Peter York on Ads: The steam train looks great, but it's running very late

Bird's Eye

Chuff, chuff. Rattle rattle. Over the points, over the points! You can't beat a reference to the age of steam. It works curiously, even for kids who were never there. And the steam railways had such lovely sexual metaphors - into the tunnel in a cloud of steam.

Chuff, chuff. Rattle rattle. Over the points, over the points! You can't beat a reference to the age of steam. It works curiously, even for kids who were never there. And the steam railways had such lovely sexual metaphors - into the tunnel in a cloud of steam.

The new age of steam is utterly different. There are machines which clean everything, or make clothes and curtains hand straight. And there are rice steamers that Japanese can't live without. Steamed food fans say steaming keeps all the vitamins in. So different from the 20-minute rolling boil they used to do to cabbage - no other vegetables had been invented then - in the first British Empire Age of Steam.

The Bird's Eye commercials for their new steamed ready-meals combine both these big ideas. It looks wonderful. They've got a chuff-chuff, rattle-rattle soundtrack, a rooster lost in a burst of engine steam, and rotting red tomato slices running between a cutting of broccoli trees. There are runner bean sleepers and very bright blue skies with gingham oilcloth backdrops. Pasta carriages. Everything except marmalade skies. Very nice art direction.

Then they switch to the product, all plated up on white tablecloths. It's all bright - doesn't a bit of red and yellow pepper make a difference - rice or pasta-based popular fusion food - a bit Italian, a bit South-East Asian with all the difficult bits taken out. I'm not bothered about authenticity - actually I think it's a dead giveaway word for a fatal bourgeois fallacy, but don't get me started - so I quite fancy them.

However, I've been eating this stuff for about three years already. It may be new as tomorrow at Bird's Eye but microwaveable steamed ready meals like this have long since arrived at Marks & Spencer Marble Arch. And I was an early adopter.

The M&S product is cook-chill, but the Bird's Eye one is frozen - presumably you have to microwave it for longer. And because the M&S brand commands higher prices from better-off people - Bird's Eye is subject to the world of the corner "convenience" shop - the Bird's Eye stuff will be more tightly cost-controlled and the children's pieces will be smaller and fewer and so forth.

The branded food manufacturers are almost always behind the big retailers on the innovation trail now. But soon enough somebody'll come along and make a lovely nostalgic documentary about the Freezer Age 1950-1990.

Peter@sru.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...