Image by Walt Jabsco via FlickrRoaming the supermarket, I don't pay close attention to the 'sell by' date on the packaged goods. The 'packed on' date is more important with eggs, though I'm lucky enough not to have to buy the anaemic offerings masquerading as such as the hens still provide, despite long passing their own 'sell by' date - the date at which the battery farm sold them for one euro apiece, poor bald creatures that they were. It took them days to come out of the shelter I provided for them...days longer even to try walking over the grass...but I knew they would be O.K. when they started catching insects. Beady eyed descendants of the dinosaurs, I am very fond of them.
However, returning to the supermarket shelves. I have never been obsessive about 'sell by' dates, as some of the yogurt in my 'fridge would bear witness, but this was another lesson France had in store for me. I had been eying the turkeys in a local outlet one year, which were marked as having a last day of sale of 29th December. Keen to get a bargain, I was at the door before opening time, slalomed round the pensioners' trolleys as the bell rang and arrived at the poultry counter. No turkeys. Well, not whole ones. Not with that ' sell by' date. Just lots and lots of turkey portions, all dated 4th January. The same thing...with slightly different dates.... the next year...and the next. Conspiracy theorist I may be, but by the pricking of my thumbs, I think someone is chopping up the unsold poultry into portions and extending the date of sale. The coincidence of date and transmogrification is too much.
Cheese - the sort sold packaged on the shelves - also has 'sell by' dates and here they are a boon. I like the little logs of goat cheese and, thanks to inadequate stock control, the local supermarket frequently has loads of them in its 'last day' section on the chilled shelves. Their idea of last day is my idea of 'well, it's just starting to get ripe', so I load the trolley and transfer the lot to the salad section of the fridge, where they can fester until ready. Given the increasing difficulty of getting ripe cheese on the cheese counter itself, these little logs are super. Especially when half price.
I was subject to censure once when raking through the 'last day' bin...I had found a load of Isigny butter and had collared the lot for the freezer when a disapproving woman spoke up.
'That butter is for everyone.'
'Did you want some?'
'No. I don't buy outdated food.'
'Then just call me Mme. Everyone.'
She mooched off to complain at the checkout that the foreigner was monopolising the 'last day' bin. Getting no joy there, she came back to complain to me...by this time I was at the fish counter...that we foreigners only came to profit from France.
I had a vision of D day landing craft swinging their doors open on the beaches of Normandy, unloading the British hordes to scavenge in the 'last day' bins of French supermarkets across the Hexagon in order to deprive honest French women of their half price butter and cheese...never mind the booze, get the butter! As a vision, it was lacking something. Reality, probably.
It must have been one of my better days, as I did not detail for her just how difficult it would be to profit in any way shape or form whatever from France.....and it must be a better day today too as I don't propose to detail it here either...but I did suggest that she got a grip.
'Who was I to tell anyone French how they should behave in their own country?'
The better day feeling evaporated with the speed of a pint of beer in the hand of a thirsty fast bowler in the days before degenerate energy drinks sapped their will to nail the batsman to the stumps.
I suggested that since I was paying taxes to support families breeding like flies which neatly avoided French firms having to pay reasonable wages to the ordinary worker, since I was paying to support a health and social security system with enough gaping holes of waste to support several third world countries and since I wasn't allowed to vote for the self satisfied cretins who ran the whole shebang, I rather thought that I could say what I liked. And to whom I chose. And when.
This being France, this is not strictly accurate...functionaries of all sorts are protected by law from receiving the full and frank opinions of the governed, but since she wasn't wearing a kepi or a tricolour sash, I thought I was on pretty safe ground.
She turned away muttering and flushed with the healthy release of pent up fury I indicated to the lady on the fish counter which kippers I would like.
She lifted them up for approval.
A fine coating of mould embellished the fleshy side of each.
Wordlessly she put them back.
Wordlessly, I passed on.