Jerusalem artichokes: a short story

Recently, during my weekly shop in Streatham Sainsbury’s, I was searching for the Jerusalem artichokes. When I found them, I noticed there was only one bag left. As I reached to get them, a small Muslim lady elbowed me out of the way and grabbed them for herself.

“Hey!” I said. “Give those back, you vicious, uncivilised Muslim.”

“Who are you calling vicious, you big-nosed Jew,” she said, insulting me without any provocation whatsoever.

I didn’t rise to the bait and very politely said, “Would you please give me them back?”

I knew what the answer would be, so I grabbed the artichokes from her basket before she had chance to reply. Unfortunately, she was quicker than she looked and we both had a strong grip of them when the store manager, and my golf partner, Theodore Yankee, appeared at my side.

“What’s the problem, Richard?” Mr Yankee asked.

“Nothing at all,” I replied. “This lady wanted the last bag of Jerusalem artichokes and, despite me having them first, I was just giving them to her.”

“That’s very decent of you.”

“Yes,” I said. “But I would like one small thing in return. I’d like the lady to cook me a meal, using the Jerusalems, then we’ll say no more about it.”

“What a wonderful idea,” said Mr Yankee. “That should even things out.”

After no little encouragement, the lady agreed. I went back to her house in Streatham Vale, and watched TV while she prepared a Jamie Oliver recipe, using the Jerusalems.

The meal was delicious, but at the end of it, I still didn’t feel as if I had been fully compensated for my loss. That being the case, I decided to stay in her house, keeping the lady under house arrest while she catered to my every need. Things were going quite smoothly when, after 10 days, she told me that all the food in the house had run out.

“Why don’t you let me go out and get some supplies?” she asked.

I thought the question impertinent, so I tied the woman up and set her house on fire, before heading off to Sainsbury’s myself.

When I got there, I bumped into my old friend, Theodore Yankee. I explained what had happened and he agreed that while my actions were firm, they were totally fair, given the provocation I had endured.

I thanked him for his understanding my position. I added that, on reflection, it was only reasonable for me to receive suitable compensation from Sainsbury’s itself. Mr Yankee agreed, and said I could have free Jerusalems delivered to my door each week, for life.

I was disgusted at this derisory offer and told him so.

“Theodore,” I said, “your offer is all very well for myself, but what about my children, and my children’s children? Do they have to come to Sainsbury’s and suffer cruel insults at the hands of Muslims? Do you think it is right that innocent children should be punished in this way?”

Theodore saw that my point was a fair one and ensured that my family would get free Jerusalem artichokes and free delivery of their weekly shopping in perpetuity.

We shook hands and I walked home feeling that, after a long, hard struggle, justice had finally been done.

A much-coveted vegetable: the Jerusalem artichoke
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Two types of theft in Sainsbury’s

I was having a stroll yesterday, enjoying the sight of the fine people of south London attempting to slide down the newly-laid snow on the slopes of Streatham Common. The contraptions used were many and varied, from a fellow strapped onto a snowboard, to children on the classic sledge you see on Christmas cards. Most amusing, however, was a couple of middle-aged women going down the Rookery with Sainsbury’s carrier bags underneath their bottoms. Not the biggest surface on which to be sat, particularly when considering the scope of their back-sides, but they went down the slope at a decent clip nevertheless.

It was this sight that reminded me I was not far from the main Sainsbury’s in Streatham (there are another two, smaller stores farther along the High Road). As I had little to do with my afternoon, I though I would go in and buy some food. (Or ‘bob in for a few bits’ as my mother would have it.)

I’m a fairly loyal customer of Streatham Fruiterers, the greengrocers down near Streatham Hill Station, so I avoided the fruit and veg side of things. Ambling along, I found myself on the aisle with the breakfast cereals. Recently, I’ve moved towards Alpen as my cereal of choice. Seeking it out, I realised there was more work to be done in deciding which type of Alpen to buy.

There were three options:

a. Classic Alpen i.e. the normal one
b. High-fibre Alpen (with extra roughage for those who don’t shit as often as they would like)
c. Alpen, with no added sugar

All were £2.37, in same-size boxes. However, I noticed, with the alertness which rarely comes upon me in working hours, the Classic was 750g, while the other two were 560g.

I bridled at this. I am quite health-conscious, for two reasons: I want to live forever and enjoy being censorious about what other people eat. Therefore, I wanted the ‘no added sugar’ version. But, while I am health-conscious, I want good value. I envisaged buying the ‘no added sugar’ and finishing the box, knowing that if I had bought the Classic I would still have had another 190gs of the good stuff left. For once, my healthy lifestyle took second place to my parsimoniousness. I bought the Classic, yet felt like Sainsbury was making a mug of me.

Cantering about the store, I picked up some other essentials: pasta, bread, Bombay mix; at which point I realised I could have done with a basket. I am, if nothing else, efficient in my movements, and could not tolerate going back to the store entrance to pick one up. So I carried on, dropping the occasional item, picking it up, and dropping something else in the same motion. If Charlie Chaplin was there, doing his weekly shop, he would have thought it a bravura display of comic acting.

Having got my hands securely around all of my shopping, I came upon the herb shelf and realised I needed some dried oregano. I put my items on the floor, shoved the oregano in my jacket pocket, before going about the aforementioned picking up and dropping routine again.

Getting to the till, I unloaded the items on the conveyor belt, bar the oregano. I felt inside my pocket, and it was still there. While I paid for the vast majority of my items, the oregano stayed in my pocket.

Outside the store, I was so pleased with my work that I slid into the Pied Bull for a pint of Winter Warmer (£3.20). Ruminating about the matter, I saw clearly that Sainsbury could absorb the odd loss of oregano into its day-to-day running costs, with no harm to anyone. What’s more, becoming more reflective at about the half-pint mark, I realised this festive generosity on the part of Sainsbury had secured my custom for the New Year, however sneaky some of its pricing might be.