Going out for a meal is a wonderful treat. Often, we choose something from the menu that we wouldn’t otherwise have, using the experience to explore foods from other cultures and so, in a way, we enjoy a short visit to another place through the tastes, aromas and colours of those exotic lands. Going out isn’t always possible though; our budget may not allow it, our baby-sitter can’t make it, or we just don’t feel like it. Luckily today we have other options to enjoy a virtual trip to distant countries with the advent of so many ready-made meals available at the grocery store – like M&S’s Thai Green Curry, Aldi’s Chicken Jalfrezi with Pilau Rice or Sainsbury’s Duck in Plum Sauce. Travel through taste-buds is sensational.
One of the leaders in the grocery industry to first recognize the new consumer desire for exploration in food was Canada’s Dave Nichol. In 1984 he changed the landscape of store brand products forever with his introduction of President’s Choice products to Canadians. Store Brands (aka Own Brands or Private Label) had already been around for a very long time. In fact, Sainsbury’s introduced its first own brand products as early as 1882; however, Dave Nichol upped the image of the products and made Canada’s Loblaw store brands fashionable. In 2013 Jamie Bradburn of the Torontoist commented that “You might not be able to afford a dinner at a five-star restaurant, but Nichol created the impression that you could, with the right “Memories of” sauce or other accompaniments, elevate your meal to similar heights.” The major UK and European store chains were neck-in-neck to also create new and exciting journeys through food for their consumers.
I was a low man on the totem-pole in the Loblaw product development arm of the company during the ‘Nichol-era’ but it was an experience for which I’m forever grateful. His genius in identifying and marketing exotic experiences through food was a lesson in creativity. The secret was in taking people places they didn’t even know they wanted to go. In 1993 he put together his Dave Nichol Cookbook thus taking the experience of travel through food into the medium of a book. We each received one for Christmas and he must have recognized the awe with which I held the book. He inscribed it for me with a surprising prophecy for my future. Twenty years after receiving his book, I was getting ready to publish my own debut book.
I don’t write about food, but I do take people on journeys to other places and times. The art of story-telling plays a key role in my new release Torn Asunder. Here is what the story is about:
Opening in 1916 Ireland, Emmet Ryan wrestles between his allegiance to his country and loyalty to his family. At times he isn’t sure he’s given enough to the fight for a free and united Ireland until the day he realizes he may have given too much.
The story of Ireland’s birth as a modern nation and her turbulent formative years is woven into the very fabric of this multi-generational family drama.
This article was first published in ‘Norwich Nights’ Magazine Blog