Bratwurst

writing

‘personal history’ acrylic on canvas 1992

In the summer of 1998 I was hitchhiking on some mission from West to East and in the West an important vision was revealed to me by a man that gave me a lift to Nürnberg.  His job was in the food catering industry for the German car industry.
”the influence of modern marketing techniques change our culture through our own passive decisions in our consumer society.”

The situation;  a middle age traveling businessman Ebert. An average semi-luxury hotel. A clean average hotel restaurant.
Ebert has chosen to sit in a booth. He feels he can push his legs out under the table, push back a little on the couch, and relax. Ebert comes here on a regular basis and without being familiar calls out to the waitress:

  • 4 Bratwurst with apple sauerkraut grilled potatoes.

The choice 4;  because bratwurst gives Ebert a warm homely feeling.
Comfortable memories of Ebert and his family huddled together in the warm steamy kitchen. The meaty smell of the gravy poured over grilled potatoes and bratwurst take him back to Sunday evenings and his mother’s cooking. Ebert’s grandparents, father, brothers, sisters, dogs, all come back to him through  the smell, sight, taste and texture of the bratwurst.  And it is not only Ebert who asks for this homely reassurance. Constantly our body is asking for reminders of our past so that it can replay them to us. Snapshots and videos are obvious examples.  But touch, smell, taste, sounds are equally important triggers of being able to relive the past. Through the repetition of our past we maintain the sense of our own personal history.

”If a factory will want to produce a  new bratwurst.” explains the man working in the food industry whilst navigating the ring roads around Nürnberg , ”they will make something that won’t be different in taste , nor the colour, nor the texture, nor the sound when you bite into it. In fact nothing will be new, it will just approach the big average bratwurst.”
‘But is this what the consumer wants?’ I ask a bit disgusted, ‘I thought we wanted something unique, challenging, uplifting.’
”The consumer wants a product that is economical enough so his purse does not notice it and the product softly confirm his existence through a reassuring reflection at his or her personal history”.

I screwed up my face and pouted with the realisation that outstanding produce, products and inventions fail to make it onto our shelves for the simple fact that it has no commercial value. Or in other words it does not fit into the big average.  Where does that leave us with our modern culture. The consumer wants to be reminded of his personal history, the producer answers with a big average product (to be able to cater for more for less equals bigger profits). The consumer buys, gobbles it up through direct consumption and after a week the body needs to be reminded of that particular experience that is now part of the personal history. With this a direction is set for the big average culture. And this is happening  through our unconscious actions.

food, music, movies, literature, art

from the book ‘the otherself’

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