Orange of uses

There exists a fruit and vegetable shop, which I remember from my years as a small child. Like any good fruit and vegetable shop, it predominantly sold fruits and vegetables, but it did also have some jars of honey, and honey is definitely neither fruit nor vegetables, being unsuitable for vegans and everything. (Jam and marmalade, neither of which were stocked, are a different ball game.) They almost certainly sold potatoes and mushrooms, too, and I have encountered people before who protest that those aren’t real vegetables, but I don’t subscribe to that. “Vegetable” isn’t a scientific word, so it doesn’t matter. The outside of the shop had “The Fruiterers” written on it, which doesn’t fairly represent the non-fruit items, but “greengrocers” would quite offensively piss all over the hard work done by every differently coloured piece grocery, and that would be even worse.

(I wouldn’t dare trample on the tomato classification debate, and this was only ever meant to be an overwrought sort of hors d’œuvre, a nibble, a sop to the meatier sap that I’ll move on to in due course. Onwards.)

I am shockingly deficient when it comes to knowing about trends in the independent retail of fruit and vegetables, so I can’t be sure how commonplace what I’m about to describe is, but this shop had one or two sort of cardboard posters or signs located around the place, dangling from thin wires that had been fancily attached to the ceiling. It would be fair to say that these are, in principle, not at all unlike those sorts of sculptures that are known as “mobiles” (the opposite of “stabiles”) – such a sculpture hung from my bedroom’s curtain rail when I was small, and I can hazily remember how my mind was completely boggled the near-invisibility of the extraordinarily thin wire, on which dangled some representations of birds.

You ought to be unsurprised when I confirm that these occasional posters were, unsurprisingly, to do with fruit and vegetables. Each bore the logo of a fruit producer, I expect, as well as some kind of illustration or photograph. Fresh fruit and vegetables is an area where “brands” can’t be usefully bandied around, and to that end these sheets of cardboard felt like quirky, decorative oddities.

I can’t be sure about the multiplicity of these, because I didn’t treat give the posters equal amounts of attention. Only one poster really captured my imagination. This depicted a rhinoceros, with a large citrus fruit – perhaps a grapefruit or an orange – on its horn. I think the idea was tha the hrn was used as a kind of “lemon squeezer” – the lemon, of course, is the standard generic citric ovoid that gives its name to an utensil that is, in fact, compatible with almost any citrus that you might care to mention.

The rhino horn/lemon squeezer situation sounds like a terrific idea. People’s excitement about unicorns could quite happily be attributed to the tasty fantasy of an integrated orange-squeezing mechanism. (It’s a shame that no animal has yet evolved to include something to collect the pips, but it can’t be far off, and you can already get oranges without pips these days.) There must be some overlap between the exotic foreign countries where oranges and rhinos are grown, which is a relief. However, there are many hygiene implications, and nobody can fail to sympathise with the poor dear rhino who must endure the into whose eye drips blinding juice.

If one gives it any thought, one will agree that most standard bananas resemble the horns of rhinoceroses. Had I been the illustrator tasked with producing this image, I dearly hope that I’d have thought to take advantage of this, making me a completely better person than whoever it was who did get the job. Or did the art director indeed have that idea, but think it prudent to employ a degree of subtlety? If so, it was perhaps too subtle, but I’m just being bitter now. To be fair, there lingers a cloudy notion that the relevant fruit company was specifically concerned with citrus fruits – in that case, the inclusion of a banana would not only have been misleading but would also provoked debate about the lack of diversity in the firm’s product range.

Naturally, I have examined every crevice of the internet, being a dedicated researcher and desperate to uncover the truth behind this iconic picture. I did find a strange video advertising a Mexican citrus-flavoured carbonated drink, which implies that the carbonated drink will provide the drinker with the strength to defeat a rhino. The drink, called Beat, was a product of the Coca-Cola Company, and they have a strong tradition of misleading viewers – routinely claiming that Father Christmas drinks Coke, for example – and getting off scot-free. Perhaps there is an acceptable amount of plausibility with this commercial, though, because the bloke looks pretty energetic in the first place – a mouthful of Beat could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, just enough juice to plug the stamina deficit.

I also found another eerily similar thing, this time advertising PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew, whose launch in Mexico was what compelled Mr Coca-Cola to launch his rival product. It features a man and a rhino, and some kind of ball that is the same shape as, but probably not, an orange. I watched both clips breathlessly, dying to see the “rhino horn as a lemon squeezer” situation take place before my eyes, but it didn’t happen, and that’s a shame. Why can’t it? It is true that some viewers might mistake such an ad for an actual off-putting documentary about how the drink is made, and it is also true that the businesses ought to be reluctant to introduce consumers to the idea of making their own orange drinks – but one could do something in the spirit of the “marmalade for lunch” film, highlighting the shortcomings of the rhino horn technique. Perhaps they could show Johnny Vaughan making a dreadful hash of slicing an orange in half, finding a horny rhinoceros, using the horn to make some juice, gathering the droplets in a bottle, and tragically soiling his pullover, while his smug friend simply opens a convenient bottle of ready-made drink. The idea’s got legs.

A quick search reveals that the world of fruit, particularly oranges, right down to the marketing of orangey soft drinks and its links to horned mammalia, is a strongly recurring topic here. Such a story arc is a happy accident, but in light of these all this free publicity I expect the world’s fruit plantations to rally round and issue a rewarding “golden hello”. Even without any kind of recognition, I have quite selflessly done an astonishing amount. This is just a free trial. In spite of appearances, I don’t particularly carry for a torch for the orange. Recently, I ate an apple, and my portable telephone magician of choice is Mr Vodafone. I am a traitor, yes. Sue me.