Salads at Marks and Spencer: simple, consistent, cheap

I was in a debate with a colleague regarding city lunches. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I’m running out of options for city lunches.
Him: Why? What’s wrong with the salad?
Me: You’ve been having the same salad 5 days in a row. Do you not see what is wrong?
Him: Food to me is just something that keeps you alive. I can eat the same thing everyday.
Me: …
Him: If I could take a pill instead of food for lunch that gives me the energy, I would.
Me: … [horrified]

It wasn’t the salad that bothered me, nor was it the “same thing every day” (even though yes that horrified me too). It was the pill. It was the “only to stay alive” concept. That is, as if you are sending your palate to the prison, that it would never see sunlight again, its world would never rock again, it would never experience imagination and explosion of flavours ever again. Should I start mourning now?

To me, food serves so many more purposes than just keeping you alive. It is something that I look forward to even on the greyest gloomiest day. It is something that makes me smile (and equally, makes me cry). It is something that provides endless excitements. It is something that tells a great story from how the food source was reared or grown through to how it was prepared and cooked.

This is not to say that the food must be good, must be expensive, or must be organic in any way. All I ask for are two things: (1) that food could be an enjoyable factor to life (2) we know what we are consuming in our bodies.

Anyway, salad became one of our frequent lunch options because of its price, variety and convenience. Here’s a collection of salads from the same MnS store (the large one by Moorgate station). This big store has enough options that allowed me to pick something different everyday, so the issue of variety is not a problem.

Some salads are tastier than others, and some salads aren’t really salads at all if you actually look at what is in the box (unless one’s definition of salad is “cold food”). What I do get annoyed however, is the fact that smaller MnS’s have less deals than the bigger ones, e.g. 2 for £3 on these little boxes of salad at the big store, but they would have costed £2+ each at a small store.

The queue in this big MnS is mega long during lunch times, but it moves at a very fast speed. I never had to queue for more than 5 minutes even though there would always been a good 50 people in front of me in the queue. In fact, the queue never stands still. Most of the time I would be on a chasing run.

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Hot Smoked Lochmuir Salmon and Potato Salad with a lemon vinaigrette – Salmon has been cooked to the extend that it has been dead 100 times over and over again. Well. Am I asking for too much from a ready made industrial processed salad box? Nonetheless, it’s a nice box of salad, but with tiny bits of meat (dig through 5 boxes on the shelf and you will find 4 with broken bits and pieces of fish flakes and 1 with two pieces of salmon slices), lots of proteins, almost half the box is filled with veg, with chopped chives on top (nice effort, MnS). Sometimes find the potatoes too overly covered in excessive mayo. Lemon vinaigrette could be more lemony but a nice tangy addition to the fish. (2 for £6)

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Spanish Style Chicken with Rice, Butter Beans and Piquillo Peppers with a sherry vinaigrette – a fair amount of chicken slices (although they used to give more chicken per pack until a recent shrinkage in size), lots of proteins, salad leafs (which I could do with more), with the sherry vinaigrette that adds sweetness and tanginess to the dish, not a big fan on the quality of soggy rice, but a tasty and filling lunch. This is one of those boxes that are only called a salad because it is cold cooked food in a box. (2 for £6)

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Santini Tomato Salad with a classic French dressing – they give you over 10 tomatoes. French dressing is average and felt oily. Lots of red onions too, therefore not recommended if you have any important afternoon meetings and don’t want your breath smells of onion.

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Mixed Italian salad with a pesto dressing – with chicken slices (3 for £6) on top. One of my favourites. Simple yet nice.

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salad stuff.

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Pesto and pine nuts pasta – once and never again. Excessive oil sitting at the bottom of the box, so oily that you can barely eat the bottom half of the box. Pasta is soggy. Tasteless. Boo.
Tabbouleh – couscous on the hard side and not enough parsley. Excessive EXCESSIVE amount of lemon juice in this box that you palate and stomach both resign.

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Wheatberries and giant couscous with roasted butternut squash – love the giant couscous. A bit of sweetness from the butternut squash and hint of tanginess from a squeeze of lemon, crunch from the wheat berries. Nice.

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Quinoa and edamame soya bean salad with a soy and ginger dressing – this is a strange one. Never quite understood why quinoa with edamame, nor could I understand a Chinese soy and ginger dressing (tasting almost like sweet and sour) would ever go with edamame. Crying out loud. Crunchy. Sweet. Sour. Gingery. Chinese. Japanese. South American. Spanish. CONFUSED.

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Super wholefood with a mint vinaigrette  – giant couscous with a combination of nuts. Hint of mint and lemon goes well. Not bad in comparison to the confused quinoa edamame mix.

Do I mind having cold salads 5 days in a row? My palate says yes, the cold weather says yes, but my body seems to be saying thank you to me. It felt like I just went on a body cleansing diet, feeling more refreshed and light, and more importantly, the damage to pocket over the week has decreased. Win-win situation then.

Damage to pocket: £3-5 per meal
Number of accumulated visits: 50+
Date of visit: Since 2012
Will we return? Yes

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