Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Label lore: a fascinating game of mystery, puzzlement and sheer idiocy to help you while away those boring shopping trips to the supermarket.

Aisle one.

Seen on a can of pineapple: Naturally Low in Fat.

Spent the next two aisles looking for sugar labelled Naturally Low in Salt, spring water labelled Naturally Low in Caffeine and legs of lamb labelled Naturally Low in Fish. Didn't find any, but the shopping trip was a quarter over, and I found myself in ...

Aisle five.

Seen on a can of tomato soup: Made from responsibly grown Australian tomatoes.

Now this was a hard one, and provided enough entertainment to get me through the next four aisles (which also made me forget two items on the shopping list). To start with, since grammar went out with old telephones, people throw words into sentences in any order. Was the adverb 'responsibly' even intended to modify 'grown'? And if so, how do you define responsibly grown tomatoes? Or irresponsibly grown ones? Left out in the rain? Letting cockatoos eat them before they ripen? Or did the manufacturer really mean that all Australian tomatoes are responsibly grown, compared to the cheaper imports? Who knows. I suspect the latter, and that the phrase was mangled by a semi-literate marketing executive and went unnoticed all the way up the line to the CEO. So many questions, so little time left to shop! This game is great. Into the home straight now.

The refrigerated aisle.

A health warning for Pliny the Elder.

Ancient Indian writings described yogurt and honey as the food of the gods; Abraham supposedly owed his longevity to the regular ingestion of yogurt; the biblical land flowing with milk and honey was reportedly fermented yogurt; ancient Greek cuisine included a dairy product known as Oxygala - a form of Greek yogurt; while Pliny the Elder is among many writers to mention the benefits of yogurt, which is, among other claims, responsible for raising the average Bulgarian age at death by decades compared to non-yogurt eating races.

Fast forward to twentieth century Australia. I picked up a tub of Greek yogurt, intending to coat some bone-in chicken pieces with it along with a selection of Indian spices before baking them, tandoori-style, and serving them with the three Rs (rice, roti and raita). But right there on the label, traffic-light style, was a star rating graphic, giving the product the low rating of just one and a half stars out of five. Australian bureaucrats had decided, after several millennia of opposing evidence, that GREEK YOGURT IS BAD FOR YOU.

The shopping trip was over, and I forgot only some shampoo and a tin of baked beans.

No comments: