Top | Sift

The label masters

(article, Culinate staff)

OK, so maybe you're just amused by the whole restaurant-menu trend of stating, say, which local farm raised the contented chicken that's now braised and arranged on your plate. Or you're fine with the fact that "extra-virgin olive oil" doesn't really mean anything, at least not here in the U.S. 

But you've really gotta hand it to the British mega-chain Marks & Spencer, purveyors of everything from clothing and furniture to appliances and groceries, for fabricating authentic-sounding labels that mean absolutely nothing. As Nicola Twilley, the blogger behind Edible Geography, noted back in November, Marks & Sparks has sold chicken with the rural-sounding (but bogus) name of Oakham and fish with the Scottish-evocative (but nonexistent) title of Lochmuir. 

Twilley is wry but also poignant about the situation:

bq. As our food supply becomes ever more globalized, I can’t help but imagine that more and more producers of "luxury" foods will seek to make their product even more desirable with reference to a hyper-specific, utterly imaginary atlas of aspirational origins. Chinese foie gras will come from the French-sounding Beauchâteau, Vietnamese mozzarella will be marketed under the faux-Italian name of San Legaro, and the role of geography in food description — originally intended as a means to reconnect consumers and producers — will end up further disguising the industrial commodity chain while creating an entirely alternate universe, made up of the places that we dream our food comes from.