Saturday, May 10, 2008

That’s when I reach for my revolver.

A particular strand of marketing has surely reached its infuriating nadir with “The Living Salad.” I’m talking not even about the personification of certain types of middle-class oriented “health” food but rather their babyfication, or even creaturization, an infantilizing of both product and consumer. The line between snack and pet is becoming increasingly blurred. Though perhaps that distinction has never been quite so marked in, say, Korea, still at least we’re talking about something furry that yaps and drools (no, not Amy Winehouse!) The living salad is stepping over the previously perfectly acceptable line between vegetable and pet, vegetable and child, vegetable and partner.

Now, I’m not going to eat bad food, enjoy poor health and die young out of some misplaced fidelity to the Proles, especially as my Mum and Dad didn’t (my Dad has outlived the vast majority of the men he worked with, the class traitor.) Clearly a demoralised, morbidly obese, chain-smoking, fat and sugar-addicted proletariat that can barely turn the TV over without running the risk of an aneurysm is the perfect potentially revolutionary agent and anything else is simply cleaving to Calvinist bourgeoisie narcissism, so I apologize outright for my counter-revolutionary, saturated-fat dodging. But! That doesn’t mean I can’t object to the way and to whom this stuff is pitched, izzit?

We know what the thinking is, it’s all about building up an emotional relationship with your food. “Innocent” smoothies are one of the main culprits. Each carton is like a wittle friend whose also weally good for you and yum-diddily-scwumptious too, isn’t he a wuvvely friend! With his own little biography and instruction on how best to keep him/her happy. He doesn’t contain any nasties! At least not till you surreptitiously piss in him and stick him back on the shelf in Sainsbury’s, of course.

The living salad goes one step further, it has a whole magical-realist meta-fictional history of growth and journey into your benignly caring hands. Fuck me! I thought, encountering one in my local Co-op, this salad’s trying to make friends with me! Not only that, he’s been reading Italo Calvino. Matey salad! Literate Salad! The living salad isn’t just a vitamin-rich Fuckbuddy a la the flirtatiously “Innocent” smoothie, s/he/it pleads to be looked after, requires your tender ministrations. If you look after the living salad he will selflessly offer up his tender young shoots and leaves, but if you are neglectful he will wither and wilt. Needy salad.

“One more, Roger?”

“Sorry lads I must get home, the salad’s expecting me.”

Or possibly worse than needy. The living salad cosies up to you in the most unctuous manner imaginable, but with a kind of cumbersome sanctimony, like those depressed, dependant friends and siblings who are always subtly accusing you of not quite meeting up to their needs, where the basic wrongness of this inability is somehow the background against which your entire relationship plays out. Tapping into your free-floating guilt and doubt. There’s something faintly tyrannical in this. That’s right. Tyrannical salad! You heard it here first. The world’s first co-dependent food stuff. Sitting there on the window sill, silently reproaching you. I do my best to be healthy for you and you just take, take, take and give nothing back….. I’m sorry, living salad, I’ll make it up to you….I promise not to go out to the pub this weekend….we’ll stay in with a bottle of chilled Baby Bio and watch The Living Planet on DVD….

Food is becoming everything in a culture increasingly, dumbly, orally-fixated. Fuck thinking, fuck culture, shove another free-trade organic Goji berry and buckwheat empanada down your gullet! Food starts to take on the role of the babies you don’t want to have* because they’ll ruin your figure, or stand in for the lovely, uncomplicated relationships that give you all that you certainly deserve ( I mean, you’re YOU!) but just can’t seem to find/maintain. I look after the living salad and he looks after me. I am good, he is good. Moral-comfort eating. You are a good person because you eat sensibly and look after yourself. Because you eat food that incarnates certain values you feel yourself magically sharing in them with every sugar-free mouthful, a meat-free cannibal mentality, hence the genius of market-leader Dorset Serial’s slogan, "Honest, tasty, and real.”

Some food’s designed to tap into that reserve of childhood association and the apparently deep fund of nostalgia that stays with us in adult life (and which the middle classes, poor things, carry round like a secret wound in their stressed, serious adult lives of ordering people about, making money and putting the next generation of decent, self-sacrificing high-fliers through school, Pollyannas in bullet-proof vests) emotionally cosseting us on the most asanine level. Others are supposed to be ethically upstanding. To eat well is to be good. You have in some way contributed your prim moral uprightness to the order of things, consumption stands in for both the political and the social in an endless traumatized circuit of pre-conscious orality and hyper-self-satisfaction.

Death to The Living Salad!

5 comments: said...

ah thanks.....that was a good one...... sanest thing i've read in ages. And i get questioned for boycotting the Guardian!! Sheesh.

Dominic said...

There must surely be a market for Noxious smoothies, made from pureed veal calf liver, depleted uranium and the tears of African orphans.

Failing that, I'm quite fond of McDonalds milkshakes.

Anonymous said...

Its good to find some one else who is struck by the 'Honest, tasty and real' slogan. I've been staving off a wild eyed rant spasm for some time now. Its the positing of an entire category of false, unreal mueslis that unsettles me.

Anonymous said...

i think those smoothies already exist, Dominic.. they're called "Rumsfeld's" if memory serves.


Dominic said...

The worst of it is, we all have a gallon of Rumsfeld Smoothie pumped into our stomachs every night while we sleep, like it or not. After a while it starts to ooze from the pores...