People Really Are Trying to Make Vegetables Cool. But Not Celery. No One Cares About Celery.

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 20 2014 4:55 PM

People Really Are Trying to Make Vegetables Cool. But Not Celery.

artichoke_food_porn
An image from the Food Porn Index. (Notice that this is not a stalk of celery.)

Screenshot from the Food Porn Index

Sometimes life imitates art. Sometimes art imitates life. Sometimes art and life come up with the same idea at the same time—like on Feb. 20, 2014, a red-letter day for people who are trying to make vegetables cool.

In real life: Bolthouse Farms, a company that sells juice and other potable products, has created a website aimed at raising vegetables’ “badge value.” “Having badge value means something is interesting enough to deserve a hashtag,” explains the New York Times in its profile of Bolthouse Farm’s website, which is called the Food Porn Index. Unsurprisingly, given its liberal use of terms like “badge value,” the Times article makes the Food Porn Index sound pretty confusing for ordinary consumers, probably because it was, apparently, devised with social media strategists in mind.

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Basically, Bolthouse Farms’ marketing team is trawling sites like Twitter and Instagram for mentions of various fruits and vegetables (kale, beets, pomegranates) along with mentions of various junk foods (bacon, pie, ice cream) and keeping a live tally of each of them. But the hashtag-o-meters are really just a front for silly interactive games and graphics, like a never-ending hypnotic doughnut spiral and a mock slot machine in which a winning combination constitutes three leaves of kale. “The goal, say Bolthouse executives, is to remind consumers that a fresh strawberry is just as beautiful as those found in a dessert like a tart—and healthier,” according to the Times. The site is actually kind of fun; refreshingly, it doesn’t try to demonize junk food—instead, it just makes fruits and vegetables look as mesmerizing as a life-sized strip of bacon.

But there is one vegetable conspicuously absent from Bolthouse Farms’ site, though: celery. And a Portlandia sketch that was released today explains why that might be the case:

The sketch imagines a world where Bolthouse Farms-style promotional efforts are centralized at Produce Sales Headquarters. The sales execs in charge of kale, heirloom tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts are riding high—but a down-on-his-luck salesman played by Steve Buscemi struggles to lift sagging celery sales. (Bloody Marys and ants on a log just don’t cut it anymore.) “I’m going to do a whole viral celery phenomenon that is just going to knock your socks off,” he promises his boss, and that phenomenon, predictably, involves an under-the-table deal with Big Bacon. (The sketch gets more surreal as Buscemi’s desperation increases.)

So if you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, which should you choose: the real-life vegetable promotion efforts, or the sketch-comedy vegetable promotion efforts? It’s a tough call—Bolthouse Farms’ guided melon meditation is pretty funny—but I’m going to go with the Portlandia sketch, because it’s not every day that you get to watch Steve Buscemi throw a head of celery on the ground and yelp, “My life is falling apart!” Whichever you choose, don’t be surprised if you start actually craving vegetables.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

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