What a performance I had this week with trying to buy ingredients for a luscious-looking blueberry polenta cake which I discovered in a Sunday supplement. I thought it would be a nice idea to bake it and give it to a friend on her birthday. So, armed with the torn-out recipe, I went to my local Waitrose to buy the items which are not in my store cupboard.
The recipe called for xylitol sugar substitute to be used and, as I had only seen this ingredient on my usual packet of chewing gum, I just didn’t know what the package would look like! I scanned the shelves of sugar alternatives but couldn’t see what I wanted. I then went to look for the required second item on my list - fine polenta. After a careful scan of the shelves I found, on a bottom shelf amongst a huge display of pasta in all shapes and varieties, the usual quick-cooking large-grained polenta but I was concerned that this would make the cake ‘crunchy’. Oh goodness, I realised that I would have to try another supermarket and, just in case I couldn’t find the two ingredients there either, the blueberries - which had gone into my basket earlier - were then returned to the fruit section and I left completely empty-handed.
The drive to Tesco was a miserable affair with rain lashing down and I drove through several huge puddles that I felt almost (and I know I am prone to exaggerate) totally engulfed the car. Nevertheless, I was ‘on a mission’ but, would you believe it, in this store I still couldn’t find the two missing ingredients. Not to be outdone, I returned home and researched xylitol and, to my astonishment, found that it was sold under the Total Sweet label and sold..... in Waitrose! I also discovered that fine polenta could also be called cornmeal and that I had not been alone in not being able to easily purchase a quantity, as others had also found it difficult to source. Several forums spoke about substituting cornmeal for semolina etcetera but I was now utterly resolved - there is a streak of stubbornness in my family that I like to call determination - to purchase the correct ingredients for this newly acquired and experimental recipe.
On returning to Waitrose, the elusive products were found within minutes, the blueberries picked up again from where I had left them earlier, and I returned home once again feeling absolutely triumphant!
Sadly, the story doesn’t stop there - before I could even put the fine polenta into my kitchen cupboard, I noticed that the ‘best before’ was stamped with 22.02.2012 - nearly four months ago!
Back to Waitrose I went and, through gritted teeth, explained the problem. The customer service member of staff was efficient and charming (they train them well at John Lewis). She checked the rest of the stock on the shelf but they were all stamped last February. She also discovered that a new batch should be delivered tomorrow. ‘Would you be able to return to the store if I telephoned to let you know of the arrival?’ she said kindly. Well, I had simply had enough at this point and agreed that this would be the best option. She refunded the amount spent twice, as ‘the product was not of best quality’ and now, back home, I am wondering what I should do with 2 punnets of blueberries and a bag of xylitol if the call doesn’t materialise.....any suggestions?