritional information on the labels of foods, and 53 per cent admitted to frequent indulgence in food they know to be unhealthy. Lithe Linfords tend to belong in the highest income bracket, to be aged between 35 and 54, and are more likely to be women than men. This counts out your correspondent , who regrets the omission of a 'Gourmandising Gastropod' category.

TELEVISION viewers who saw the trailers for Masterchef, which returns to BBC 1 tomorrow, may have easily identified four of the five talking heads. Egon Ronay and Prue Leith should be familiar, Rowley Leigh and Sally Clarke at least identifiable. But who is the fifth, looking (at least to the Gastropod) like a superannuated Simon Hopkinson?

It is the venerable (but still amazingly youthful) Robert Carrier, who is returning to our screens after lengthy sojourns in Morocco, Spain and the South of France. He will be judging a semi-final of Masterchef in June; in the meantime, he will be appearing as the host of a new strand of ITV's This Morning, starting on Tuesday at 11.30, called The Gourmet Vegetarian.

Each week, Carrier, who admits to being vegetarian 'two or three days a week', will be turning up at the home of a celebrity veggie to cook him or her a meal.

After a shaky start (Barbara Dickson, then Dave Lee Travis), the series suddenly takes off in the third week. Carrier finds himself in London's East End, in the licensed squat of the rasta poet Benjamin Zephaniah - and cooks spicy nut, garlic and parsley mashed fritters with tomato sauce and ackee, plus a black-eye bean salad, in the tiny kitchen. Zephaniah is so delighted that he asks the rotund, seventysomething American to move in.

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