'Someone's got to do all the shopping. But frankly I'd rather have a pint and a curry'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

"Snails?" repeats the boy in Waitrose, looking at me as if I have just asked him where I can find the aisle for botulism. "Yes," I reply. "Lots of them." He takes a step back. "You mean snails as in ..." Yes. It's not going well.

"Snails?" repeats the boy in Waitrose, looking at me as if I have just asked him where I can find the aisle for botulism. "Yes," I reply. "Lots of them." He takes a step back. "You mean snails as in ..." Yes. It's not going well.

Eight o'clock on a Thursday evening and I am looking for a blow torch, 72 escargots and a bale of hay. Most of the other ingredients I need for Janet have been comparatively easy to find. I have an £11.99 bottle of aged balsamic vinegar, unfeasible amounts of fennel and enough vegetables to feed a small elephant. My garden has yielded up its bouquet garni and could also have provided those dratted snails, well-fed on delphiniums that represented several months of my life. But snails must be purified, apparently. One must feed and nurture them for a fortnight to be sure their little systems are free from slug pellets. It's tempting to cheat, but I wouldn't want to inflict arsenic poisoning on the editor-at-large. And the snail farmer so thoughtfully recommended by Mr Blumenthal is not answering his phone.

I call my mum, who knows everything. "If only you'd told me," she says, "I've only just thrown out some liquid glucose." (Of course.) "You can get it in Boots. People use it for sore throats."

A pet shop on the South Circular sells hay. "It comes with naturally occurring wild herbs," says the assistant. "Doesn't it smell fresh?" I sniff. It smells like hay. A foody colleague tells me snails are readily available in Selfridges, so I go up West and there they are, between the fish counter and the cheese. But only 14 of them. Damn.

The man in the chef's whites is very understanding, if suspicious about what a girl in a crumpled suit with a bale of hay might want with them. As I cross my fingers, he punches a number into his telephone and bellows, "We need more escargots!" Then he slowly returns the phone to its cradle. "I just accidentally dialled the extension for Gucci," he says, face the colour of an organic pink shallot. Now he knows how I feel. The shopping has cost £160. It has taken a whole day to find. I might, just, go to all this time and trouble to cook like Heston if it was for someone really, really special. But I suspect they would prefer a pint and a curry.

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