The other day I was on my morning walk when a commercial truck rumbled past. It was a truck for the Gerber Poultry Company, advertising its “Amish Farms” brand chicken with the slogan: “The first chicken that tastes like chicken.”
Intriguing slogan, isn’t it? It’s a bold claim, as many commercial taglines are, but it’s far more subtle and nuanced than “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet” or “M-m-m good!” or “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.”
After all, at a certain level, everything — from frog legs to rabbit to squab to alligator — tastes like “chicken.” At least, that’s what people will tell you. If it’s the flesh of a creature that has mild, soft white meat that isn’t particularly gamey in flavor, the inevitable culinary reference point is “chicken.” So, obviously, you’d expect any brand of chicken to taste like . . . chicken.
But the Gerber Amish Farms slogan goes deeper than that. By claiming to be the first chicken that tastes like chicken, it’s really saying that those of us who haven’t had Gerber poultry don’t really know what chicken tastes like. Fans of The Matrix will remember the scene at the mess table on the Nebuchadnezzar where Mouse raises the profound question of whether anyone really knows what chicken actually tastes like. After all, the computers that designed the Matrix presumably would have no idea what chicken truly tasted like — they would simply create a taste, plug it into the Matrix program, and all of the humans linked into the Matrix would accept it as “chicken,” just as they accepted everything else in the simulation as true reality.
So the Gerber Farms slogan presents a jarring concept. Knowing what “chicken” tastes like is a foundational building block for modern Americans. If you don’t know what chicken tastes like, what do you know, really? It would be like learning that the sky actually isn’t blue, or that space aliens live among us, or that Donald Trump is secretly one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists. Suddenly, your perception of reality is shifted forever, and there’s no going back.
So I’m not quite sure I want to try that Amish Farms poultry and learn what chicken actually tastes like. It might be like Morpheus offering the red pill . . . or the blue pill.