Friday, 11 December 2015

You are what you eat... Ouch that's my face!

It may just be me, but I can't help but notice a troubling and slightly bizarre trend that seems to be entering our culinary lives without any form of protest or eyebrows being raised.

Forget salted caramel, chipotle added to anything and everything,  meats that are 'pulled' in some way or another (all of which I have embraced with loving arms!) or even stuffing pizzas with hot dogs or individual mini-burgers (which still horrifies me) - the latest trend before the year is up is... drumroll, very exciting....


Oh. Ah. Ew?

You may think I've gone a little mad, to which I retort 'have you read any of my prior entries?!?'

Earlier in the week I watched an advert on tv in absolute horror. The basic premise was instead of giving your loved ones a "boring" present for Christmas, you can instead buy them some unique marshmallows with your face on it to remember you by. Because obviously that is a better alternative to some dodgy socks. Initially I thought the whole idea of printing a photo on a marshmallow was pretty cool and an awesome show of how the up and coming printing technology is feeding itself into mainstream society...  but then it dawned on me - I would literally be eating a picture of my face.  The fact the company even go out to describe the marshmallows as 'multi-sensory' brings a slightly sour taste to my mouth.
These puns... much like your face is alarmingly easy to get my teeth into!
The next day I came across a BBC article about a company that will print a 3D, chocolate version of a customer's head - all ready for eating.

Perhaps there is something more to these chocolate lollipops. I'm sure if you took a psychoanalytic approach to these patterns I have picked up you could really make something out of this trend I seemed to have picked up. 

The chocolate could quite easily act as a metaphoric representation of our anxieties/insecurities that, as part of a comfort-eating binge, we are able to rationalise and take full dominating (albeit sometimes temporary!) control of through the act of eating. Nothing particularly new there, I've just defined my interpretation of comfort eating - a term which has had a lot of use in the last decade or so. 

However, the addition of a face to these sweet treats add a slightly more interesting dimension. The connection between the act of eating and issue resolution is one becomes somewhat ironic, as you are quite literally 'eating your problems'. Bit of a headache? Gnaw on your temple. Feel a little tired? Have a good ole' nibble of an ear see if that perks you up. Delicious! 

To me anyway it just feels all a tad perverse and rather amusing. 

Maybe it is the other side of the spectrum, where in this modern society dominated by selfies and the surge of body positivity that has struck a chord with many of my generation, the modern ego has become so expansive we now feel the need to create a consumable duplicate of
ourselves. Bearing this in mind with the context of where we are in the year, with Christmas and the festive spirit and excess and bingo you have yourself a marketable USP to create a start-up business.

Now comes in fleshy pink for that human authenticity!
My final anecdotal evidence comes through social media today, which was the inspiration for adding this to my poor neglected food blog. It was a friends birthday earlier in the week, this morning she said thank you for the messages and uploaded a picture of one of her presents: a  popular branded chocolate-based confectionary... wish her face printed on some of them. Pretty cool... but equally a tad creepy?

Unlike the marshmallows where you are chomping on your friends frontal lobe, you are having a munch on your own mouth. WHAT? 
Without realising, these treats sort of enter the territory of Vorarephilia (which comes from the Greek "vorare" - to "swallow" or "devour" and philia  or "love") which again adds a strange twist to a Christmas present.

As I said at the start it may well just be my brain whirring into overdrive, but please do let me know of any more examples or interpretations! 

References (accessed 11/12/15) (accessed 11/12/15) 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Forget the fries - 'do you want coupons with that?'

It’s been quite a while since I last made a post which probably has too many shockingly embarrassing typos and grammatical errors...


Apologies for the delay, turns out doing a law conversion course, a part-time job and general life doesn’t allow as much time to write entries as I foresaw. The positive is that I have been stockpiling ideas since September. So many I’m not actually sure how to approach any of them or in what logical order to try and research, write and upload them. What I do know for sure though is I won’t be looking at just literary texts or materials, but a lot more variety of mediums alongside literary or other food-based texts I’ve gathered. Hopefully be a lot more of a dynamic and dare I say interactive set of blog entries!

So, on the topic of stockpiling – this post will be about coupons, vouchers and the undermining of the food industry. Baptism of fire to get back into things, right?

I think it would be a fair generalisation we all love a bargain. Whether it be a student discount of all manner of foodstuffs (lord knows my sweet tooth was shamefully satiated with the free ‘ice-cream’* that came with any McDonald’s meal* and my ole’ faithful student ID card), buy one pizza* get one free (useful for missions in the library with my friends until 9am desperately trying to finish an assignment) or meal deals at restaurants that make eating out a much more feasible option. Simply put discounts and offers are a godsend.

*I fully realise these foods are not the healthiest, but I have selected these foods for good reason as hopefully will be explained in the next blog entry. While at university I actually always made sure I had a pretty balanced diet and couldn’t cope without a few fruit or veg every day!

However, is there a stage to which this all goes too far?

The answer to that question, I feel, can be answered in three words: American reality television or to be more precise using just two words - Extreme Couponing.

Sometimes in life you need trash daytime TV. Everyone knows it but nobody says it. I’ve watched many an episode of EC in bemusement at how much these people save, often exclaiming to myself AMERICA HOW DO YOU WORK THIS SYSTEM MAKES NO SENSE’. 
This isn’t a feeble buy one get one free or free blob of frozen... stuff. Oh how these coupon collectors would mock me. No, these are the people that have a retail price of $2000 for a 12hr shopping trip, to come home paying less than $10 if that.

The show always shows the stockpile that these people have collected over the months/years. One woman in particular had a stockpile worth around $33,000, which was stored in a purpose built barn, which is also INSURED for its contents. Madness. Obviously not all of the items were food, but a lot of it was. Nonetheless, at the rate these people are going by consistently going coupon shopping and topping up their stockpiles – there is no way on earth they will ever run out of, well, anything. It begs the question why? How?

From what I gather, inserts from magazines, local papers, flyer's etc. are the source of coupons, which can either be from the manufacturer of the product itself, or the store in question, or both. If the latter a coupon is effectively ‘doubled’ – making couponing a numbers game with highly lucrative consequences. Now any sane reader must be thinking ‘this is a good thing what is he on about?’ and you would have a good point. I would retort that question with eventual economic collapse of the industry as we know it.

By watching this show, you sit in amazement as the programme impliedly expresses to you how easy couponing can be if you are savvy enough. By advertising and effectively normalising dumpster diving to find that extra coupon essential for an extra bargain the show may as well be saying‘you can do this too if you coupon like us’ is subliminally fed (pun intended) to the brains of viewers.

Using the same numbers game that these coupon royalty often use, if a shop purchases say 1000 toothbrushes or cans of a popular fizzy drink at a discounted trade bulk rate and they are essentially giving 100 or 200 away for free, they would be at a loss. Similarly, if everyone who went to this hypothetical shop followed the implied message from the show which I have identified above, these stores would rapidly be losing money and consequently go out of business. I would be interested to know if any store has fell foul to a ‘discount’ for customers. By losing out on what must already be relatively tight profit margins as it is it makes a mockery of the system (whether you consider that to be the food and consumer industry or capitalism is up for you to decide!)

The broadcaster that make this show, TLC have even gone so far as to make an ‘all-stars’ version of the show where people who have been featured compete for the highest retail saving. See the video below to see how well they fare...

The first episode I watched left me with joy and euphoria for these people who can work the system and get the majority of a ginormous shop for free, only actually paying a minuscule percentage instead.

However after watching a second and third episode respectively a wave of unease fell over me. By getting such a sheer volume of stuff for free or virtually nothing food no longer is the source of nutrition or energy, but a competitive sport or hobby that if this show is to be believed takes over a person’s life. I have seen episodes where the shops entire stock of a product is instantly removed from the shelf, (quite literally people flinging an entire shelf into a trolley!) because someone with countless coupons have decided to stroll in that day and ‘needed’ 200 toothbrushes or 400 packets of ramen noodles that day.

What I am getting at, which I would like you readers to comment and hopefully get a discussion going – is the attempt by manufacturers and stores alike to encourage shoppers to buy particular products provoke, and ultimately evoke, an element of selfishness and/or greed  - or is this simply an awkward consequence of a good deal? Alternatively is this something we should embrace here in the UK/Europe, or be hesitant to adopt such liberal use of the potentially problematic coupon?

A little embarrassing, but I genuinely had a dark moment of anxiety seeing this on the kitchen counter a few days ago...

Food for thought.