A few weeks ago I was walking along the Danforth, as one does on a beautiful afternoon, and I heard a construction worker ask his colleague for a Sharpie. Later that day I was in a shop downtown and overheard a lady ask the cashier in the shop for a Kleenex. It seems a funny thing to remember. Little exchanges between people that would otherwise go unnoticed. That day I was agonizing over a decision about my employment. Would I take the job or not. Would I sacrifice being able to dine out once or twice a month? To make far less money, but be in a role with a lot more responsibility and connections to the food scene in Toronto? It was plaguing me. I was completely preoccupied with the idea of brand power and what the potential could be for this company, whether I had it in me to invest my time and energy for the mere chance that this brand would be strong enough to become a household name, that the business would diversify under that brand and be successful enough to carry the salaries of several fine people devoted to the vision.
I realized that when I heard those strangers mutter brand names in place of the objects to which they were referring, that it would be a possible boon for the local food movement if people would adopt this practice for the products we grow and process close to home. It certainly would mean that the company I was considering pouring my heart into would be far more viable. Would referring to small-scale food products by their brand name detract from their unique characteristics, their relatively small batch sizes, or their locality? Would it be a detriment to the brand names if other products, from far away, use those names colloquially when referring to a type of product? What would happen if the collective conscience started to use the term Utopia for canned tomatoes? Ideal instead of coffee? Harmony instead of milk? Or Mapleton’s instead of yogurt? Would the hippies, politicos and traditionalists get up in arms, like some do when I refer to plastic wrap as Saran? Perhaps they might, perhaps they wouldn’t if it meant REALLY strengthening our local food system economically. I wonder what the results would be, and how we might go about actually brainwashing people enough to catch on. Or not, maybe it’s a horrible idea that distances people from their food.
Could you please pass the Kozlik’s?