January 19, 2008

In the consumer market in “developed” countries, there are no nouns without adjectives and adverbs…..and those, too, luscious and superlative adjectives and adverbs. Where does all the ordinary stuff ever go? There are no tomatoes, only “sun-dried tomatoes”. No fruit juice, only “bursting-with-vitamins” fruit juice. “Sun-kissed” oranges. “Mountain-fresh” apples. Even the cleaning fluid on the kitchen counter is “real-lemon fragrance”(if that thing has been near a lemon tree in its life I will eat my hat.)

We were discussing this over dinner and I brought out the “veppilai katti” (citron leaves powdered with various spices and tamarind, a DELICIOUS accompaniment to curds and rice) and someone asked, “why does it not say, ‘sun-dried citron leaves’ on the packet?” My answer was, “We don’t have ANY other means of drying leaves in India, so they never thought of specifying!” We used to have sun-ripened mangoes, now they are calcium-carbide-ripened, alas, and see the difference in the taste…a change of adjective, in “developing” countries, or rather, their deletion,often means a change for the worse. If your shop no longer advertises “fresh” vegetables, you can assume that they now come protected in a layer of pesticide…but then, some adjectives also have misled for many years…haven’t we all seen the “made as Japan” labels on sarees, and textiles “made in USA”, where the letters stood for Ullhasnagar Sindhi Association?

Sadly, much of advertising can be equated with an attempt to hoodwink the public. I remember the story of the “all-natural, ecologically-friendly, 100%-effective-if-used-according-to-directions” product to kill cockroaches…enclosed was an old boot, with directions to a.catch cockroach, b. hold on table, and c. hit with enclosed product.