I thought I could beat capitalism with some out-of-date onion bhajis. I was wrong | Zoe Williams

Something happened to me on New Year’s Eve that I’ve been waiting for for half a century: a product recall, for a thing that I actually had in my fridge. Eight onion bhajis from Waitrose had the wrong use-by date. The only reason I bought them in the first place is that I don’t care about use-by dates at all, and had got them yellow-stickered on the eve of their demise.

In the old days, before supermarket algorithms got so pro that their remainder piles shrank to the odd bag of bean sprouts, I wrote a piece on a giant Tesco’s last half an hour before closing. One guy had his shopping trolley groaning with ready meals, all of which he’d have had to eat that day if he wanted to observe proper food safety practices. In fact, he was planning to eat them all week. I asked him – hypocritically, because I’ll eat anything – whether he was at all worried about food poisoning, and he said he wasn’t; rather he was pleased to be beating capitalism at its own game. That’s been more or less my approach to everything since: every month-old yoghurt, every egg I couldn’t possibly guess the age of because I’m not wearing glasses; take that, capitalism.

So, ordinarily I’d have gone ahead and eaten the bhajis whatever their use-by date, except they’d been explicitly recalled. It was a black swan event, and I assumed something grand would happen, like you’d take them back and they’d give you a cake. Or you’d send Waitrose a photo of yourself, eating the offending item, and they’d refund you anyway, maybe with some kind of “congratulations on your strong stomach” message. Nope, the process is much more cost-neutral and there’s no celebratory aspect at all: you have to take it back to the shop, and they give you exactly what you spent on it. A more boring transaction I cannot imagine. Who would even win, between me and capitalism? I have a horrible feeling it’s neither of us.

So yes, I’m going to eat them anyway, and no, I will not be seeking legal redress in the very unlikely event that something bad happens. Be careful what you wish for, everybody; product recalls are nothing like as exciting as you may think.

Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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