“Does my bum look big on this bar stool?”

vegetablesA recent Oxfam report indicates that the Netherlands is the best place to eat. But before all the gastronomes rush to cross the Channel from the country in 13th position (Britain) the report is not referring to the quality of the restaurants. No, the study is taking all kinds of other factors into account like access to food and produce, affordability, and diet-related diseases etc. It’s referring to ‘healthiest diet.’ Other countries in the top 12 were Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Australia, Luxembourg and Portugal.

But the report indicates that the Dutch show tendencies towards obesity with nearly 20% of the population having a BMI (body mass index) of more than 30. In case you didn’t know, the ideal BMI is between 18 and 25. But just how the average person measures this is not made clear … “he looks like a 23 to me.”

“Never! Much closer to a 20… hardly any wobble at all!”

The good news for those who are watching their calorie count is that the JD Wetherspoon chain have made it easy to pop down to the pub and have a meal of under 500 calories. They haven’t limited the calorie count on their drinks yet, so it’s up to the diner to watch that part of their intake. Their dishes sound quite appetizing – not at all like a friend who was on a 500 calorie-per-dish diet and remarked that the pile of leaves on his plate served up by his missus didn’t look like it was enough to keep a slug happy!

Hopefully the kitchen staff in the Wetherspoon pubs have one of those ultra sensitive Blumenthal-style scales that measures everything to the grain. All they need is someone in their eating area whipping out their own Propoints scale and checking that their Caeser salad (sans bacon) is not a fraction over “the allowance for the day” and then kicking up a fuss. One wonders whether ‘calorie count’ is in Jon Rutter’s stocktaker’s brief when they comment on profit margins and discuss ways of maximising value.

More good news (of sorts) for punters is that the Government plan to extend opening hours beyond the final whistle when England play in the World Cup. (Remember the concern a while back about closing times and the relationship to when England play their matches in Brazil?) The curve ball regarding the relaxing of the hours the pubs can stay open is that the Whitehall spokesman said that they have allowed for England being in penalty shoot-outs. Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that!

And for those pubs who don’t have sports channels to share football or other sports with their customers, Money-Makers have come up with some ideas of pulling in more business. One is that you could install a cinema room in your pub to keep the kids happy and occupied while mum and dad socialize with friends (… or weigh their salads). Another idea is to introduce ‘tribute dishes’ that let you share favourite meals or cuisines that famous people enjoyed. These, and other ideas have already been implemented by some establishments and they can attest to their success. Reports are that some of these moves “stimulate customer interest and also generate strong emotional attachment to the pub.”

If England have to go to penalties at 1 in the morning it would be hard to imagine what the “Roy Hodgson tribute meal” might be. The “strong emotional attachment” to certain pubs might backfire on the landlords!

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(Eels) To eat or be eaten, that is the question!

If you were to wander along the High Street in Walthamstow you’d see the latest building to have been awarded Grade II status by Heritage England. It is the “L. Manze Eel, Pie & Mash Shop” and has been perfectly preserved. Stepping through the doors will transport the visitor back to the style of the 1920’s when the shop first opened, serving the same type of fare of the day too. A selection of pies, mash and gravy. Also eels.

Image: Michal Zacharzewski

Image: Michal Zacharzewski

Happily for current owner, Mrs Cooper, she’s not likely to have some bloke in a white coat carrying a clipboard arrive and tell her to repaint with fire-retardant paint in the interests of “health-and-safety,” because all the walls are tiled from floor to ceiling in keeping with the décor of the day. The shop looks like it is worth a visit and is proving to be popular with tourists. But any tourist who hopes to go there to get “the eel treatment” while they eat their pies, is going to be disappointed. And even though eels are on the menu, they are for consumption.

The “eel treatment” is the latest beauty trend imported from China. Interested folk sit around with their feet in buckets while the eels nibble away at their skin. This treatment is designed to exfoliate and leave the skin lovely and smooth. Apparently there are health concerns over this treatment as well as questions being raised about the qualifications of those who administer the treatments. It seems that one needs to have a “level-two pedicure” national occupational standard in order to put someone’s feet in a bucket. It would also be a stocktakers nightmare trying to distinguish the edible eels from the working ones on a spreadsheet.

The challenges of any stocktaker never cease to amaze – Jon Rutter and his team of professionals need to look at every angle in helping their customers operate efficiently and stay in profit but at the same time give the paying public the value for money they deserve and look out for. With this in mind, one wonders how supermarkets are going to follow the politician’s suggestion to give their staff a pay riseto help them deal with the cost of living” when their margins are so tight? This could develop into a vicious circle of increasing expenses (salaries) which leads to increasing the price of product the consumers have to pay which leads to the consumers able to afford less so they need an increase in order to “deal with the cost of living” etc etc. In the end, someone has to pay or something’s got to give – cutting the coat according to the size of the cloth. A concept professional stocktakers work with all the time.

This could be the reason there has been a recent boom on folk seeking and using allotments. People have been viewing their respective “cloths” and deciding that the principle followed by Tom and Barbara in The Goodlife might work for them. Many have also put some fun into their hard work by entering some of their produce into competitions and exhibitions. Whether one wins or loses, the main prize is being able to consume what was entered.

Perhaps there’s a modern day Goodlife-style reality show on the cards? – “I have an allotment, get me out of the supermarket!