Clutching my phone and hyperventilating, I call John. ‘Help,’ I whisper under my breath, ‘I need help.’
‘What’s the matter?’
‘There’s too much gravy.’
‘OK. What do you mean?’
I take a step back, banging into a trolley, and take in the full, eye-blistering, mind melting array of gravy options. I’m powerless, my brain pulling a 404 error message.
‘I mean,’ I tell John, ‘there’s too much choice. I don’t know what to do.’
‘OK,’ he says and I think I hear his fingers tapping away on his laptop. Is he fully appreciating the gravity of the gravy situation? I don’t think he is because I know he can’t multi-task so how can he be typing AND helping me figure out gravy at the same time?
‘There are granules and sachets, and tins and cubes,’ I tell him, ‘and there are about a million different flavours. There’s chicken and beef and pork and vegetable and then there’s the red Bisto stuff which I’m not sure has a flavour. It doesn’t say it has a flavour. It just says it’s gravy. What’s it for? Oh god!’
I hear John sigh down the phone.
A small part of my brain has wondered off to the chocolate aisle. I never seem to get stuck there, I just put it all in my trolley. It’s easy to choose wine too – just go for the price deals – but the gravy is different. I swear when we left the UK five years ago there was just Bisto. The red stuff. In granule form. Maybe there was a chicken flavour too. But in the last half-decade clearly the two gravy forms caught each others’ eyes across a lonely shelf and went on to mate and give birth to offspring of many colours. In fact it’s a bit like Gay Pride in the gravy aisle (there is a whole aisle dedicated to gravy… what is this madness?!).
I have spent five years shopping at a supermarket in Bali where the highlight was coffee beans pooped out by an animal a bit like a ferret, where 94% of all produce contained MSG (probably the coffee too) and if you had to do a supermarket sweep the only thing you’d bother to pile in your trolley would be loo roll. Gravy? You’d be lucky to get Tomato Ketchup and only if they had it in stock. The day they rolled out a new crisp brand people were SMS’ing each other in excitement to give a heads’ up.
But at least at that supermarket I would be in and out in about three minutes flat. In the UK there’s too much choice. And I’m totally paralysed by it. I spend the ten minutes in the car home wondering if I should have bought the yellow Bisto or splurged on the really expensive one in the sachet. Or maybe the tin. Oh god! I take a deep breath, thinking again what is this madness?
Why am I giving a crap about gravy?
What is happening to me?