October 10, 2005

Lunch will eat itself

My local Sainsbury's Local, on the Fulham Palace Road, has started putting up all sorts of notices around the drinks section, masquerading as serving suggestions but presumably designed to prompt you to go back and buy the suggested accompaniments before you hit the checkout.

The masquerade, however, is more substantial than they may have realised. One notice that caught my eye read as follows:
Try serving your ale with thick slices of ham, cheddar cheese, apples and chunky bread for an authentic ploughman's.
An authentic ploughman's? There's no such thing. I learned this twenty years ago when sitting through Richard Eyre's The Ploughman's Lunch, which employed that item as a metaphor to describe Thatcherism, or at least the manufactured account of a British past by which it buttressed itself.

Make people believe something that's false and then they'll make it true by buying it: that was the way it seemed to work, back in the days when a political party could be notorious simply for using an advertising agency. How different then than now, when they are dominated by the marketing operation to the extent that the difference between one and the other is not immediately apparent:
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.
My first assumption, on being reminded of the ploughman and his anachronistic lunch, was that this was something that the marketing kids concerned would not have been aware of - being, if nothing else, too young to have even heard of the film. Or, quite likely, being Thatcher's Children, born and brought up in a age defined by marketing, that even had they seen the film they would not have grasped the point of it.

But then it occurred to me that perhaps they were very well aware of it. It must surely be referred to in advertising circles, even if only as a critique of what they do: and they might even (at a very long shot) have deployed the phrase slyly and ironically, to draw attention, for the benefit of the informed observer, to their own awareness of the falsity of what they were doing. To use the false to communicate the truth about the falsehood: too unlikely, really. And too complicated a sequence to get my head around. On a Monday lunchtime, anyway.


At October 10, 2005 4:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll forgive anyone trying to sell me a ploughman's lunch.
It is much easier to say than "a baguette with a big hunk of cheese, salad and pickle please".
At least the shop is not trying to sell us additional items. After all, you do need food to go with the ale...
It is the pressure to buy expensive cards for all sorts of reasons (past and present)that bugs me.

At October 10, 2005 4:51 pm, Anonymous CP said...

The chance of the advertisement containing the deep message which you descibe in my opinion is zilch.
That would be giving the advertising tycoons far too much respect.
However, after reading your article, I fancy a Ploughman's; authentic or not.

At October 11, 2005 8:44 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps a Ploughmans justs tastes nice...? And cheese always goes with beer so everyone's happy.

At October 12, 2005 6:37 pm, Blogger bat020 said...

I came back to work from a lunchtime Sainsbury's visit on Monday fuming about exactly the same thing. It's the imperative nature of those bloody "suggestions" that really got on my wick - TRY SLICING PEARS WITH CREAMY GORGONZOLA particularly fucked me off - I found myself think "No! Why should I? And what's wrong with using a knife like everyone else?"... anyway the entire office stared at me as if I was quite mad. Glad to know I'm not alone.

At October 17, 2005 4:42 pm, Blogger Meaders said...

"Ale". "Ale". It's the fake bonhomie and ersatz heartiness of that particular usage that really pisses me off. If I had coincidentally happened to buy "thick slices of ham, cheddar cheese, apples and chunky bread", I'd make sure I'd pick up a can of Tenants' Super to wash it all down with.


At October 21, 2005 6:24 pm, Blogger Larry Teabag said...

I'm not sure I'm getting you.

Your point is that it's impossible for people shopping on Fulham Palace Road to have an authentic ploughman's lunch because they are highly unlikey to be authentic ploughmen. And even if they did happen to be actual ploughmen enjoying a day-off in London, then they'd be unlikely to buy an unrecognizable, overpriced supermarket-version of their day-to-day lunch.

Is that right? (I haven't seen the film, of course.)

At October 21, 2005 7:10 pm, Blogger Larry Teabag said...

No, wait... I've got it!

Your point was that the only way that Sainsbury's on the Fulham Palace Road could be selling authentic ploughman's lunches (given that none of their customers are ploughmen) is by previously buying or stealing the lunches from authentic ploughmen elsewhere.

The evil bastards!!

Is that what the film's about then?


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