When I think of Waitrose, I tend to think sophisticated. More than any other supermarket I can think of, it’s a haven for the upper-middle class: the only high street shop in which you will reliably find duck eggs, Prince Charles’s very own snack brand (Duchy Originals), and more than one type of salmon.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s also the supermarket with the best baked goods: freshly made pastries, cakes, and bread – many of which, by the end of the day, are usually marked down to just a few pennies, in order to make way for more.
At least once a week, this is where the Man and I get our thrills (and the goods to top up our freezer). Get the timing right and we can find loaves of bread for 29p, cheap pots of cream and bottles of milk, discounted trays of sushi (down to 59p from a fiver), and anything else that might be approaching the end of its shelf-life.
The best bargains, of course, are the things you’ve been coveting for weeks, but could not really justify buying at full price. Then you have reason to snap it up quickly, punch the air, and run to the tills guilt-free.
On Friday, this happened to me. The product that did it? A Waitrose-own made Sugar Mouse Biscuit, normally priced at £1.39 – reduced to 15p.
As I’m sure you’ll understand – considering the amount of icing and colour involved – these biscuits had caught my eye on several occasions. Given the grown-up type cakes Waitrose generally sells (almond croissants, organic scones, egg custard tarts), they stuck out like a basket of sore thumbs.
Besides, it had been so long since I’d eaten a sugar mouse (at least a decade – perhaps nearer two) that I yearned for a mini nostalgia trip.
Opting for a mouse in my favourite colour (green), I popped it in the paper bag, counted out my fifteen pennies, and hurried home, looking forward to having a taste. I’ll admit, I was kind of sceptical about the concept. A whole sugar mouse? On a thick bed of iced biscuit? Surrounded by multicoloured sweets? It sounded and looked absurd – like the kind of biscuit a hyperactive toddler would make, if left to their own devices.
Saying that, however, I wanted it to work, and – still buoyed up with thoughts of To Hell With It – was more than prepared to indulge. After all, this was a product made by Waitrose: the only major supermarket with a Royal Warrant. Besides, at 15p, it was definitely worth the risk.
Later that night, when the time for pudding finally arrived, I wasn’t quite sure how to eat it. Leave the mouse on or remove it? In the end, I snapped off its head (caring vegetarian that I am), so I could sample a piece on its own – the rest stayed where it was.
My first thought as its head met my tongue? Not glorious rose-tinted memories of visiting sweet shops with Ma Hog, but… toilet cleaner. Pine Fresh toilet cleaner, to be precise.
I kid you not, Ogglers. In Waitrose Sugar Mouse World, green means pine: soapy, antibacterial pine. Goodness only knows what the pink ones taste like. Calamine lotion? Brasso? Corn plasters?
Perhaps that’s how green sugar mice are supposed to taste – maybe I’ve misremembered my youth (I never had mice that often, you see). Then again, I can’t help thinking that children would prefer a different flavour, like mint, apple or just plain sugar (actually, the more I think about it, the more likely it seems that a deaf guy runs the factory: ‘What was that? Lime? I thought you said Pine.’).
Mouse aside, however, there were more disappointments were in store: that tempting looking white icing (which I had smelt so deeply in the bag) was not a lovely soft buttercream like I’d hoped, but an almost aggressively hard layer of spikes and peaks. In fact, the whole thing was a bit of a punch in the mouth: crunchy biscuit, unyielding frosting, dense mouse, sturdy candied pieces. I’m amazed my teeth survived unscathed.
Sweetness levels were incredibly high as well, though I suppose that was no surprise. By the time I finished, I could feel a headache on the way, and wondered what the Waitrose folks were thinking. Who exactly were they aiming to sell this to? If I was a kid – and had the kid’s ability to process otherwise-life-threatening amounts of sugar – I suppose I might shell out the £1.39. Then again, if I was a kid, I doubt I’d be shopping in Waitrose.
It seems more likely, then, that these biscuits were made for people who have kids. If that really is the case – and you are one of those people – I’d suggest you might like to steer clear: a few bites of this and your child will be out of this world, flying high on a green sugared spaceship.
Now I think of it though, there is one thing they’d be good for: Mums? Dads? Need some baby teeth shedding?
I reckon I have just the thing…