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Thursday 30th October 2014
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The Tale of the Masticating Miliband.

Posted by Nick Abbot on May 26, 2014 at 13:16PM

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Ed Miliband has been hoist by his own PR. With the press on high oddness alert, what was it that possessed him to attack a dead pig sandwich in public, with the cameras pointed at him? Was he so overcome with hunger that he couldn't make it from breakfast to lunch without a thousand calorie stopover? Can he never pass a porcine treat without indulging? Is it a religious thing? No, he sat down to have a (hard working) workman's repast because his Public Relations dolts thought it would be a good idea. You know, bond with the proles, show them you are one of them. Be less weird.


Unfortunately for Ed, he must be taking advice from people who have never seen anyone eat before. It is one of things that people really should not do in the company of others, especially if trying to impress.


A lion might look awesome tearing at the flesh of some recently deceased lunch but, in public, humans can't let themselves go like that. We try to affect a casual insouciance when we eat, to signify that our meal is not about to be removed by a vulture. We nibble and sip and eat with our mouths closed, take tiny bites, pause between mouthfuls and act as though we are not that interested. We do this in public because that is the image we like to project : in charge, unafraid, sophisticated.


It has rules this eating lark and they are mostly there to make us appear less animalistic, less like the thing that we are eating. These rules are called table manners and they are the result of the luxury of being sure of our place in the food chain, a position we hold through millennia of exterminating anything that might want to rob us of dinner. And when we were certain of staying alive long enough to reach pudding, we invented a lot of regulations on when and in what manner to eat.


We do not follow these rules at home. Alone with a tray on our lap, in front of the telly, we act completely differently to when we are impressing a date, or business rival. Home alone we schnarf and scoff and slurp and burp. We let out our inner animal. It is never far from the surface and usually comes out when we are unaccompanied and can not be seen, or bizarrely, surrounded by glass like a fish tank, behind the wheel of a car. Note to drivers: WE CAN SEE YOU, STOP PICKING YOUR NOSE!


When eating in public, it is good manners to avoid looking at those struggling with their food. When spaghetti is defying its consumer's desires to disappear delicately into their mouth, and is instead swinging around the lower part of their face, spraying sauce to the walls, we avert our gaze.


When someone at the table discovers a non-chewable rubbery part of their mystery meat burger, we do not stare at them while they re-acquaint it with their plate. If a mouthful of microwaved dinner is as hot as the surface of the sun, it is considered good manners not to gawp as the scorched recipient opens their mouth to let it all fall back into their bowl.


When presented with someone having a difficult food moment, we avert our gaze, notice something interesting on the tablecloth, check our watches. What we do not do is take a picture.


There is a very good reason that you almost never see anyone on TV or film eating. This is because nobody looks attractive while they are doing it. What is worse is that even if you can fake looking normal on video, absolutely anyone can be made to look a buffoon if someone with malice aforethought were to scan that video and select the least flattering image from it.


We all look like Quasimodo for at least a brief second while we are eating anything. And if the press is already highly motivated to keep the “Ed Miliband is a weirdo” narrative going, then eating something as unwieldy as a bacon sarnie in front of them is the gift that will keep on giving.


Both Milibands are now irredeemably associated with embarrassing food stuffs. His brother's abiding image is the one of him looking like an exhibit at the zoo, gurning with a banana. At least he wasn't trying to eat it at the time. That's a picture of themselves that no-one would want to see pop up on a Google search unless they were trying for a position in the adult entertainment business.


If Ed doesn't get himself some new Public Relations drones, it might be one of the few options open to him come the next election. I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that's something that no-one wants to see.

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