Friday, 19 May 2006

Taste that tangy, zestful sodium benzoate!

As a typically naïve and ignorant consumer, I had always vaguely thought that the chilled prepared dishes colourfully packaged and temptingly displayed in supermarkets were really rather superior to frozen ones, being somehow nearer to fresh food. Not a bit of it: in order to increase their shelf life and for other purposes, many chilled dishes have to be crammed with additives: for example, Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Luxury Shepherd's Pie—"based on the famous Ivy restaurant's recipe"—has a roll call of 69 ingredients, featuring artificial flavourings, preservatives, hardened fats and science-lab additions such as wheat gluten and dextrin that you would not find in any self-respecting home kitchen. If you read this you will get the picture.

So frozen is generally superior all sorts of ways, apart from being much better value. I recently discovered a company started in 1997 by a couple of chaps in a kitchen based on the principle that it is possible to freeze dishes made using only the ingredients and methods one would use at home; of course it is, for after all many of us sometimes freeze our own home-made dishes.

Selling them commercially is not so easy, but evidently these two found the right collaborators and the right way because the company, still private and family-run, now employs 200 people and sells both on line and in eighteen shops of its own (one of these, happily, being near me).

It is called COOK and there is a well-planned and elegant website at

• COOK’s products should not be confused with one of Marks and Spencer’s over-priced ranges of chilled dishes. They are branding this one as COOK!, and this was their charming response to a polite suggestion that their unoriginality might be causing confusion.

[I have no connection with COOK other than as a new and satisfied customer.]


doris said...

Well that is fascinating. I don't think I had quite clocked the fact that the chilled contained more peservatives etc than the frozen athough I have been weaning our family off the ready-mades for a while now. The Cookfood website certainly seems like quite a reasonably priced alternative so thanks for that - I shall bookmark it.

As for the M&S response. I just hope that M&S are not putting their legal wheels in motion and trying to sue Cook. It is often the usual course of action in cases like this. Cook have taken the right approach to not waste their time suing but I hope it doesn't backfire.

Oh - and is the portion sizing reasonable or haven't you tried them yet?

Tony said...

Yes, I have and it is, though we are fairly greedy. Last night we were three so we had a 2-portion Pork Stroganoff, a 1- and a 2-portion Roast Vegetables and one half of a 2-portion Lemon Cheesecake cut in three, and it was enough.

doris said...

Thanks for the confirmation on portions.

Umm - you seem to have a new picture and it is staring down at me disapprovigly, over your glasses! Your last photo gave me the impression of someone more like my brother - who is a pretty scary character but I know he isn't so I tend not to make that assumption.

I will try not to stalk your blog or otherwise make my presence too noticeable! ;-) Sir!

Tony said...

Disapproving? It was supposed to be sort of twinkly.
Anyway, it is actually me, unlike the last one which was someone else.