Monday, 23 December 2013

Marks & Spencer, Muslims and a Matter of Taste.


Marks & Spencer, that great old bastion of Britishness.
The place where you could go for a pork pie, a prawn sandwich, a bottle of Prosecco and a pair of tights.
A store so vanilla, user friendly and middle of the road that you could patiently wait in line to hand over your money and leave, happy in the knowledge that your purchases haven't caused religious upset or created intolerance.
Except that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
Your prawns and your underwear have been happily scanned, processed and bagged but your processed pork and your bottle of Prosecco have caused an affront to religious sensibility, and however politely your purchases may have been refused and your payment rebuffed, you've crossed the line of political correctness.
Who knew a pork pie could cause such offence?
Marks and Spencer and their ever wanting need to be all things to all people have decided that any member of staff who is Muslim and does not wish to serve customers who are purchasing alcohol or anything 'porkish' can 'politely' refuse to do so.
It's terribly convenient that we've found this out a couple of days before Christmas because in affect, what M&S have succeeded in doing is to now make most of their customers begin to racially profile every cashier in their stores.
Anyone sat behind a till in a headscarf or with a hint of a beard is going to find that anyone with a fondness for a Bucks Fizz or a Percy Pig is not going to want to approach them. Nobody wants to wait in line on Christmas Eve with a shopping cart full of food only to have their mixed nuts handled and bagged but have their gammon and bottle of vodka never make it past the 'next customer please' block.

Let's face it, the majority of M&S customers are middle aged and upward.
They have enough to worry about without judging what the reaction of the cashier is going to be once they've placed a packet of breaded ham in front of them.
This is the company that has used Dame Helen Mirren and Helena Bonham Carter in their advertising. Both fabulous, glamorous, earthy women who look like they wouldn't be adverse to knocking back a shot of tequila or snacking on 'pigs in blankets' (google it if you don't know what they are) at Christmas time.
At a time when it seems that the only thing Marks & Spencer can do right is to keep their food hall busy and inviting, it looks like this could be the final kick in the teeth for their loyal customer. M&S is a high street store. It's not Fortnum & Mason but then again it's hardly Iceland either. Some people see M&S food as a necessity, others a luxury, so it's hardly the correct message to send out to the myriad of Daily Mail readers who buy their clothes there, that the next time they fancy a bottle of gin or a BLT they may not pass go, get passed the velvet rope or even get to pay 5 pence for a carrier bag.
It seems to me to be political correctness and fear of religious upset gone mad.
If I didn't want to handle or sell pornography, I wouldn't get a job in a sex shop and if I didn't get to get my hands dirty or covered in oil, I wouldn't go and work as mechanic. I've never been refused a pack of condoms by a cashier in Boots because they were Catholic and I've never been refused a cream cake in Greggs because the girl behind the counter may have thought I looked like I could do with losing a few pounds.
No one has the right to refuse to help or serve someone because their religion denotes what others should put in their shopping basket, trolley or mouth. A Marks & Spencer food hall is not a place to breed religious or racial intolerance. It's a place to wander around and manhandle some meringues, touch the tangerines and make the cartons of milk 'shake'.
I have shopped in M&S for the past twenty-five years. There are so many things in their food range that I simply love, but for me, and judging by the reaction on social media regarding whom their staff may or may not want to serve, the only thing their food range has left in many peoples mouth is a rather nasty taste.
And one we may not won't want to sample again.
 

Follow Daniel Warner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/picnicdontpanic

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Nigella Lawson And Her Little White Lines.


She's a saucy minx that Nigella Lawson isn't she?
When she's not stirring up all kinds of sexual innuendos with a chocolate covered spoon, or about to split the seams and spill suggestively out of her skirt, she apparently spends her time being strangled by a Saatchi and sniffing little white lines from those real marble surfaces in her SW3 home.
She's Betty Boop bending over an AGA, Marilyn Monroe with culinary skills and Kate Moss with curves.
Drug scandals and spousal abuse are the stuff of which Jeremy Kyle's dreams are made, but remove the location from the council estate and replace the great unwashed with a domestic goddess (who just happens to look like she's tumbled from Botticelli's sketch pad) and you have a recipe that will fulfil every newspaper editors need for a story and every newspaper readers yearning for some salacious gossip.
Without her milky white skin, raven hair, plump red lips and ability to turn every item in a fully stocked fridge into a school boys sexual fantasy, things wouldn't look good between Nigella and the great British public. She is, after all, the daughter of Nigel Lawson, one of Thatcher's henchmen. She's rich, upper class, good looking and spends her life rushing around in taxi cabs buying organic produce, sipping red wine and kneading dough.
Hardly the stuff those on income support and living in social housing can relate to is it? And yet she is endearingly popular. The gays love her because she brings just the right amount of glamour, decadence and big hair to the kitchen. Women love her because she translates being a 'Chelsea Housewife' to the tower block (and also because of the incident with the Saatchi strangler) and straight men love her for her two barely contained breasts. No one stirs a spoon, sucks on a finger or sears a scallop quite like Nigella.
She has all bases covered, even if she was freebasing cocaine - we'd still forgive her because she's like Snow White with an SW3 postcode. She's a Chelsea Princess and a gorgeous glamorous bundle of culinary delights. Jamie Oliver has his enlarged tongue, Gordon Ramsay has his filthy mouth but Nigella somehow manages to use her tongue and those lips like two red velvet pillow cases to illicit not only filthy sexual fantasies, but a strong desire to get into the kitchen and start whisking cream until it explodes into a frothy mess. From Pimlico to Pontypridd, Sloane Square to Sidcup, she's got every man reaching for his nuts and ready to give them a roasting.
According to Charles Saatchi, Nigella spent so much time abusing cocaine, prescription drugs and smoking marijuana that she allowed her assistants Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo to spend £685,000 on the company credit card. Now I've watched Nigella Lawson knocking up Christmas cakes and stuffing chickens in her kitchen, and although she does have a tendency to be a bit sloppy with the ingredients and end up with flour in her hair, she has never given the impression that she'd not be aware of her assistants wandering around the house in brand new mink coats or arriving for work dripping in diamonds and riding a white pony with wings.
I think the case against Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo has unleashed a vengeful beast in Charles Saatchi and given him an opportunity to take Nigella's rolling pin and verbally bash her with it. It seems like hell hath no fury than an art dealer / strangler scorned. He wants to smash Nigella's Souffle, mash her meringues and piss all over her exquisitely laid dining table. It seems the milk has turned sour, the cheese has gone off and somebody left the Saatchi cake out in the rain, and without Nigella, he'll never have that recipe again.
I'll be watching and listening intently to the animosity the case against those Grillo girls has generated between Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson, but in the meantime I'll be making the recipe for the 'Holiday Hotcake' that she tweeted yesterday (along with the #TeamNigella').
And as for Mr Saatchi? 
If you can't stand the heat Charles, please stay out of Nigella's kitchen and to those two thieving Grillo girls?
Please stay out of Nigella's grill.
 

Follow Daniel Warner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/picnicdontpanic