It’s a long, long time since I visited the Sainsbury’s at Angel, Islington. I’ve nipped into the little one at Euston Station occasionally to grab something before a train journey, or the one at Manchester Piccadilly for the same thing in reverse, but that’s it.
However, after making a meat and potato pie on Sunday – the perfect welcome for the autumn’s first stay-in-and-curl-up-on-the-sofa-with-the-cats day – I was left with some spare filling and plenty of pastry.
It was a question of finding the most convenient place in which to buy a little extra beef mince to make up enough filling for a second pie.
On a Monday, Henry the Broadway Market butcher is closed, so I nipped to the Angel Sainsbury’s on Monday after work, where I remembered they have a little ‘butcher’s’ counter.
I found myself wondering how on earth I’d ever managed to keep my sanity when having to shop regularly in such places. And how anyone else manages to do it now.
As I was about to enter, a mother was having to fight off a screaming child, dressed in primary school uniform, who wanted what appeared to be a bright cornflower blue lollipop that his mother was trying to keep just out of reach.
Inside, I was met by cacophony combined with chilled air from the cool cabinets.
Near the tobacco check out were shelves of prepacked sandwiches, crisps, magazines and newspapers.
And then, taking the obvious route, fruit and veg, followed by a vast aisle of what seemed to be largely ready meals and ready meal components.
The ‘butcher’s’ counter was where I remembered it. It had little variety and seemed to be exclusively prime cuts. If Sainsbury’s read this, the young man who served me was very charming and entirely efficient.
The place was rammed. I needed milk and razor blades (for The Other Half, not my wrists) and spent some time hunting the latter down.
The far wall of the store, for its entire length, now houses confectionary. To be scrupulously fair, that means that this Sainsbury’s at least doesn’t do the trick of putting the sweets next to the tills.
Then I noticed what looked like entire aisles of Mr Kipling’s exceedingly good cakes (full of things you wouldn't bake with at home – who the hell would put vegetable oil in an apple pie?). And aisles of crisps and snacks, of course. And fizzy drinks.
The sheer amount of which make the fruit and veg look insignificant by comparison.
There were schoolchildren, picking up snack fodder and adults picking up vast multipacks of crisps for their children. The place was rammed. The queues were tedious.
I should point out here that Islington is not just a posh area – it also has some very poor people. The customers in the shop were a reflection of the area’s mix.
It could be said that one of the problems of thing and reading about food seriously is that you start to see certain things.
In the Joanna Blythman book that I have just finished, she talks of the vast numbers of Britons who eat on the hoof. In the couple of days since finishing that, I have been surprised at just how much I’ve noticed this.
And it seems to defy most social categories. I suspect it hasn’t only occurred this week.
The subsequent second bite of the meat and potato pie was welcome: no junk; the only ingredients that were not homemade from scratch were the HP sauce, Worcester sauce – and the ketchup (organic from Daylesford).
But the days other negative food experience had occurred earlier in the day, when there was a slice or two of cake available in the office – and I took advantage.
It was Victoria sponge – but after a couple of bites, it went in the bin. The reason? Quite simply that it tasted as though it was at least 50% sugar.
Even the layer of buttercream filling seemed to include so much sugar that the texture was granular.
So there you have it: two food experiences I will be trying to avoid repeating any time soon.