Exactly what is an ingredient ?


I have no particular loyalty to one supermarket chain, the choice in my neck of the woods is vast and Lidl, Sainsbury and M & S all regularly take my money. I had cause this week to pop into a very large Tesco for something trivial, and scanned the aisle headings, as you do in an unfamiliar store, because that is what they are there for.

My eye was drawn to an aisle headed “Ingredients”. What ? isn’t everything in the store an ingredient ? Intrigued I headed over, what would I find ? Perhaps a bright spark at Tesco HQ had realised that half the ingredients required for “celebrity chef” recipes can only be purchased online and had decided to corner the market – exciting !

Not exciting. Having scanned the aisle, a long one at that, I was having trouble working out what the theme was. Then it hit me, this aisle contains the components needed to replace the Friday night takeaway. Not rows of exotic spices and rubs however, just your basic jar sauces, stir fry flavour sachets, rices, tortillas etc etc. I was slightly perplexed by the inclusion of stuffing (roast chicken variety) and gravy granules, but I assume that the Tesco boardroom thought shower had progressed to the local pub carvery, along with the Indian and Chinese takeaways!

So exactly what is an ingredient – one dictionary definition is “Any of the foods or substances that are combined to make a particular dish.” Fair enough!

The origins of the word lead to something more profound – “Late Middle English from Latin ingredient- ‘entering’, from the verb ingredi, from in- ‘into’ + gradi ‘walk’.” So, every aisle, being something that you enter or walk into, is in itself an ingredient of the store.

I have flicked through my vast collection of recipe books and see that many list items such as “tomato ketchup” or “plum sauce” as ingredients. But these also have a list of ingredients on the bottle. The more elite of our chefs of the celebrity variety, often bookmark these items to a further list of recipes, usually at the back of the book, with lists of ingredients for the ingredient!

My conclusion Tesco I am afraid is that this is a fake aisle heading, it is meaningless! I cannot imagine that anyone wishing to produce their own version of the local curry house vindaloo would be drawn to this aisle. If you want to corner this market your aisle heading needs to be more relevant, catchy and witty would also be good. “Don’t take it Away” perhaps !