1774: Adjective Foods
Title text: Contains 100% of your recommended daily allowance!
In this comic, Randall imagines creating food items whose labels contain only adjectives, and putting them on display in supermarkets. This is likely a jab at food market buzzwords, which usually rely on adjectives that bring up certain feelings based on how the food is "supposed to be", rather than a factual description of what the food actually is. By removing all nouns from product labels, Randall takes this trend to its extreme. The items depicted in this comic are filled with popular descriptions that make them sound appealing, but give no useful information about their contents. It is implied that some consumers who are susceptible to buzzword marketing will nevertheless purchase these products.
The adjectives seen in the comic are:
- Premium: A generic term that indicates high quality, which can be used to describe any food. There is no objective standard for what can be labeled "premium".
- Stone-ground: A term typically used to describe milled grain products such as flour, corn meal, or mustard. This term evokes a sense of tradition (as opposed to industrial processing), and by association, heartiness or healthiness. In reality, contents are rarely distinguishable no matter what grinding surface was used.
- Bespoke: A word meaning "custom made to individual order", in contrast to factory mass-produced items typically found in supermarkets. It is supposed to imply higher quality due to the producer giving it more attention. However, mass-produced items are usually ones that pass more strict quality controls, have more consistent results, and appeal more to popular tastes.
- Cage-free: A term typically used to describe chicken. Chickens are usually farmed in tight cages and not allowed to move freely. Ethical concerns for the chickens' welfare led to preference for better handling methods such as "cage-free" and "free range". These terms however are still often abused by farmers looking to maximize their profits, as "cage-free" can simply mean crowded in a filthy barn, and "free range" might be a tiny patch of grass which chickens are allowed to, but rarely actually, visit.
- Gourmet: Another generic term that indicates sophisticated, fancy, or exotic properties. Any food can be labeled "gourmet" without any objective standard.
- Fire-roasted: A method of preparation by heating food over an open flame (as opposed to an electric oven or microwave). This process typically gives the food a distinct flavor through caramelization and by absorbing the smoky flavor from the fire itself.
- Glazed: A description indicating that the food has been coated with a thin layer of glossy liquid. This is usually done to improve the flavor and texture.
- Flambé: A method of preparation by adding alcohol to the food and setting it on fire. This is mainly done for dramatic presentation in a restaurant setting. The alcohol content, and the flames to a lesser extent, can give food additional flavors.
- Organic: In the context of food, this term describes methods of production which meet certain standards for sustainability and lack of synthetic chemicals. These standards vary by country and region. While one can support organic farming for ecological reasons, many also incorrectly associate "organic" to mean better tasting, more nutritious, or otherwise healthier. Experiments to date have found no difference in safety, nutrition, and taste between organically and conventionally produced foods.
- All-natural: A term that generally implies that all the food's ingredients were directly sourced from domestication and farming, with no additives or alterations through modern technologies like chemical synthesis or genetic engineering. Similar to "organic", definition and enforcement of this term varies by country and region. While it is true that food processing technologies have led to an explosion of junk food, it is not true that "natural" is necessarily always better. Many natural products can be harmful if used carelessly, and some processing methods do in fact improve the safety and nutrition of food.
- Locally-sourced: A term indicating that the ingredients are procured and prepared in the same general geographical area where it is sold, instead of arriving by long-distance shipping or international trade. People may prefer to "buy local" due to perceived benefits to the local economy, community, and environment.
- Artisanal: Similar to "bespoke", this is a word meaning "created by hand by a skilled craft worker". Again this is in contrast to mass-produced items in factories where most preparation is done by machines and where workers have little knowledge of the methods.
- Kosher: A term which designates foods that may be consumed in accordance to Jewish religious dietary laws. This is important to people who follow Jewish practices, but otherwise has little significance to non-Jewish people.
- Grade A: In some countries and for some specific items (such as eggs in the US), the grade can carry specific meaning about the item's quality and suitability for sale and consumption. However without context for what the food is, this is nothing but another meaningless term which alludes to high quality but carries no weight.
- Craft: A term similar to "artisanal".
- Barrel-aged: A term typically used to describe fermented products such as alcoholic beverages, vinegar, and certain sauces. Sealing these items in wooden barrels and allowing them to age helps them to develop more complex flavors. The barrels themselves can also impart flavors to the food.
- Smoked: A method of preparation by placing food, often meats or cheeses, in chambers filled with dense smoke. The food slowly absorbs the smoke which enhances its flavor.
- Authentic: Typically used for foods imported from another culture, this term indicates that the ingredients, preparation, taste, etc. are true to the original, native version. It can also indicate that the ingredients are real, not substituted with similar but lower-quality alternatives. However, since there's no objective criteria for what can be called "authentic", the word has largely lost its meaning and the quality of items labeled as such still varies greatly.
- Homemade: Another term which evokes the idea of careful preparation by hand rather than commercial mass production. People will often prefer meals prepared from scratch at home by themselves or close family members, likely because they grew up eating similar meals and have developed a fondness for its particular characteristics. However, there is no reason to believe one will enjoy food prepared in someone else's home any more than commercially produced versions.
- Sun-dried: A term often applied to fruits and vegetables that have been dehydrated using heat from the sun, e.g. sun-dried tomatoes. As with "stone-ground", it's questionable whether the heat source in this case makes any difference to the food. Sunlight does not conceivably add any flavor to the food, so presumably any radiant heat with similar intensity will produce the same results.
- Whole: A term applied to food that has not been broken apart into smaller pieces, e.g. whole walnuts, or food that has not been processed to remove nutritious parts, e.g. whole grains.
- Extra sharp: Often applied to cheeses, indicating a stronger or "sharper" flavor, e.g. extra sharp cheddar cheese.
- Low-calorie: Used to label foods that have been formulated to deliver fewer calories than a regular food. Although low-calorie foods may be helpful for dieters to control their caloric intake, they are not necessarily healthier. For example, the low-calorie formulation might have replaced fat (which has high calorie content) with added sugar (with comparatively lower calorie content per gram) and salt (to enhance flavor lost from the removal of fat). Neither excessive sugar nor salt is healthy.
- Lite: Similar to 'low-calorie', 'lite' is applied to foods that have fewer calories or lesser fat content than regular food. It can also apply to other contents, e.g. alcohol ("lite beer").
- Original flavor: If a company produces many products, it will sometimes differentiate them by flavor. After many years, the first flavor that a product came in can often be preferred by customers. Companies will often capitalize on this by marketing a product as having the "original flavor", rather than one of the variants.
- Recommended daily allowance (title text): Information often found in the nutritional information on food labels which compare the amount of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to a prescribed standard amount an average person is deemed to require in their daily diet.
The title text may be a continuation of the main joke, in that Randall has removed the noun (nutrient type) which the recommended daily allowance is supposed to measure. This leaves "100%" which gives an impression of good value, but it is useless without knowing what it describes. Alternatively, it may be suggesting facetiously that the foods contain 100% of the recommended daily allowance of adjectives, given the high quantity of them in the product names. Obviously, adjectives are not a nutrient the human body needs that would normally be subject of a nutritional chart.
This joke is very similar to comic 1060, Crowdsourcing, in that Randall is doing nothing, and trying to make it look like he is doing something. It expresses the opposite idea from comic 993, Brand Identity.
- [An arrangement of labeled foodstuffs, from left to right and top to bottom:]
- Premium Stone-ground Bespoke, Cage-free
- Gourmet Fire-roasted Glazed flambé
- Organic All-natural Locally-sourced Artisanal, Kosher, Grade A
- Craft Barrel-aged Smoked Authentic Homemade Sun-dried Whole Extra Sharp
- Low-calorie Lite Original Flavor
- [Caption:] I'm trying to trick supermarkets into carrying my new line of adjective-only foods.
- The word “artisanal” was originally misspelled as “artisenal”.
- The wrong spelling is found here.
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