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Bad food

I mentioned that I was unwell on Easter Monday. And I may have mentioned that I was unwell again on Thursday.
The reason for this is that there did not seem, to me, to be anything at all unusual in what I ate on Easter Sunday. I had a small amount of chocolate, some pineapple juice, and a Fray Bentos with mixed veg and cherry yoghurt.

With the exception of the Fray Bentos, that I've eaten numerous times before and have something of a difficulty in obtaining, I decided to give my tummy a couple of days rest, and then eat one thing from that selection per day.
Pineapple juice? Felt a bit queasy, but that was happening even before I had the juice.
Frozen veg? Didn't eat much, my mind was like "nope" but I wanted to force some of it inside myself to test. Result? Negative.
The cherry yoghurt was a better day. I enthusiastically devoured three pots as I really like cherry yoghurt.
And on Thursday, regretted it.

Yup. Here it is. The culprit.

Activia yogurt
Isn't this stuff supposed to make you better?

Now, I eat loads of Yoplait cherry yoghurt. Yoplait doesn't claim to be "probiotic" or good for the health. In fact, I think Yoplait has enough sugar in it that my already screwy blood sugar level probably treats it like an addict treats their next hit.
Activia, on the other hand, is supposed to be good for you. Containing whole milk, 8% cherry, powdered skimmed milk, 6.2% sugar, cream, tapioca starch, fruit pectine (thickener), "natural flavouring", carrot and myrtille concentrate, milk mineral concentrate, lactic bacterias (including bifidus).

I'm a little surprised at how much sugar is in there. For comparison, this is what's in Yoplait: Yoghurt (milk), cherry (8.8%), sugar (7.8%), water, corn starch, citrus fibre, milk mineral concentrate, "natural flavouring".

I'm not entirely convinced of the validity of saying that yoghurt is inside yoghurt... however it's reasonably crap-free considering. It looks like they're using water instead of cream, and thickening it up with cornstarch to give it more the expected consistency.

I won't bore you with the list of oh-my-god in the gloopy stuff from Lidl, only to say that it has a passing resemblance to yoghurt.

Why Activia? Well, I have eaten this probiotic stuff in the past. In fact, I think I had a pineapple Activia only a few months ago. So I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe there is some sort of weedkiller, pesticide, or other odd chemical in the cherries. This, of course, wouldn't turn up in the list of ingredients.

It may be the same sort of reason why I can no longer eat Marie pesto chicken. I used to eat it pretty much exclusively as I knew it was okay. Then they had an "Improved new recipe" and my heart sunk, followed shortly thereafter by the contents of my bowels. Just in case it was badly stored, I got a pack from a different supermarket with a different sell by date. Same result.
The improvement? As far as I can tell (given I don't have the packs to compare ingredients), it looked like a spoonful of chopped yellow and red bell pepper thrown on top. Well, a few grams of that is a few grams less of something else, right?

Sadly, this is what my life is like. It's why I'm unadventurous with food, tend to eat the same things, and am a rather fussy eater.
Did I inherit mom's ability with languages? (she spoke English, Spanish, French, some German; and could read enough Greek and Hebrew to find her way around) No.
Did I inherit her ability with music (or my father's for that matter)? No.
Did I inherit her ability to find appropriate quotes and citations for just about any purpose even if it was some random thing she read when she was 11 sitting on the floor of Baltimore library? No.
Instead I seem to have inherited her famously wonky digestion. Thanks mom!



I did, however, feel quite good this morning. I only woke a half dozen times in the night so managed to get the odd two hours of sleep here and there. Consequently I felt pretty good. And am very surprised that I don't hurt more from being in Plonge all Friday morning (for reasons unknown, out of the entire morning team, only one girl turned up).

I don't normally eat breakfast except a bowl of Frosties on work days (I need the sugar hit). But today, I pushed the boat out and did something I don't think I've done... possibly since coming to France.


It consisted of:

  • Tea - Tetley tea, organic cane sugar, organic semi-skimmed milk.
  • Toast - Harry's long life bread (the French don't do bread like Hovis, the sliced bread is a "boule" which has an inedible crust and is full of holes inside). Wheat flour (63%), water, sugar, rapeseed oil, salt, vinegar, yeast, bean flour, wheat starch, flavouring, acerola extract. The pack proudly claims that it contains no additives or palm oil. And then, oddly, says in small print "No contient aucun additif. Contient des ingédients ayant un rôle similaire". Make of that what you will.
  • Marge (on the toast) - Non hydrogenated vegetable oils 50% (rapeseed, coconut, sunflower 3%, linseed 1%), water, salt 1.1%, emulsifiers (lecithin, mono and diglycerides of fatty acids), "natural flavouring", thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamins A and D. The pack proudly proclaims no palm oil.
  • Scrambled egg - organic bird menses, organic semi-skimmed milk, organic sunflower oil.
  • Chips - cooked in the air fryer. Potato (97%), sunflower oil, dextrose (to stop them sticking together?)
  • Baked beans - Heinz, of course. Beans (50%), tomatoes (36%), water, sugar, spirit vinegar, modified cornflour, salt, spice extracts, herb extract. A dash of black pepper (contains: black pepper, duh) added during cooking.

I put "natural flavouring" in scare quotes as the word natural is often open to vast interpretation. For instance, the most liberal might state, simply, if it exists and can exist in nature (rather than a special laboratory), then it is natural. Because things that exist in nature are natural. That's really all the word means, though snake oil salesmen often like to give it special properties to make you think that chicken nugget is an actual piece of chicken meat, rather than mechanically separated meat which is the rest of the carcass finely ground, slurried, and forced through a sieve at high pressure to obtain a paste which is then shaped into nuggets and, granted, it is technically chicken, but it's chicken in the sense of all the bits you'd throw in the bin. This sort of horribleness tends to turn up in cut-price products. That's how they get the price down.
Just know, they do this with pig, the end result is a hot dog. That's why the consistency is so weird. You're eating bones, entrails, snout, trotters, and anything left over once all the good bits have been taken.
Still feel like eating hot dogs?
(don't get me started on what a kabab actually is!)


Use by dates

I wrote in a recent comment on El Reg that when buying fresh food, I habitually reach to the back of the shelf to get the freshest things rather than taking the ones at the front.
The responses were... interesting.

One said "As a former supermarket shelf filler, I hate you." (17 upvotes, 1 downvote (not me!)).

Another tried a guilt trip saying "Ah, so you're someone who makes supermarkets throw out of date food away. Gotcha.
Don't you wonder why they do it that way? Well, as long as you're OK.
" (8 upvotes, 13 downvotes).

I went shopping on Friday, 14th April in the evening after work. I picked up five bottles of milk from the back of the stock, and put one back as I remembered I had only just opened one that morning.

Milk dates
Milk dates.

If I had just grabbed the three at front and one from the back, all but one would be technically out of date by now, not to mention having sat around the shelf for a whole week longer. Sorry, but when I buy stuff from a shop, I expect the shelf life to be better than "tomorrow". I tend to go shopping on Tuesday (or Wednesday) and Friday. Or sometimes see if I can stretch it from Friday to Friday.
Plus, honestly, I should buy food to throw away in order to reduce supermarket waste? Gotcha.
You know, some supermarkets (not mine) state in signs around the fridges that everything with less than three days to go is removed and placed into the reduced (anti-gaspi) section.


In France, as in the UK, there are actually two different sorts of use by dates. There is the Best Before (DLUO/DDM) which means as the name indicates that the product is at its best before the date marked, but doesn't suddenly turn into toxic sludge on the following day. This is generally tinned goods, although some things (vinegar, honey, maple syrup) don't go off at all unless they have been contaminated.
The other type of date is the Use by (DLC) which provides the maximum date upon which a product should be considered safe for consumption. After this date, the product should be considered expired and not be eaten as it can be a health hazard. This is the date indicated for fresh things such as milk, meats, and pastries. Again, this is not an absolute, the milk that expired yesterday doesn't immediately transmogrify into glowing green slime. It is a gradual process, which makes it abundantly clear that milk with an expiry date of tomorrow will be in worse shape than milk with an expiry date a week away.

Various websites will tell you that "Our dated products are perfectly consumable". This is written in an article on Merci pour l'info, quoting an "expert" called Vincent Justin, co-founder of a chain of shops called Nous anti-gaspi. Though he could perhaps be a little biased and have reason to want to point people to such out of date products. And, anyway, how does one become an expert on food dates?

Tellingly, the exact same page also says: Attention: It is recommended that pregnant women, old people, the immunocompromised, and children under the age of five do not consume products after their Best Before date.

So... on one hand "it's perfectly safe!" and on the other hand a list of people who's immune systems may not be up to dealing with a potential intoxication.

Does that sound safe to you?

It is estimated (in France) that people throw out €100 of out of date produce every year.
You know? I'm totally okay with that. It averages out to be about €2 per week, which is a fifth of what I spend on the lottery (and never win it back...). Plus, as I pointed out, when my killer burger smacked me down last year, I missed four days of work (representing a loss of around €250 earnings) plus took months to feel like myself again.
I would happily take five €20 notes out on my piggy bank right now, and set fire to them, and post it on YouTube, if it was possible to guarantee that I will have no upset tummy for a period of one calendar year (PS: killing me doesn't count!).

Five 20 euro notes
Guarantee that I won't have any digestive
troubles for a year and I'll set fire to these.
It'll be worth it...

Sorry, I know that waste is a problem, but that problem is overconsumption. All this plastic-wrapped crap that we don't really need. A breakdown of neighbourhoods and local society.
Think about it. I just bought myself a pressure washer. I has done a great job out front, and some time I'll do around back. But until then, and after then, it will sit in the barn awaiting use. Wouldn't it make more sense if I had the pressure washer and loaned it out to my neighbours if they needed it, and one of them loan me their cement mixer and... you know, we all pool resources? This is how it used to be in Þe Olde Dayes. Probably up until around the '80s when it became more every man for himself. Of course, it benefits commerce to tell us that we all need these things. Selling five units to five households makes shareholders happy. As does selling things of acceptable quality to last out the legal guarantee period but not necessarily any longer. Things aren't built to last, consequently they don't. Which, again, adds to landfill.

So if I, with my wonky tummy, happen to prefer to pick things from the back of the fresh aisles (I don't bother doing this with tinned stuff that expires a year away), and if I have the attitude of "if in doubt, throw it out", then it's my money, my health, my choice.
Don't try to guilt me into paying money for lower quality potentially unhealthy products that couldn't be sold.

You know, here's a radical idea... how about just making less?
If every week you're tossing out fifty cakes that couldn't be sold, the answer is not to mark down the price and guilt people into buying them, the answer is to simply make fewer cakes.


Google is surely lying to me

This notification popped up.

I'm in the top 30?
I'm in the top thirty?!?

The global population is about seven billion. A third of them might have a smartphone. Half of those might have an Android one. If only one in a ten thousand people write any sort of review on Google Maps, then that means I'm in the top 30 of a group of around a hundred and eleven thousand people.
And I've only reviewed maybe a half dozen shops and a half dozen non-shops.

I can't help but think that Google is lying to me in order to encourage me to contribute more. Either that or their engagement really sucks.


Telecoms offers

You know, my blood runs cold when I listen to the adverts on Love '80s. It's usually Virgin Internet or Sky Internet. And at the end, they whip through some legal Ts&Cs which includes notifications of price rises during the contract period.


I pay a hefty amount for my comms. Just under €67,99 a month. This is actually broken down as €75,99 for the contract, but I get a rebate of €9 and another of €2. Don't ask me why, it's in my favour so I'm not going to query it. I then pay €3 for the rental of the Livebox. Adds up to €67,99. These are all with tax included.

For that I get broadband, landline (VoIP these days), and mobile comms including 4G (well, 5G too but there isn't any around here). The contract is for a fixed duration of 24 months (because I got a phone on a reduced price, though the non-phone option isn't any cheaper!), which means I can get myself a new phone every other year. I'm still using my old S9 with it's burned in AMOLED display and tired battery because it can effortlessly record calls, something the wankers at Google keep messing up (amongst other things). It's useful to have, when you're a foreigner, the ability to record what people say. Both to play back to understand better, and also for those times when "no, I didn't say that, you don't speak French you misunderstood". My newer phone (Mi 10T) is used for Netflix, photos/videos, and basically as a small tablet. It has a Bouygues SIM but it's only as backup, doesn't have credit on it.
But, more importantly given I could probably get similar for less elsewhere (though a quick look at Bouygues suggests similar pricing), I also get the peace of mind that if a fault happens that isn't on my property (thus my responsibility), I call them up to report it and they'll get it sorted pretty quickly, plus dropping a couple of hundred gigabytes extra onto my mobile so I could use it as a hotspot in the meantime (not that I get 4G in the house, but that's geographical).

Anyway, the price doesn't change. Instead, the features change. The only time I lost a feature was back around 2011 or so when Deezer no longer came as a bundled thing but cost €10 a month extra. I rather feel this was Deezer's doing, not Orange's.
But, you know, I started out with 1 megabit broadband and 500MB/month on my mobile phone. The broadband is now somewhere between 3.5 and 4.2 megabits (technical limits) with fibre on the horizon. And my paltry half gigabyte of mobile comms? Not any longer.

I now have 200GB a month on the mobile
200GB a month?!?

What is that, like six or seven gigabytes per day or something?

Thanks, I guess.
I only used 1.9GB of data last month...


Fibre installation

Won't be happening any time soon. I saw a bunch of new wooden poles being erected on the way to work. I'm not entirely sure why, there are perfectly good metal poles on the other side of the road, but, whatever, it's clearly a work in progress.

It appears as if the price for having Orange hook up fibre to the house is fixed. And that price is €0 for having the cable go underground, or €149 for having it pass above ground.

In my case, I trust they will use some intelligence. I've just paced it. 130 paces. So say about 125 metres of digging. For free.
Or, you know, just sling it up on the two poles that the existing cable runs along. I (or they?) will need to trim back the trees for access, but that's surely less trouble than all that digging.

Anyway, it's academic right now. On the map of the project BTHD (Bretagne Très Haute Débit) in Brittany, I am "in progress" with the work planned to be completed in 2023. They'll be closing off part of the town in August to install something. So, I'm guessing it'll likely be up and running by the late Autumn?
The plan BTHD is for much (all?) of Brittany to be hooked up to high speed fibre. It is being split into three phases. Already done is hooking up 240,000 places in populated areas. Currently happening is adding 400,000 places (including me!) in less populated areas. Then between 2023 and 2026, 600,000 places (everybody else). I don't know how the mayor swung it, but the village was supposed to be hooked up this year with the outlying properties deferred for 2-3 years. I guess he must have put his foot down over that and pointed out that just doing it once would be more logical.
The entire thing, which means many new phone poles and thousands of kilometres of fibre cable, is costing around two billion euros. It is being funded by Brittany, by the state's digital society plan, and by the EU's rural development plan (among others).



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Joe, 16th April 2023, 16:26
Spat my coffee when I read what you called an egg in the ingredients. You owe me a new laptop you bastard!
John, 16th April 2023, 19:38
I somehow acquired some little things called Imodium Instants, and they are extremely effective for the bottom end. Stop things continuing with immediate effect, and wear off gradually with no noticeable ill effects. 
Not to be recommended as an ongoing lifestyle choice, but very effective for occasional use. 
But you probably can't get them there. 
I was rather sceptical until I tried one in a moment of need. 
Anyone else any relevant experience?
John, 16th April 2023, 19:49
At least the fibre will make the vandalism of the roaming copper thieves less intrusive. 
In Marsac some years ago when I was there I (we, all of Marsac on our side of the river) were without 'phone or internet for about 3 weeks - and never got any compensation or reduction at all. 
You'll be getting Town Gas next - though what you'd do with it I have no idea. That was an initiative which turned into a lead balloon! 
Here in UK we've had our gas meter removed now we have an ASHP as our heating system. Avoids pointless standing charge, though it took a bit of effort to get a refund from the date we asked them to take it away. 
They seemed to think we would want to continue paying it until they got round to coming and disconnecting it, an idea I found contrary to natural justice.
Rick, 16th April 2023, 20:05
There's no such thing as natural justice. 
There is, however, Common Sense, and that's been sorely missing for a very long time. 
Town gas? The valve can sit over there in the field next to the town water...
J.G.Harston, 20th April 2023, 19:55
I've found my anti-fungal medication (think Canesten FOR MEN!) helps me "go" in the morning. Makes sense as it will changing my gut flora quite significantly. 

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