Menu in Corona times: Plague and soup – culture

To feed or to be fed. Essential work during coronary quarantine seems banal. “Disease makes people much more physical, it makes them completely physical,” says Thomas Mann’s novel about disease, Magic Magic. Exaggerated daily life: cleaning windows, counting test strips, cooking food or placing it on the doorstep of the virus cave. Cook, chew, dissolve. Consume.

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It’s time to start thinking about food in the pandemic. The Robert Koch Institute counted 23 million crown cases by mid-April. It also means: quarantine 23 million times. And the number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher. And even if it feels like the pandemic is over now, it is not. The next quarantine will definitely come.

Where the state fails, enterprises intervene. “Immune Soup”: This is the name of the product with which Maggi literally made any protective measure redundant, hitting the bouillon cube on the head. Soup powder has been sold since the fall of 2021, writes the Nestlé press office upon request. There were three varieties: “Vegetable cream soup” with pumpkin, “broccoli with cauliflower” and “soup with chicken noodles”. There was, because after a warning from the consumer center, Maggi pulled the soup out of the assortment. The company delivered the latest bags to supermarkets by the end of March. The term “immune soup” is an “unacceptable health claim,” according to the Food Clarity portal of the Consumer Counseling Center.

Maggi explains herself

At least Maggi makes statements, the cabaret insider notes with regret at this point. When the doctor is on call, he only hears tut-tut-tut. Overloaded line. Broken fax. Department of Health: relocated unknown. So only thick liquid helps. The child has fallen into the well, now only the spices are missing.

The cycle of measures and their removal once they take effect feels like eternity in the “Magic Magic” sanatorium in Davos. The time “that man spends in bed as sick” is “always the same day that is repeated,” it says. “They will bring you the noon soup as they brought you yesterday and they will bring you tomorrow. And at the same time it blows you – you do not know how and from; you feel dizzy when you see the soup coming, times are blurring, flowing into each other, and what is revealed as the true form of being is an unexpanded gift in which the soup is brought to you forever. ”

Anyone who does not live in the fascinating world of Thomas Mann often uses comfortable products these days – for example in the relentless search for a pandemic snack. “Zemë, there is rice,” Helge Schneider said in 1993. “Delicious, delicious rice from the cooking bag.” Just delicious is no longer enough these days. “Vitamins B12 and B6 support the immune system,” promised the packaging of the immune soup, thus easing the amorphous appetite of the bad conscience. When asked, Nestlé still claims to be a “legally approved and scientifically proven statement”.

How health promises work

Stephanie Wetzel from the customer center sees it differently. The correct statement could only be read in lower case: The product “… contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.” Only this statement is scientifically proven and legally approved, she explains. “Health promises are regulated across Europe in the Health Requirements Regulation.”

But even this regulation is not really enough. Because if Maggi adds vitamins to a soup package, for example, then the company can advertise the effect of the vitamins – at least as long as it adheres to the prescribed formulations. “But in the worst case, consumers ignore it and transfer the beneficial effect of added ingredients throughout the product.” You can even advertise a chocolate with the claim: “Contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system.” Of course, only if you have previously added vitamins B12 and B6.

strengthening the effect

Strengthening is what homeopathy calls the process by which a medicine is supposed to work better if the active ingredient is too diluted with water, alcohol or lactose. We are not talking about chocolate and soup, so completely new opportunities open up here. In economics, there is talk of few goods, comparable to empowerment. It is especially profitable. And now? Has a big food company used the pandemic to advertise its products in a deceptive way?

“Many products are considered healthy without any scientific knowledge behind them,” explains Tina Bartelmess. She is a young professor of nutritional sociology at the University of Bayreuth. “Then they say, ‘Grandma was already making soup when I was sick.’ Of course, the economy benefits from this. Hardly any additional marketing is needed. ”

Many members of the lower social and economic classes also lack nutritional skills, she says. “But you have to assume a certain level of critical consumer awareness.” Bartelmess finds it impossible for many customers to truly believe in the healing effects of packaged soups.

No one should believe in advertising

The tricky thing about advertising, however, is that no one has to really believe in it to make it work. Advertising “presupposes that this is assumed,” writes system theorist Niklas Luhmann in “Reality of Mass Media.” In other words, she assumes that no one believes her and yet happily continues to claim. So something like German health politicians with their guaranteed water-soluble claims: “We have the variant under control”; or “one must learn to live with the virus” or “wine will be good”.

Maybe in the end not everything is so tragic. The pandemic soup is excessive, for sure. But it is not just companies that are filling the gap left by the state. If everyone has been quarantined at one point, (almost) everyone has bought for someone else at some point. “Tell me if you need anything.” Sleeping acquaintances wake up, even more credible than when it comes to renting an apartment in a large West German city.

But even shopping is not without pitfalls, says sociologist Bartelmess. Anyone who is at home with Corona and allows others to perform tasks for them has “certain expectations of what to buy, usually without articulating them specifically”. This can go wrong. Then the wrong apple ends up in the bag, the cheese is too expensive or too cheap and, honestly, do you really need that much chocolate? “You need to communicate these expectations more accurately,” Bartelmess advises. However, women do this in their daily lives. “But a lot of guys probably haven’t talked to their friends about what’s important to them when it comes to grocery shopping. And now she is buying for a friend for the first time in her life. ”

An act of love

Shopping for each other is even “an act of love,” writes anthropologist Daniel Miller in “A Theory of Shopping”. This love is not about a “romantic vision of an idealized moment”, but about the daily concern for each other. It is vague and full of contradictions. “Care, worry, obligation, responsibility and habit play a role in these relationships, as do dissatisfaction, disappointment and even hatred.”

In such a noisy situation, an immune soup like a little shopping joke could not hurt. It is true that ironic purchases do not hurt big companies more than the maliciously distant consumption of reality shows harms television stations. Corporations even target the attention they get from marketing gags like Dr. Oetker or chocolate “Ritter Sport Mett” announced on April 1, 2014.

In the maze of signs

But if there is no way out of the maze of signs, at least someone should use it. “Immune soup” soup powder is no longer available for this purpose after being banned from supermarket shelves. But her name is now free. With a good deal, you will surely get the rights to it. A service suggestion for kindness: If the vaccination campaign is faltering, the vaccination request is on the star – why not mark the good old syringe again? An “immune soup” against Corona: Who would not bravely throw it in the arm?

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