CONVERSATION PIECE: There’s a rat in mi salad, what am I gonna do?

Here’s a topic for the dinner table. ‘Food Lovers Market – the heart of Good Food’, the slogan for the popular food franchise boasts. To which they might add, ‘as any discerning rat can attest’, after rodents were observed, and videoed, in two Food Lovers Market stores this week.

Reports this week of a video showing a rat chomping on salad at the Diepkloof franchise of Food Lovers Market were swiftly followed by a second video showing, to quote News24, “what appears to be two baby rodents crawling over a bag of apples at Jabulani Mall”. Two baby rodents? Two baby rodents? Which means that Mom and Pop Rodent couldn’t be too far away. At the burger bar maybe. Or hanging at the Pizza counter. (“Extra peppadews please, and hold the cheese.”) Maybe Pa Rat had said to Ma Rat, “Just send him to the salad bar for some breakfast and meet me in the grocery section. We need to stock up on pistachios.” The well-loved UB40 song Rat in mi Kitchen, despite what legions of their fans might believe, is not actually about having the kind of “rat” in songwriter Astro’s kitchen that would rat on his weed stash to the police, although urban myth defines the story in those terms. Lead singer Ali Campbell is on record as saying to the Daily Telegraph:When asked by Astro if he has any ideas for new songs he replied, ‘Oh God, I don’t care about the album for a minute, I’ve got a rat in the kitchen!’ Astro, who sings lead vocals on the song, wrote the track in response.” (Wikpedia) Rats are generally not a good idea in the kitchen unless you’re in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ghana or Myanmar, according to the BBC, although, famously, cane rat was a staple of the menu of a venerable old South African restaurant on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, back in the day. But that’s a different creature altogether. A regular rat is said to taste like pork meat, though some say chicken. It looks, though, more like mutton. It’s reported on that rat is best “with a moonshine glaze and barbecued”. A North Carolina artist, Laura Ginn, who had organised a five-course rat feast in New York, explained at the time that she had got around the obvious problem – that rodents carry disease – by ordering hers “from a company that supplies specially raised, grain-fed rodents to zoos”. Organic, then. Has Food Lovers Market responded appropriately to the dilemma? Browse the company’s website and click on “News” and you might not unreasonably expect the top story to be about this outrage, expressing shock that rats could be found in any of their stores – let alone in more than one – and vowing to stamp out the scourge and put in place systems to ensure that no dirty rat will darken their doors, fridges or salads again. The story is there, so full credit for that, though it’s downpage. When DM read it, it was the sixth story down, as if someone had said, “Bury this.”Apricot Day!” screams one delighted-with-itself headline higher up, while perhaps its rattier readers make a mental note to look out for that for breakfast next morning. Rats love fruit and veg. In the lead story, a “gut health expert”, Monique Piderit, gushes about matters of the gut. Asked by FLM’s breathless interviewer why she’s “so passionate about gut health” (seriously), she replies: “Super question to start.” (Seriously.) “From my perspective the gut is huge, so its potential to alter one’s health positively is also huge!” And they buried the other story. Beer boeps aside, to its credit the company did deal with the ratty issue in the story, downpage as it was. CEO Brian Coppin signed the statement, which makes clear that the Diepkloof store has been “temporarily” shut down for about “a week” and which you can read in full here. Meanwhile, Ma and Pa Rodent have gone to ground. Somewhere. DM