Food forethought

If we truly wish to stop wobbling, there's only one timeless formula that counts: eat less, do more

Peter Edgerton
PETER EDGERTON

Well it had to happen, I suppose. Just when we thought the world of gastronomy couldn't get any more absurdly self-indulgent, somebody somewhere has come up with a beauty. I genuinely had to look twice - a kind of exaggerated double take that Stan Laurel would have been proud of.

I was, as usual, whizzing through the fruit and vegetable section, studiously ignoring its dubious delights, and - as all right-thinking souls do - heading straight for the crisps aisle, when I caught a glimpse of a little sign on the refrigerated shelves. I blinked, rubbed my eyes, did the Stan Laurel thing but, alas, all to no avail - there was no escaping the disconcerting truth:

DIET SALAD - 2,99.

What in heaven's name is diet salad? Usually when something is marketed as the diet version it means that all the good bits have been taken out. Given that salad doesn't have any good bits in the first place, this couldn't be the case here. I peered gingerly at the product, half expecting to see an empty box and hoping to indulge in a huge sigh of relief as I realised that the whole thing had been a harmless prank. But no, there it all was: the sweetcorn and the beetroot and the shredded carrots, plus all kinds of unspeakable green stuff that I had no wish to dwell upon any further. I legged it out of there sharpish.

How did this work in the supermarket's creative department meeting?

'Look here, García. We need to sell people more stuff with a faux healthy moniker. It's all the rage. Put your thinking cap on, son:'

'What about Diet tonic water, sir?'

'It's been done, you fool.'

'Zero to the power of ten soft drinks?'

'Ditto. Come on lad! We'll be here all day.'

'I've got it, sir. Diet salad!'

Diet salad? Has your wife put some wacky baccy in your coffee, lad? Diet salad? Even the eternally gullible unwashed masses won't fall for that one.'

Weeks later diet salad is flying off the shelves and García is promoted to chief blue sky, out-of-the-box, creative seller, thinky person.

The irony, of course, is that we're kidding ourselves. My brother used to work as an air steward - or whatever they call them these days - for British Airways. He would often regale us with tales of first class passengers ordering whopping triple burgers, lorry loads of chips and mega buckets of ice cream, before adding 'Oh, and a diet Coke.'

No, if we truly wish to stop wobbling, there's only one timeless formula that counts: eat less, do more.

Now then, where did I put my crisps?