Just a vegetable? Or a piece of political propaganda?

18 Jul 2012|Hazel Barkworth

Our Cultural Insight team unearths the hidden meanings in everyday culture to show how the world is changing, creating brands that feel fresh today and are ready to grow tomorrow. In this post Hazel Barkworth considers the humble vegetable.

And as a team full of foodies, we  spend a good portion of our time in the supermarket. And whilst we’re there, we like to dig just a little bit deeper.

Carrots, for example, are never just a great ingredient for soups and cakes, they are also a piece of 17th Century Dutch political propaganda. Originally grown in Afghanistan, they were a vivid violet for centuries, but on arrival in the Netherlands they were cultivated to be bright orange – a bold and nutritious emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch Independence.

It is a strange story, but not a surprising one. We often find that things as humble as vegetables are rich with history and myth.

Leeks became the national symbol of Wales after a bloody battle with Saxon invaders where it was impossible to tell friend from foe. A young monk noticed the problem and told the Welshmen to wear a Leek in their helmets to mark them out. The monk was called David and remains the patron saint of the country. The unassuming King Edward potato is named for the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. This very king was the man who we can thank for the tradition of eating roast beef, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings on a Sunday lunchtime.

And even in more recent times, vegetables are intrinsically linked to our aspiration and cultural moment. The popularity of the avocado in the 1980s, was full of exoticism and sophistication, which moved to a fresh notion of growth and health encapsulated in the “vine-ripened” tomato of the 1990s. And now, our current penchant for the dirt-crusted, unperfect and real is summed up by the love of celeriac or Jerusalem artichokes.

We love searching for the hidden meanings in everyday things and how brands can tap into these. So whatever you are looking at, be it feminity, naturalness or even the humble vegetable we can inspire you with a different perspective. And don’t forget, next time you’re pushing your trolley, be aware of the abundance of story in every aisle.

Hazel works in our Cultural Insight team helping clients to see differently and think differently about their brand. For more blog posts click on the “See Differently” tab above.

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