So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Daily Archives: May 18, 2009

Change for change’s sake – foodie post for the day

I don’t know about you, but I have to wonder when a company makes a marketing decision like the one that Heinz has made with its iconic Heinz Ketchup label. The label is a brilliantly simple and instantly recognizable representation of its product. It’s so much so that  I bet you never gave the label a second thought – it just is .

Here’s the old label, in all of its glory:

heinz-ketchup-old-bottle

And now, the new label:

heinz-ketchup-old-and-new-bottles-compared

The label on the right is the one that most consumers will be seeing, and I’d argue that the one one the left is also a “new” label, with the rather superfluous bright blue slash notifying you that you can fit the bottle in the door of a refrigerator.

Now, the fact that Heinz was written in a little pickle, an ingredient that you don’t find in the product, is almost beside the point. That little pickle is part of the gestalt of the label, a gestalt that we’ve all grown up with. As much as I’m glad to be informed that tomato ketchup is made from tomatoes, and I’ve always wondered what a tomato looks like before it is turned into the ubiquitous paste that we all have come to know, I think it’s a mistake to tweak the marketing gods. Why mess up a good thing? The label’s been the same for about a zillion years. Is this a case of change for change’s sake? Is this some marketing department struggling to validate its very existence?

Today at lunch, we had the president of the Nashville division of the second largest record group in the world dining with us, as he often does. As he was leaving, I accosted him and showed him the label and said, “You’re a bit of a marketing guy, right? (with my marvelous sense of understatement)” “He grinned and said, “Yes, I dabble in it a bit”. I said, “Would you have bothered to change this classic label”? He looked at the label, almost with surprise and shook his head. “No, why mess with such a classic image. At least they didn’t change the type or the shape”.

Exactly.

This might work out just fine for Heinz. Most people might not even notice. So, if that’s the case, I guess my point is, what is gained by messing with it in the first place?

I’ll bet this was a half a million dollar process. But I guess it’s worth it to the marketing people who depend on “doing stuff to stuff” for their living.

I’d call it a cautionary tale.

Cookbook of the day – True Thai

51M7P9CREVL__SS500_True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking by Victor Sodsook

William Morrow Cookbooks

ISBN-10: 0688099173

ISBN-13: 978-0688099176

This 476 page cookbook isn’t noteworthy for the great photographs or graphic design. In fact, there are scarcely any photographs at all. This is just the best Thai cookbook that I’ve found yet.  The Tom Kha Talay (Bangkok Fisherman’s soup) from his recipe is simply one of the best things that you’ll ever put in your mouth – simple, yet unctious with coconut milk, brilliantly spicy from the red chili paste, and totally soul satisfying.

His various curry pastes are easy to follow and his dishes are well-chosen for their diversity. And, everything I’ve cooked from it has the sense of a lack of compromise in ingredients and techniques. I’ve never been to Thailand, so this is just conjecture on my part, but, there are times when I’ve cooked recipes from other cookbooks of various cusines where you could just sense that it wasn’t quite right. You don’t get that sense from this cookbook.

And, there’s a good section on vegetarian food for our vegetarian friends.

If I could only have one Thai cookbook, this would be it. The only thing I don’t like about it is the lack of color photographs. But, in a way, it lends a little more authenticity to the cookbook. It doesn’t fall back on food porn.

This book deserves your attention.