If you ask me, I would, for once, like to ask you something, and it is this: are you quite poncy and therefore sometimes shop at Waitrose? If you are quite poncy and sometimes shop at Waitrose, then I would like to further ask whether you have ever drawn to a halt in fresh produce and wondered: who is in charge of labelling the herbs and whatnot and have they gone mad?
Is there such a person? Let’s say there is. More, let’s say he’s called Michael, and has a boss, Susan. Well, if I were Susan, I would pop my head round the door of Michael’s office at Waitrose’s headquarters in Bracknell, wherever that is, and I would say to him: “OK, Michael, you’ve had your fun. Now pack it in.” And Michael would remonstrate. Michael would say: “But, Sue, I was just about to describe this lettuce as ‘buttery’!” And I, as Susan, would sigh and say: “Showering everything in pointless adjectives is starting to get on everybody’s wick, Mike.”
It began with garlic, I think, which went from plain garlic, which is what it is, to “Glorious Garlic”. And next it was basil, which is now “Majestic Basil”, although I do not know how majestic basil can actually be. (I have never felt the need to curtsey before basil, for example.) And rosemary is “Romantic Rosemary” and tarragon is “Tantalising Tarragon” and bay leaves are “Beautiful Bay Leaves” and oregano is “Sun-kissed Oregano” and on it goes, all the way to sage, which is, rather bathetically, “Simple Sage”.
I don’t know how the conversation between Michael and sage went but perhaps it went something like this:
Sage: “I can’t be Glorious?”
Sage: “Beautiful, Romantic, Cool?”
Sage: “Sexy? Sun-kissed?”
Michael: “Certainly not.”
This has been tough for sage, because, as it has itself noted: “Once you’re labelled, that’s it, you become the label. No one is willing to look behind it, and everyone thinks all you’re good for is being shoved up a chicken’s arse.
“In fact, when I once told a careers officer I wanted to work in aviation – not necessarily as a pilot, but perhaps in air traffic control – he laughed in my face and said: ‘Oh, simple sage, you are funny. It’s up a chicken’s arse for you.’”
And so, if I were Susan, I would tell Michael to draw a line under all this. I would tell him that this kind of marketing has had its day, although not before, possibly, congratulating him on labelling chillies as “Discovered by Columbus Chillies”. Well done Mike, I would say, for putting right all those people who thought they’d been discovered by Cilla Black, in that hiatus between Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise. Well done, you.