• I operate a just-in-time supply chain

    Apples packaged in plastic on a supermarket shelf
    (Photo by Ethan Feng)

    It’s called my ‘supermarket-to-kitchen run’. But I hadn’t realised – until I read Dan Hancox’s article in the June issue of Prospect magazine – just how recent and unusual my lifestyle is. 

    Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring!

    We’ve all heard the tales of rationing, and how it lasted into the mid-50s for Britons. But it always felt very far away from a 1980s childhood. 

    Hancox relates how responsibility for food security has been handed to supermarkets by the British government since the 1960s, and in earnest since the 90s. 

    But since the 90s, just-in-time supply chains have become the norm, reducing waste and unused capacity, and allowing us ever cheaper chickens and strawberries whenever we want them.

    Freezers are for losers

    I don’t really do freezers. Like many of my generation, I smirk at 70-somethings with their bursting freezers and their back-up chest freezer in the garage with another years’ supply of Findus crispy pancakes and Quiche Lorraines. 

    Just like Sainsbury’s, my supply chain has about enough capacity to last two days in a crisis. I haven’t even planned for what I’ll eat tomorrow, let alone at the weekend. 

    But I am also completely at ease with the idea that what I will eat might be a poké bowl, or a Greek salad, or perhaps some tuna sashimi. Because growing up in this culture has given me infinite choice. 

    Meat and two veg

    This has shielded me from another uncomfortable truth. I don’t much like the food that actually grows in my country. I’ve often been given pause by Blackadder episodes where Baldrick bangs on about turnips. Turnips! Are they edible?

    I’ve always preferred mezze to Sunday roast. I’ll take calamari over fish’n’chips. I’d rather an olive than a turnip. If I hadn’t lived in this hyper-connected age, what might I have never tasted? 

    While we’re on the subject of food, Fancy a Dinner Share?

  • Are you social distancing?

    (Photo by Everton Vila)

    This is an emergency. Where is the urgency, Sweden? Well, the same accusation was being flung at the UK until this week, but let’s look a little more closely at the facts. 

    Slowing the curve

    So, the scientific evidence is clear. During epidemics you get ‘the surge’, and the only way to avoid an uncontainable spike in cases is to limit people’s contact with each other, or ‘social distancing’. 

    This means, essentially, avoiding large-scale organized fun, no kissing, no bear hugs, dammit no shaking hands. It involves a nod at best, or if you’re getting avant-garde, a foot rub (through sealed footwear). 

    It means keeping chat to a bare minimum, and certainly making sure to avoid animated chat on subjects liable to impassion (to minimize the spread of saliva). Since coronavirus is the only subject in town, and a passionate one at that, it means zipping it. 

    Supermarket sweep

    It means heading to the supermarket at asocial hours when you are least likely to bump into people you might have to interact with either verbally or otherwise. 

    It involves dressing soberly, betraying no emotion, and acting as if everything is entirely normal. This, despite the fact that it’s clear there has been a run on legumes and toilet roll, like some strange inversion of a midsummer BBQ weekend. 

    But remember, the greatest scientific minds in our nations have been studying the facts, not the fake news. They have observed quite clearly that social distancing measures have been rigorously enforced by Swedes and Brits for generations. 

    Put out the fire

    Clearly, drastic measures were required in Italy, where social distancing was a concept so alien as to be entirely uncommunicable. The same goes for Spain and France. Even those hot-blooded Danes (the Latins of the Nordics) had to rein it in. 

    Meanwhile, life has continued entirely undisturbed in Sweden. Policy only started to shift in Britain when it was realised that eradicating free movement of people was a central plank of government policy. Talk about win-win…

    Yes, Swedes and Brits were separated at birth, and Swedes are just Brits with good branding