A regular game we play to enliven the joyless visit to a supermarket is to hunt down the most ridiculous, unappetising, over-packaged or ill-conceived snack ‘food’ and snarl Duncan Bannatyne style derision at it. However, as enjoyable as this is, I sometimes feel we are just being middle-class OFM-reading wankers and so perhaps should give these products the benefit of the doubt and try them out … after all, they could actually be delicious.
‘TRY ME, LOVE ME. We’ll refund and replace if you are not 100% happy’
First up: Mug Shot
Number of ingredients: 15 including Calcium Stearoyl-2-lactylate
Description: Pasta Spirals in a Creamy Cheese Sauce. The pasta snack you make in a mug!
The first disappointment is that contrary to the impression given by the packaging, this pasta does NOT glow in the dark. It tastes like it SHOULD glow in the dark, but alas it doesn’t.
Anyway, this value-added food product is manufactured by a company in Leeds called Symington’s, which specialises in ‘just add boiling water’ dried meals and boasts Ainsley Harriott as their tamed celebrity chef. The big selling point seems to be that it can be made in a mug and so is presumably aimed at people who find eating off a plate too challenging. There are diagrammatic ‘cooking’ instructions on the back of the packet as no doubt proper words can be an obstacle to people who prefer to drink their pasta.
Following these instructions we emptied out the contents (a mixture of thin green and white pasta spirals, and a cheesy salty dust) into a mug, poured in boiling water up to 15mm from the top, stirred, waited for 5 minutes and stirred again.
Right, let’s tuck in! Despite sitting in boiling water for only five minutes, the pasta manages to be half an hour the wrong side of al dente. The creamy cheese sauce is neither creamy nor cheesy but is instead a salty, slightly sweet, and essentially flavour-free slime. The green flecks masquerading as parsley fail to add any gusto.
In a word: Slimy. In another word: Unpleasant. In two words: Unpleasantly slimy.
For those of you who would like to try a ‘Mug Shot’ but are too posh or self-conscious to buy a packet from the shops, I have devised this simple recipe you can try at home:
Take 100g of cheap pasta (ideally something from the Tesco Blue Stripy range) and boil vigorously in plenty of water for at least 3 hours. Meanwhile take 1 tsp of ready-grated Parmesan (the stuff that smells of sick), 4 tbsp each of salt and refined white sugar, a cup of slime (any sort will do) and dissolve into a gallon of hot water. Combine with the pasta and serve in your favourite mug.
Next the: Asda Pasta Mealpot
Number of ingredients: 20 including Potassium Phosphate
Description: Pasta spirals in a tomato and mascarpone cheese flavoured sauce with red peppers and herbs
Now this (sp)Asda Pasta Mealpot is an exciting prospect as it costs twice as much as the ‘Mug Shot’ and so should be twice as good. It is certainly packed full of ingredients. 20 in all, one of which is Potassium Phosphate which I confess is probably my favourite of all the phosphates. We were looking forward to that mascarpone cheese ‘flavoured’ sauce and could only wonder at the subtle ways in which it would merge and mingle with the pepper and herbs.
What’s more you don’t even have to look under the bed for a mug as it comes in its own handy disposable plastic bucket. The contents are similar to the ‘Mug Shot’ (thin white pasta spirals and red dust instead of yellow) and the cooking procedure is identical although this time the instructions are only available in real words.
The initial excitement generated by a pleasant ‘pizza’ smell is soon dampened as once again the pasta proves to be soggy and the sauce wet and flavourless. The sauce is over salted with a hint (a mere innuendo) of pepper, but that is all. Herbs? And cheese? Where’s the fucking cheese?
In summary: Wishy-washy
By the way, I’m confused by the ‘We’ll refund and replace if you are not 100% happy’ because it doesn’t specify whether your discontentment has to be with the product itself or just with life in general. I feel if the latter is the case, then Asda are a little optimistic if they think their customers’ malaise can be cured by the gift of 77p and a bucket of pasta slop.
The winner: Asda Pasta Mealpot (just)