Partial Fish,
Whole Truth

September 2019

In the following essay, I take a look at what truths might be revealed in the packaging design, as well as the formal appearance of a food object that I found in a popular, US-based supermarket. Whereas this object was once a living agent of nature, within its packaging, the object has been reborn as something else entirely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Classic Norwegian Roasted Salmon (or CNRS for brevity’s sake) – of the “Changing Seas: Responsible Seafood” line of products from the “Blue Circle” organization, which serves its commodities exclusively through Whole Foods Market, a subsidiary of a corporation known as Amazon – is a sophisticated truth.

 

For this truth is orchestrated for the sophisticated consumer. In order to comprehend that truth, it is necessary to look upon a few of the design elements and do our best to analyze how the object is made possible. The text and imagery of this designed object elicit to us a number of elemental truths that make up the whole truth of CNRS.

 

Were we not sophisticated consumers we might think that “Blue Thinking” is nothing more than a vague reference to some chromatic psychosis; but since we are, we can avoid any of that cognitive flailing and quickly make the association with the Green marketing phenomenon, via our familiarity with it as an advertising trend. For much like Green, Blue is a color. Not just any color, but a color associated heavily with nature, and specifically water, and thus one can assume without having an explicit definition of “Blue Thinking” that this is an environmentally-conscious truth.

 

Additionally, the object tells us that the salmon are healthy. It is truly baffling to find this assertion on the label of a package that contains a dead fish. For fish, like all living things when dead, are neither healthy nor ill, they are simply dead. So we should remember that this is not a dead fish: this is CNRS.

 

Instead it is with the use of this phrase, “healthy salmon,” that the consumer here is made special, and allowed a window into the history of this orange, edible object that is positioned at the center of this truth, a reassurance to those consumers who have the luxury of worrying about what their food’s origin story is. It is with this communication that the spatial and temporal narrative of CNRS begins to form.

 

“RESPONSIBLY FARMED”  CNRS claims in the form of a blue seal. A seal made present by the approval of our trusty Whole Foods Market, because we should not forget that “Blue Circle” is a third party subsidiary. The insinuation being that this seal is perhaps not necessarily a sure thing for all third party subsidiaries, but whatever the case may be, it is another feather in CNRS’s environmentally-ethical cap.

 

A commendable strategy implemented here is the use of the word “farmed.” As mentioned, farming is an important aspect of CNRS. With most edible animal products that come from bodies of water, “fishing” is the common English word used for the process of acquisition. This is not so with CNRS. CNRS is a product of farming. Now this is in many ways a reference to the methods by which this orange-textured object is produced, but it is not insignificant that crops and plants are also farmed. Where “fishing” might invite unpleasant images of physical violence, “farming” is a term with a more palatable connotation.

 

If we have made it through all of this communication and our fastidious consumer is still not satisfied, we are given a gentle reminder that this truth comes from a “third-generation” farm in Kvarøy, Norway. Again this is a glimpse through the window, and perhaps it is a redundancy but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be reassured that CNRS is a product of legacy; for if CNRS were to come from a first, or even a second generation farm, there may be reason to be critical of it as a consumable object.

 

All of the ideas that we meet through CNRS are nothing more than an invitation to indulge in what Roland Barthes might’ve called “the myth of CNRS”. We are asked to accept the idea that this is not just a textured, orange, edible, rectangular prism. In fact, it was at one point a living, swimming creature off in some distant waterway. It is through this narrative, and the proclaimed practice of “blue thinking,” that we begin to see this myth of an ecological harmony between us consumers and that salmon in Norway form.

 

(IMAGE Atlantic Salmon)

CAPTION: Atlantic Salmon by John Christopher Miles, oil on canvas, 1885

 

 

CNRS is a whole truth. Thoughtfully designed, with so many elements that to attempt to list all of them would certainly be an exercise in futility. The important thing to really consider here is how a truth in nature, i.e. an Atlantic Norwegian Salmon, is almost wholly deconstructed in order to arrive at this new, exceptionally complex truth. We should begin to question the equity of the massive project that has taken place for the sake of us having the object called CNRS. And perhaps we should question the necessity of satisfying our hunger with such elaborately designed objects.