Recipe for disaster

NZ retailer Pak’n’Save needs to take customer care a bit more seriously. The firm’s developers released a beta chat bot to generate meal ideas from items left over from a weekly shop. Foody geeks pushed the parameters beyond foodstuffs and included cleaning materials: one used bleach to mix a “fresh breath mocktail”. The programmers were quick to criticise this abuse of their efforts, overlooking their duty of care to ensure that ingredients were restricted at the outset to foodstuffs. Behind every giga-gaffe there is usually a simple remedy waiting to be implemented.

The National Mark

In 1934, the Ministry of Agriculture published a recipe collection based on ingredients produced to National Mark standards, a fundamentally flawed quality assurance scheme overseen by the ministry. In 1936, the ministry went on to publish a second National Mark booklet with a year’s worth of recipes and product information, couched in the most toe-curling and sexist language imaginable.

The National Mark Calendar of Cooking is a 128-page stapled booklet, published in 1936. It contained recipes compiled by cookery correspondent of the News Chronicle, Ambrose Heath and Good Housekeeping Institute director Mrs D D Cottington Taylor.

It addressed an affluent upper class readership, heaping unstinting praise on British-grown food and overlooking the fact that the UK depended — and still does in large measure — on imported food. As the rest of Europe prepared for war, the National Mark Calendar warbled and wittered on endlessly about products that were only available to a rich elite.

Recipes for June include such gems as semolina souflee and poached eggs in aspic.The souflee recipe gives instructions for cooking the dish in a hot oven or a steamer, should a suitable oven be unavailable.