Wednesday 30 September 2009

At words poetic, I’m so pathetic

Peter Mandelson was interviewed on Radio 4 today about changing the law on what happens to the tip you leave for your waiter in a restaurant — the controversy over management stealing the money or using it to bring the pay of their exploited staff up to minimum wage, which shockingly is not (yet) illegal.

Of course they couldn’t resist dragging up the old apocryphal tale of Mandy calling in at a chip shop while campaigning in his Hartlepool constituency, seeing some mushy peas and ordering “some of that guacamole”. He denied it, of course, but pronounced it... guacamale. To rhyme with hot tamale. Seriously. Or, and I only add this comparison because I enjoy the thought of how unpalatable the word would be for him, Internationale.

The seeming inability of this quintessentially middle-class cosmopolitan socialite to pronounce the name of a well-known Mexican speciality turns the old anecdote on its head in a rather interesting way. It was supposed to illustrate the cultural gulf between him, smooth and oily as puréed avocado, and his working-class constituents. But now that (thanks again Radio 4) Mexican food is apparently going to be the Next Big Thing, just as posh eaters are embracing the British culinary classics it was once de rigeur to despise, perhaps “guacamale” is already too common for the likes of the Deputy PM? Perhaps in five years’ time the joke will be about him going into McDonalds, seeing some McGuac and asking for a serving of mushy peas?

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