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Sandwichcraft - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
Yesterday I bought a Sainsbury's "heat & eat" panini.
Today I attempted to eat it.
My verdict: RUBBISH.

The packaging is a typesetter's screaming drug-crazed nightmare. There's about thirty different fonts, font sizes and colours all clamouring for attention like teenagers on tartrazine. I'm sure I remember a time, a Golden Age long ago, when text was expected -- encouraged, even -- to have some kind of meaning. That time has gone, steamrollered over by a viral proliferation of text in lowercase sans-serif which appears to have been generated by an infinite number of monkeys which are not just on typewriters, or rather (these days, probably) on Powerpoint, but also on crack.

Let's take the text one bit at a time. First, "heat & eat". (Red and dark orange on light orange background.) As brand names go this does at least bear some relation to the reality of the sandwich experience. I heat the sandwich, using the microwave, and then I eat it. However, I do object to the fact that it no longer appears to be possible to buy food which hasn't already been funnelled through the ACME Dr-Seuss-ificator. "Heat & eat! Heat & eat! In the office, on the street!" If I buy a sandwich, I do not need it to rhyme. It's the sort of thing that a small child would chant, delighted with its discovery of rhyming words; what may be endearing in a toddler is markedly less so in a national supermarket chain. If I wanted childish verse (or worse) for lunch, I'd go to Hallmark and start chewing my way through their "birthday" section (now the smallest section in the shop because nobody except the little baby Gee-whiz is allowed to have a birthday in the Christmas season). Darling, your dinner's in the doggerel.

Second, "panini". No problem with this. On the next line, however, this minimalist yet adequate description (white text on black background, different font) is expanded:
free range egg mayonnaise with sweetcure bacon, pork sausage and fresh tomato in a panini. Enjoy hot from the microwave
Now, look. I do not wish to be ordered to "enjoy" my lunch. If I want to eat it grudgingly and miserably, resenting each mouthful, that is my inalienable right as a consumer. On the other hand, by 1pm I am hungrier than a box of wolves; if the sandwich actually tastes better than a piece of marmite-spread cardboard I'll probably "enjoy" it, or as near as I can get to enjoying anything, without being told, thank you. But it's not just the enforced jollity that bothers me; it's the punctuation as well. This texteme begins with a lower-case letter, has a full stop and subsequent capital letter in the middle, and then ends without a full stop. Make your minds up, chaps! Either this is an answer-in-full-sentences paper, or you're allowed to write in note form. Or perhaps... they're hiding something from us? Perhaps this is only a fragment of the full explanatory text concerning the contents of the packet? But if so, why didn't they use ellips... no, better not suggest it.

Third, "brunch". One word, black text, in the centre of a large purple circle. The style suggests we're looking at a clever piece of colour-coding -- that by glancing along the shelves you could easily identify sandwiches suitable for "brunch", "lunch", and ... well, what else? How many classifications of sandwiches do you need, for heaven's sake? What horrors will befall you if you eat a brunch sandwich for lunch, or vice versa? On the other hand, if this isn't a classification system, then it's just a big purple dot containing the word 'brunch'. Is this supposed to entice me? Would it be so difficult, without the prominent placement of the word "brunch", to work out that a hot sandwich might be a suitable late-morning meal? Or is the word supposed to brainwash me into believing that this sandwich is not just recommended to me for my brunch, not just the best brunch, but in fact brunch incarnate, the Platonic ideal of brunch?

Next text: underneath the purple spot, "Delicious eaten hot or cold". Now wait a minute. Immediately above the brunch blob I was being told to "Enjoy hot from the microwave". Now suddenly the rules are relaxed, and I can enjoy it hot or cold? I can't cope with this uncertainty! Best to just turn the packet over and look at the cooking instructions... but before "How to heat" (by this point I'm almost disappointed that there's no corresponding "How to eat") there's another slurry of description to wade through:
'Panini' meaning 'small bread', referring to a sandwich or roll, has become part of the snacking tradition in Italy and the word is synonymous with sandwiches. Our ciabatta is filled with breakfast flavours, making it a perfect hot eating snack on those cold winter days! Our creamy free range egg mayonnaise is teamed with pork sausage and sweetcure bacon with slices of juicy tomato.
I don't even know where to start with this. I read it, and I have this unshakeable feeling that I'm not actually reading text in my native language. I'm struggling to see the sense in telling us that "panini" refers to "a sandwich or roll", then telling us that the word is "synonymous with sandwiches" as if this added new information. And what is "the snacking tradition"? What are "breakfast flavours"? What is a "hot eating snack"? What kinds of snack are there other than eating snacks? And the exclamation mark after "those cold winter days" is, frankly, just asking for a smack in the mouth. Throw another cliché on the fire to keep warm this winter!

But that's not the worst of it. The worst of it, in fact, is the sandwich itself. The picture bears no relation whatsoever to the contents, but we've come to expect that. "Serving suggestion"? More like "throw away the contents of the packet and buy the thing in the picture from a real shop" suggestion. And it's not as if "put it on a plate" is actually a method of serving that we couldn't have invented ourselves. So what we're expecting is not the glorious ensemble of golden bread and posh fried nosh that features on the packaging; but we still have some expectations -- we still hope for a hint of the creaminess, juiciness, goldenness, porkiness, freshness and general adjectivity that the description promised. But what do we actually get?

Well, reader, what we get is a cardboard packet that's too hot to pick up. When we've left it to 'stand' for the statutory 1 minute, we have a cardboard packet that's still too hot to pick up. When we've left it a little longer, so that we're only sustaining minor burns when we pick it up, we have a slightly soggy cardboard packet which, when opened, turns out to be a stealth steam grenade. More scalding ensues.

Gingerly tugging at the end of the sandwich with the tips of my scalded fingers, I manage to ease it out so that the ciabatta protrudes over the edge of the packet. I've left it there for a few seconds, allowing my fingers to cool down, when I realise that there's a slightly slimy mound of sausage and egg on the surface in front of me. The sandwich, soggy and structurally unsound, has collapsed gracelessly, depositing its over-hyped contents on my desk. The lower half of the ciabatta lolls out of the cardboard like a dog's tongue, laughing at my efforts. Once I have managed to extricate sandwich and contents jointly and severally (but mostly severally) from their packaging, and to pile the components up in some approximation to its original state (receding ever further from the vision of sandwichly bliss in the photo), I am left with: a bacon butty. An oversized, over-microwaved, sausage-enhanced bacon butty, with a few shreds of egg clinging to the assorted pig-based detritus.

It falls through my fingers as I try to shovel it into my mouth. It tastes of greasy spoon. I feel cheated.
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crazyscot From: crazyscot Date: November 26th, 2004 08:46 am (UTC) (Link)
truecatachresis From: truecatachresis Date: November 26th, 2004 08:49 am (UTC) (Link)
*round of applause*

I hope you've sent that to Sainsbury's customer services.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 26th, 2004 08:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I hope you've sent that to Sainsbury's customer services.

Nah, they're not that bad really. I mean, y'know, I voluntarily bought a microwave meal, I shouldn't whinge about getting soggy food that burns my fingers...
keirf From: keirf Date: November 26th, 2004 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Our creamy free range egg mayonnaise is teamed with pork sausage and sweetcure bacon

I think the use of teamed really gets me here. What did they do - send the eggs off with the pork and bacon to do some white-water rafting in order for them to bond? Are there things that can't be teamed? Our slimy free range slugs are teamed with water cress and sliced tulip bulbs...
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 26th, 2004 08:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, the teamed shocked me too, somehow. It's fine to verb the odd noun, but this just isn't the place for it.
pseudomonas, whose LJ cluster is sick.
filecoreinuse From: filecoreinuse Date: November 26th, 2004 08:51 am (UTC) (Link)

This is an excellent rant and should be sent straight to Sainsburys' [Aside: where is the apostrophe in this case?]. The thing that really annoys me is not only the proliferation of all lower-case sentences or the vast amount of 'txt-speak' which the world appears determined to make children think is an acceptable way of writing but the 'enjoy ...' prefix for everything. The most egregious example being Coca-Cola's 'Enjoy Coke' trademark (they've trademarked it for God's sake) on every can.
bellinghman From: bellinghman Date: November 26th, 2004 09:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Sainsburys' [Aside: where is the apostrophe in this case?]

One letter to the left.
(Deleted comment)
curiousjen From: curiousjen Date: November 26th, 2004 08:55 am (UTC) (Link)
*Joins in applause*

I don't know if I'd ever think that much about a sandwich!

They must have really pissed you off!
j4 From: j4 Date: November 26th, 2004 08:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Nah, I was just bored, & something about the text on the packet niggled me (and reminded me of rhodri's ranting about this kind of thing) and then the sandwich was a bit mingy, and ... well, it passed the time. :)

Also, ranting about inconsequential stuff allows me to get some of the rantiness out of my system without actually offending anybody. Which is probably a good thing since I already offended two friends this week. :-/
burkesworks From: burkesworks Date: November 26th, 2004 08:56 am (UTC) (Link)
But I would have thought it impossible to enjoy anything that has been "teamed" with egg mayonnaise, even if they have been sent to a four-star country house hotel for intensive Powerpoint presentations, managementspeakbollocks, and/or paintballing.
Thanks Jan; reading this has cheered me up after a rough day at work.
bopeepsheep From: bopeepsheep Date: November 26th, 2004 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Does it make it any worse if I point out that 'panini' is plural? (Panino is the singular.)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 26th, 2004 09:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes! It makes the whole thing even more maddening! Grrrrrrrr!

Though you could argue that it's an anglicised version of the blah blah quack quack moo.
From: ex_lark_asc Date: November 26th, 2004 09:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Darling, your dinner's in the doggerel [...] general adjectivity [...] I feel cheated

Superb. :-)
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 26th, 2004 09:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Funny you should say that, I actually quite like the wraps! Well, some of them. Not the ham and cheese. Bleh. But the Green Thai Prawn wrap was the best sandwich EVER; they only do Green Thai Chicken now, which is not quite as good, but still great. I like the wodginess, even though it doesn't taste like real food; and at least the wrap all holds together while you eat it.

Pret à Manger's wraps are way better though. Their avocado salad... pine nuts and basil and, mmmmmm.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: November 26th, 2004 09:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Good design sells. Take a look at the packaging on any Waitrose own-brand merchandise - my favourite is the pine nuts - and see why they are taking market share from Sainsbury's. Ditto Tesco.

Oh, and if the panina is soggy and flavourless after microwaving, that's because the packaging is functionally useless as well as aesthetically and informationally unterhosen.

Meanwhile, ranting is good. Well-written ranting is very good. Responding to customer comments is good, and maybe too good for a company that releases products - good or bad - and hasn't gone out and found out what the customers think within a week of the product hitting the shelves. So, Yay! We got a good read and we now know where not to buy panini, you've let off more steam than a scaldingly hazardous packet from the microwave, and Sainsbury's can either learn something or not; as you may choose to tell them, or not; and as far they are capable of using that information, or not.
triskellian From: triskellian Date: November 26th, 2004 10:21 am (UTC) (Link)
<more applause>

This was great. I read food packets, too. There is often much unintentional hilarity within ;-)

Oh, and I 'specially loved this: 'ellips... '.
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: November 26th, 2004 11:29 am (UTC) (Link)
You're bloody great, you are. :)
dorianegray From: dorianegray Date: November 26th, 2004 11:48 am (UTC) (Link)
::finally manages to stop laughing::

That has got to be the funniest description/critique I have read of anything in I can't think when. I have tears in my eyes and the cat is looking at me funny, I laughed so much.

oldbloke From: oldbloke Date: November 26th, 2004 12:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Minor edit job, send it to them (NOT to their ad agency or theor internal dept that does that stuff - to somebody who might be wondering WHY they're losing market share)
imc From: imc Date: November 26th, 2004 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
This texteme begins with a lower-case letter, has a full stop and subsequent capital letter in the middle, and then ends without a full stop.

The Radio Times seems to have a house style which dictates that captions and subtitles must not end with a full stop regardless of how long they are and how many full stops there are in the middle. At least they start with a capital letter though. My recollection is that it used to be a lot worse than it is now, and that I wrote to the editor to complain (though I might have dreamed that last bit up). I'm sure there have been occasions on which I've got to the end of a page and turned over expecting it to continue, and it didn't.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 29th, 2004 02:55 am (UTC) (Link)
For some reason starting-with-capital-letter-but-no-full-stop-at-end offends me slightly less than starting-with-lower-case-but-ending-in-full-stop.

Ridiculous-hyphens-between-words probably offends lots of people, though.
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