Twice last week I had a Mini Mezze Pack from Waitrose as part of my lunch. The first time I got it, I sat in the park on my lunch break looking at it. Unsure why I’d be drawn to it. Olives, dried tomato and cheese were all things I liked but why did I feel weird about getting it? Then a gut reaction kicked in, Olives, manchego Cheese, “Mezze” … it’s a bit Middle Class, isn’t it?
For those who are not English, I have some explaining to do. There are generally three classes in contemporary English society. The Lower/Working Class, The Middle Class, and the Upper Class/Posh People. We spend our lives in constant anxiety about our position within this continuum, feeling guilt whenever we meet somebody who is not from the same class as us (or even the same section within the same class). Middle Class people will put on a posher voice when talking to posh people and a more working class voice when talking to working class people. It’s a bloody nightmare.
Food, accents, fashion, work, hobbies, interests, television programmes can all be markers of what class you belong to and these need to agree with what class you belong to otherwise people feel uncomfortable. Posh people don’t watch TOWIE, or I’m A Celebrity, or anything on ITV (HOW BASE!) Working Class people don’t watch BBC4 or Sky Arts (why would they be interested in CULTURE?!)
I grew up in a comfortable home, but my parents were self-identified working class (Mum always says Dad grew up more Middle Class but he disagrees) and they both had to work hard to raise us, always trying to give us the best they could.
Now back to the Mini Mezze Pack. There’s a lot to be said about food as a marker of class. Just going to Waitrose alone is a mark of someone who is Middle Class. Olives are a number one Middle Class food (along with foreign cheeses and wines that cost more than £7.99). I like olives, but I’ve had to get used to them. This is another marker of being Middle Class, the process of olivifying yourself so as not to look out of place at a party or work function where all you have to eat are olives.
My parents have always wanted the best for me (and as with most parents) they wanted me to have opportunities that they didn’t. I definitely pass as someone who is middle class, I have the RP accent, the education, I drink soya milk, I know my Assam from my Lapsang souchong, I read poetry. That’s all a bit *sharp intake of breath* Middle Class isn’t it? I guess I am middle class now, but this is only due to my parent’s hard work and aspirations for my upbringing to be a bit more comfortable than their’s. Surely its a bit rude to feel guilty about this since our parents worked so hard?
Why are we so ashamed of being comfortable and affluent, to the point where we can have slightly expensive food for lunch? It’s something about being English, where no matter what happens, we’ll feel guilty about it. I mean, we don’t need to be all showy about it (we’re still English, come on) but maybe we should cut out this guilt about being Middle Class, labeling stuff as middle class as if that’s a negative thing and just enjoy eating our bloody olives?