Susie Rushton: Let the tourists eat blue-blood cake

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

It happens every time we choose a supermarket to buy our groceries (Sainsbury’s or Asda); with each drink we order in the pub (Pimm’s or Bell’s); whenever we treat ourselves by buying something “posh” to eat (M&S salmon en croute), or conversely, if we swerve a chain viewed as “unhealthy” (Greggs, KFC).

Last week’s landmark survey published in The Independent on Sunday explored the attitudes of the 71 per cent of Britons who now view themselves as middle class. It highlighted how class is today defined not by the work we do, not only by education and income, but by what we consume. This isn’t just about whether or not one queued overnight for an iPad or drives a battered Land Rover. It concerns what we eat and drink – with cafetière coffee, rather than instant, in particular being a great marker of social station. In modern Britain, even food is class-bound. We of the middle class massive love nothing more than aspirational eating. You only need to listen to the arch critiques of Come Dine With Me contestants to see exactly how our food choices define us in the eyes of others.

The last few days have produced a feast of stories about status-bound snacks. Was there a media outlet in the land that did not refer to Fortnum & Mason, the site of a sit-in on Saturday by direct action group UKUncut, as the shop that sells “the Queen’s marmalade”?

This was valuable PR for the royal grocer, which most native Londoners regard as a tourist trap second only to Madame Tussauds. Everybody knows that the best orange marmalade is Tiptree (also the brand that actually holds the royal warrant for marmalade and jam, in case you care), which is available in supermarkets everywhere. No matter. Much of what Fortnum’s offer may be very fine, but its image isn’t really built on gourmet credentials. What it actually sells, as evidenced by the wall-to-wall coats of arms and “By Royal Appointment” slogans in-store, is an idea of class. Indeed, the handbook given to all 800 companies that hold warrants to supply the British Royal Family is called “A peerage for the trade”.

Yet even hardened republicans can’t resist buying. Marie Antoinette’s most famous utterance has been taken to heart in this country: yes, please, we will eat your cake – and pay a premium for it, too! With winsome little pictures of stately homes, walled gardens and nonsense historical backstories on labelling, the marketing of posh food products is social fantasy we all indulge in. Prince Charles famously cut out the middle-merchant and his Duchy Originals brand flogs decent (although not always outstanding) biscuits, bacon and mince pies in aristocratic packaging that panders to our deeply ingrained aspirations.

But what happens when a blue blood reveals that for his nuptials, he’d really like nothing more than a McVitie’s chocolate biscuit fridge cake? How can we square Prince William’s (ironic?) taste for such a déclassé sickly-sweet confection with the common assumption that posh food is best?

And then there’s Kate Middleton’s choice of maker for “her” traditional fruit cake – made by a baker of “supermarket cakes”, so the horrified food snobs have it. The idea that royal patronage guarantees supreme quality is a confection by the marketing men and, in fact, that little golden coat of arms on the label is a guarantee merely of safeness, nothing more. Eating something because the Queen likes it is an activity best left to the tourists.

Daylight’s power to make us feel good

This isn’t quite a paean to the joys of springtime, but still – what a difference an hour makes. A whole 60 minutes of daylight in the early evening is an instant feel-good hit, and I defy anyone not to feel slightly lighter of step. I won’t bore you by rehearsing the arguments for having that extra hour of BST all year round, for who can blame Scotland for not wanting to be plunged into darkness for half the year? But this week is a lovely, transformational time when even grimy London looks re-made, inspiring us to crawl out of our wintry carapaces and embrace the longer evenings. Now, to make sure that I do something really constructive with that precious hour and don’t simply spend it standing outside a pub …

I need a guide to the etiquette of concert-going

Traversing the no-man’s land between youth and middle age, sometimes one needs a bit of guidance. I’m new to applying anti-ageing eye cream, visiting garden centres on a Sunday morning and attending classical music concerts. On the latter point in particular, I am confounded by where, exactly, I am supposed to focus my visual attention during the performance. The conductor? Some point in the middle distance? The orchestra? And if so – which section?

I never remember this being a problem in gig-going days: I just drank a double-vodka tonic and gazed at the most beautiful man on the stage (there was always one), or, failing that, the dancing or costumes or even the mosh pit. But this classical-music novice was having serious difficulties one night last week watching the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican. The music – Rachmaninov – sounded incredible, but concentrating on it was nearly impossible.

Then I read that the architect Frank Gehry might have a radical solution for people like me who crave a focal point; at his newly inaugurated concert hall for the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida, film is projected on to swooping, sail-shaped screens above the orchestra, complementing the aural experience. Traditionalists will hate it, but I think I’ve seen the future.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there