Dumb and Dumber

Taste is a very individual thing, and it amazes me that people try to regulate it, or define it, or pretend it doesn’t matter.

Here’s an example: Vegemite.

If you are Australian. you’ll know that Vegemite is one of the finest foodstuffs known to the world. You’ll also know that there are variants on the theme including “marmite” that are just plain wrong. Sure the taste might be 99% the same, but that 1% is everything. Marmite? You’d be better off spreading your toast with termite.

At this point, let me say that, if you are not Australian, I am very sad for you that you don’t have the combination of taste buds and genetics that allows you to enjoy the glory of Vegemite. I hope you can accept my pity without feeling too inferior about the fact that your taste buds are, well, inferior. But I digress.

On the label on my (enormous) jar of Vegemite, the nutritional info suggests that a “serving” is 5 grams. What?

Vegemite is a deeply personal thing. While my preference is for about 1.5g per slice of toast, it is entirely OK that some people want a mere half a gram per slice, and others layer it on with a builder’s trowel. The amount of Vegemite one adds is deeply, deeply personal, and even discussing it with someone is akin to asking them about politics, religion and sexual proclivities all rolled into one.

So, taste is deeply personal. But sometimes, it’s not.

There’s a series of ads for Suzuki cars here that starts with some suggestion that the car buying public may be stupid, but that they can avoid more stupidity by buying a Suzuki. Smart move, guys.

The one that has really got my goat*, though, is one that starts by suggesting it’s insane to buy bottled water in a  country where the tap water tastes exactly the same. And by creating and running that advert in Australia, they are suggesting Australia is such a place.

You imbeciles.

While there are places in the globe where tap water is just great (Vancouver is probably the best in my opinion), I can’t think of anywhere where it tastes exactly the same.

And when I’m seeing this advert on my TV in Adelaide, I am in a place where it is soooo not the same, and  it makes the comparison so odious that it should rightly damn Suzuki’s ad agency, their senior management and anyone who got eyes on the ad before it was released to at least five of Dante’s circles of hell and perhaps more.

Adelaide tap water is legendarily foul. And fair enough. It’s catchphrase is “safe to drink”, not delicious. We get lots of it from near the end of the longest river in Australia, where a large chunk of the Australian population dumps all manner of things, and just this week there have been millions of fish deaths due to the condition of the river. It’s chlorinated heavily (though they changed the method to chloramine a few years ago to make it less obvious) and you can’t even keep goldfish in it without adding a chemical treatment.

But it’s safe.

Many, many people in Adelaide buy filters. Here’s a photo of the Puratap filter that is installed in our kitchen sink, so that filtered water can be used for drinking, cooking, washing vegetables, and, here’s the big one: tea.

Because I don’t want my tea to taste of chlorine. Ever.

So, I thought my post on Facebook was pretty uncontroversial. Simple really: Tap water tastes bad and Suzuki are stupid – two elementary concepts.

But some of the responses are worth a mention:

As usual, someone missed the point:  Mark said: “I never buy bottled water… except for kids in emergencies. IMHO bottled water is a waste of money and it’s definitely bad for the environment”. I agree 100%, but that has no bearing on whether it tastes the same as tap.

Jenni and Philip basically agreed, with the proviso that Adelaide Tap water, which is horrible now, used to be far worse.

And David added “Tap water has improved greatly over the last few decades. You can see through it now.” which is a great one liner, and it got me thinking : I wonder what would have happened if,   instead of seeing US comedians like Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis on out TV’s when I was very small, all comedians where forced to live in Adelaide. We wouldn’t have had Mother-in-Law jokes and “my wife…” etc, we would have had just jokes about water quality.

Anyway, the whole thing highlights that tap water, when it has an unpleasant taste, is a very, very bad thing. And, unlike Vegemite, there’s no tasty level of chlorine. My number one complaint about tea drunk while out and about is the quality of the water.

What lessons can we take from this lengthy discourse?

Taste may be subjective, but stupidity in Advertising knows no bounds.





*any reference to goats is of course cleared with world goat expert Ken Macbeth Knowles.




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