Mustard old-fashioned Maille It has been manufactured in France for 274 years. It is said soon: 18 generations of consumers. In Japan, where honor is also counted in the number of family generations dedicated to perfecting and passing on a trade, three centuries ago the Mogi family began producing in Noda Kikoman soy sauce. They had the workshop on the banks of the Edo River so they could quickly ship the bottled sauce to Tokyo, which was then called Edo. The Dutch brought this sauce to Europe at the beginning of the 19th century and, after accumulating prizes at the Universal Expositions in Amsterdam (1864) and Vienna (1873), the umami flavor remained forever on the continent. The Kikoman name, on the other hand, dates from 1980, when the company went from supplying the emperors to becoming a world leader. The same is what we look for in these products, the opposite of surprises: that they treat us like emperors.
Like mustard – packed since 1989 in its traditional fleur-de-lys-shaped bottle (that of the French monarchy of which the maison was a supplier since Louis XV) -, the Kikomán soy sauce also has a very recognizable packaging – so much so that it is the one used by most Asian restaurants, not just Japanese ones. And it is more expensive than its competitors. But we look for it, we pay the difference. It is not that it has more or less salt, that it is gluten-free or that it has a sugary version – all of these are now combinations of the same product – it is that we trust it. We pay the euro more than it costs us because it compensates us. Make up for. How many products enjoy the privilege of our trust?
Rioja wine comes to mind, rough, in general. In most Spanish bars they charge a euro more —or 50 cents, depending on where you drink the wine— for a designation of origin that will include the best and the not so good, but that, just by mentioning it, reassures and generates confidence.
In design, that, trust, also happens with some brands. Although, it is already known: trust costs a lot to build and very little to destroy. In the midst of programmed obsolescence, we associate it with longevity: to the legendary juicers that Dieter Rams designed for Braun, but also to the shoes of Camper, a Spanish brand that offers – for its boots and sandals – a two-year guarantee . Two years are many kilometers of sole. That is why those who consider that by paying for footwear they are also facing advertising campaigns, careful paper bags or the design of the stores – supportive or spectacular (lack of definition is also a recognizable brand) – that the shoes last, may make you doubt.
What one feels before some chocolates that enter through the eyes but melt in the mouth or a lipstick that nourishes as well as coloring is no doubt. It is the absence of doubt. All these products have one thing in common: we don’t think about their price when — a day to try or regularly to avoid scares — we choose them. And we buy them, for once without price deciding everything.
When I was little, the magazine Readings had a section called 10 years ago. When I turned 12 I spent months – which seemed like decades to me then – looking for something to remember in that almanac. Until one day: Bob Nico breaks up with his girlfriend Babette. I have not been able to forget it. I stopped looking at the section. An interesting thing about having a birthday is to stop and think about what increases or decreases its importance, or its price, with the passage of time. It is surprising because it does not always coincide with what loses or gains relevance with the change of priorities.
Since my childhood it is a scandal how toys have dropped in price, also clothes and also, yes, food. It is the fatal attraction of the bargain, the unleashed and irresponsible consumption of which we talk so much. But it’s also a portrait of who we are: we value (the bargain) and don’t want to see (the unfair working conditions that make bargains possible).
There are thousand-euro lamps with an exceptional design that fall apart as soon as you assemble them. Priceless wallets to which a scratch adds expression and character. And leatherette bags (some of the big brands like Guess call it eco-leather) that cost three-figure prices, that is, as if they were gold.
If we take the idea of consumption, demands and discontent to a paroxysm, the physical portrait of a society that, now confined, stops to reflect on its own unhingedness. It is so true that not all of us consume madly as we all are, in some field, voracious consumers: if our shoes or pants fit in our closets, let’s think about how many cell phones or computers we have. Let’s check if the books are piled up outside the bookstores, if we accumulate more wine than we will ever drink, if we have been invaded by toilet paper in anticipation of a new confinement or if our medicine drawer is saturated with hypochondria. Technological, aesthetic, food or cultural, we all have some excess. We are excessive while we feel that something is missing. Quite the opposite of Antoine Claude Maille, who with his father’s vinegar began to make mustard in 1747.