About a million years ago I worked in Harrods. I didn’t work in the food hall, though I’d have liked to, but I spent a fair amount of time there, skiving off from the furniture department where I supposedly didwork. I hung around looking at food. The fish fountain was pretty amazing, a lot of fish arranged into a kind of sculpture. I always wondered what happened to the fish at the end of the day. I always suspected it just got thrown away, which seemed very wasteful, but maybe the staff got to take it home with them.
That, in an inverse sort of way, was what happened in the cheese department. If you went there first thing in the morning, before the store was open, the guys were preparing the displays, trimming pieces off the big slabs of cheese, making them neater, so they looked more presentable and desirable. Then they’d put the offcuts in a bag and sell them to staff for next to nothing. If they liked you, they’d even cut off big chunks of perfectly good cheese and put them in the bag too, and sell them to you for the same low price.
I don’t know if any of this still goes on. I went into Harrods at the weekend, and I didn’t see the fish fountain but the place was so packed I was lucky to see anything at all. The cheese department had changed out of all recognition but it looked pretty good.
However there was one new development that we’d have laughed at back in the day, and I’m still prepared to laugh at it today – the Vegetable Butchery.
I know I'm not the first to observe the absurdity of this, but you do have to wonder what thought processes were employed to arrive at that name. And what names did they reject? Vegetable Monger? Vegetable Brokerage? Ludicrously Overpriced and Fussily Arranged Greengrocery Department?
The girl behind the counter had the decency to keep her eyes downcast.