or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, September 14, 2009


Yet another one of those clever blogs that I wish I'd thought of (but my brain doesn't work that way, alas) is Food in Real Life, which has a devilishly simple idea: buy some commercial food, prepare it and stage it so that it looks as much as possible like the picture on the box, and compare the two.

Less rigorously controlled are the reader submissions, which are usually just a photograph of the food item with no real effort made to duplicate the serving suggestion on the package. Here's one for a meatless product called Smart Bacon, which, as a vegetarian product, I can tell you from experience, doesn't duplicate its namesake with much fidelity.

Here's the company's own web page about the product. Now just have a look at that box.

It says "Pig-out intelligently." Intelligence wouldn't be selling, or eating, a faux-meat product*; it would be using correct grammar on your packaging.

"Pig out" in this context is an imperative phrasal verb, and like a great many phrasal verbs in English, it can be hyphenated into a single word, a transformation which invariably changes its part of speech. In this case, it turns into a noun; "to pig out" means to eat a large quantity of food, and "a pig-out" is the act of doing so, or an oversized meal. This sort of transformation is not a hard concept to grasp. What is hard to grasp is how a company could have printed such a mistake on the front of their packaging without anybody noticing.

* I used to be a vegetarian, and it's not always easy; sometimes you really do just want a burger or a piece of ham or something, but you want to stick to your principles, too. However, in hindsight it seems like a strange and rarefied form of hypocrisy to do so. If you want to be a vegetarian, at least own the name and don't pretend to be eating something you're not. Would you deliberately wear fake fur, giving the impression that you had had a number of small animals killed for your sake when you really hadn't? Would you go fishing and ostentatiously toss back the fish you caught so that you could have the superficial pleasure of the kill without actually killing something? No? Then don't eat fake meat, either.

I think I would make an exception for those faux hamburgers, though, partly because some of them are actually quite delicious, but mostly because putting something between two pieces of bread is time-honoured and not necessarily indicative of eating meat; you can grill up a portobello mushroom and shove it in a bun and not pretend that it's a hamburger. But those fake luncheon-meat slices and hot dogs and chicken nuggets are meant to be a kind of pretend-meat, and surely that's the very thing you wouldn't eat if your vegetarianism had any kind of meaning.


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