That Christmas comes earlier each year – or rather the marketing for it does – has long been an excuse for a Great British Grumble. And yes, it does seem as though the supermarkets and department stores are launching their Christmas campaigns sooner and sooner. They are not the only ones.
This correspondent was bemused to see a city centre bar try to bring on an early onset festive season by putting up its Christmas decorations before Hallowe’en had come and gone. Surely it’s too early to think about buying a family pack of stuffing when the streets are still filled with trick or treaters in Squid Game costumes?
However, it was genuinely cheering when the first Brussels sprouts scare story of the festive season appeared last week. Tesco had just released their fourth annual Christmas report which laid out their research into seasonal buying trends. Amid genuine WTF bombshells such as 5% of households planning on including feta on their cheeseboards, there was mention of generational disagreement over the vexed subject of Brussels sprouts.
Apparently, 65% of those aged 75 or more declared that they adored the brassica. This contrasted with those in the 18-24 age bracket where only 26% of respondents were rooting for the much maligned sprout. Or, as the Daily Mail put it: Are Gen Z killing Brussels sprouts?
What is worse, thundered the Mail, was that Gen Z were compounding their offence by forsaking sprouts for ‘Instagram-friendly BRUNCH spreads’. The swine. The Daily Express went further in its mock outrage, branding brunch as ‘trendy’. Surely the ultimate insult in the paper’s lexicon?
The underlying message is that Gen Z have no shame. Not content with dissing Millennial musical tastes as cheugy, the ungrateful brats were now out to deny Nan her one seasonal brassica pleasure. And for brunch spreads no less. Next thing you know, they will be cancelling pigs in blankets as sexist and sneakily swapping out Nan’s roasties for smashed avocado. The candle lights are going out all over the nation’s festive dinner tables and it will not be long before Christmas pudding is deemed problematic by those iconoclastic Gen Zers.
Except it won’t because Gen Z have bigger tofu fish to fry. It is easy for the Boomers, Gen X and now the Millennials to scoff that Gen Z are not the first cohort to want to change the world. Happily, it is possible to simultaneously mock their Amazon delivery habits while admiring their planet-saving ambitions. Gen Z are sincere in their intent to create a cleaner environment but it would be a surprise if they planned to do it by committing genocide on Gran’s Brussels. Were her turkey to come into the firing line that would be less of a shock but her sprouts are certainly safe for the time being.
The somewhat tangential headline on the Mail’s story is simply a newly provocative take on that old seasonal favourite: the looming Brussels sprouts shortage. That Christmas was sure to be ruined by a sprout drought has been a staple of the British media for years. The trope was trotted out in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before it took a well deserved break last year. Sprout fans with long memories may recall that 2002 and 2007 were also supposed to be year zero for Brussels sprouts.
Late frosts, early frosts, too much rain, too little rain, too few pickers and not enough lorry drivers have all been fingered as the possible culprits. And yet, strangely enough, by the time Christmas Day actually rolled by each year, sprout Armageddon had been miraculously averted and Christmas had been saved. There never is any fighting in the aisles over the last stick of sprouts. There is no argie-bargie over the brassicas.
So why does the sprout sage keep recurring? One of the reasons is that the imagined despair of the nation’s sprout-deprived OAPs is matched only by the delight of its Brussels-dodging children. What heart would fail to be moved by a small urchin smiling through tears of gratitude as they explained that they would now be allowed to have some Christmas pudding without first undergoing trial by sprout?
The evil genius of the Mail’s story is that they have taken the pleasures of a shared festive meal and weaponised it by framing one aspect of the menu as an intergenerational flashpoint. Remarkably, they have opened up a new Brussels-based front in the Woke Wars.
Kudos for finding a new way to animate an old story but do we really need Gran to be eying young Kyle suspiciously over the Christmas dinner table in case he launches a murderous strike on her beloved Brussels sprouts?
By Jonathan Trew
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