“Charcuterie is just a sandwich you assemble in your stomach.”

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Words || Eleanor Taylor

For the blessedly uninitiated, a charcuterie board is an assemblage of cheeses, cured meats, bread and other small finger foods served on a wooden board as snacks (often for guests). Recently on Twitter, a user posted an image of their charcuterie board, and the following interaction took place:

Unlike what normally happens on the Twittersphere; people insult each other and then forget about whatever they were fighting about instantly – this response sparked an online debate over the privilege of the users involved and the cost of the charcuterie board. It quickly evolved into a discussion of class identity and workers solidarity.

Twitter is in many ways a great way to witness class interaction and discourse; the home of every extreme viewpoint imaginable, people duke it, and their complete lack of shame and empathy creates a spectacle for the ages. The rest of us common folk are then left to decode messages, to try to understand what it all means. At the same time, Twitter is a vapid forum for any discourse. Tweets are sorted by popularity, not by their merit and the hot topic being discussed changes daily.

Charcuterie boards take advantage of food preservation methods traditionally used by the working class to make food last longer. For example, people without access to ice created cheese to preserve dairy just as curing meat was done for the same reason. Bread is a staple in baking and the human diet. This makes charcuterie boards being viewed as “rich people” food very odd. So how did we end up in a situation where working class people eating tiny deconstructed sandwiches makes them class traitors?

“Low-calorie meals are what rich people eat.”

We constantly take in information about what we see when we interact with the people around us. This can be seen in racial bias, sexism, slut-shaming; people are always absorbing signifiers to make deductions about their surroundings. This applies to class; when we see visually dirty individuals we may assume they are experiencing homelessness, people in high visibility gear might be tradies, school uniforms indicate school students. How this impacts our treatment of others depends on what internalised ideas we have about them. 

The idea of being able to guess people’s incomes, their careers or lack thereof and overall quality of life is intrinsically appealing to us. This makes sense because of how we have evolved to deal with continually processing visual stimuli. However, the issue with visible class signifiers is that they don’t tell us anything about how someone has obtained something, why they look the way they do or provide us with any meaningful information we can rely on. For example, if someone has a thousand dollar handbag, we cannot determine the circumstances where they obtained it. It makes us feel smug and self-righteous to imagine they bought it with their copious amounts of wealth (which they “must” have through exploiting others). Still, it is just as likely that they bought it second hand, purchased it after saving up for months, or received it as a present to mark some sort of accomplishment. Lots of people who aren’t filthy rich still possess luxury goods.

Class signifiers change depending on differing contexts. For example, in European countries like Germany, a charcuterie board is often considered breakfast or lunch and therefore not associated with any sort of elite social class.

An extreme class signifier would be a Hermès Birkin bag, which ranges in price from twelve to two hundred thousand dollars. These bags are notoriously difficult to access even if you can afford one, with Hermès inviting their desired clientele to purchase them. This shows that not only do you require copious amounts of wealth, but you also need a level of prestige. Because of this, celebrities such as the entire Kardashian-Jenner family are the group most often seen with Birkins.  

“Y’all just hate poor people having nice things and treating themselves.”

Even if charcuterie boards are obscenely expensive, what right do individuals have to judge people for having them? There is nothing objectively wrong with someone from the working class deciding to treat themselves to something nice. The idea that people from lower socioeconomic status’ should subsist solely on unseasoned porridge, and wear literal rags for clothes stems from capitalist propaganda. Capitalism has given us the metric we use to determine our self-worth and value; our incomes. People who have smaller incomes are perceived as not “grinding” hard enough, and as a result, their relaxation is seen as laziness, their purchases become self-indulgences. 

The flaming hatred people showed towards the charcuterie board is a reflection of their feelings towards the rich. It is clear from this debacle that in some contexts, charcuterie boards have been gentrified, having become associated with the wealthy. Your average Twitter Leftie hates rich people for hoarding the world’s wealth, so by extension, the charcuterie board. This rage is amplified by the idea of someone who isn’t rich attempting to appear rich through taking on a symbol of the rich such as the charcuterie board. This is the point where we conclude that the original Tweeter is a class traitor.

“This whole discourse is insane! It’s just a distraction from the people that hoard insane wealth that they piss away on things that cost 10000x a meal like this without a thought.”

The charcuterie board fight is an example of how capitalist attitudes of self-worth have been internalised by middle and working-class people, leading to infighting and ultimately distracting everyone from any meaningful discussion. Jeff Bezos has enough money to end world hunger, yet denies his workers dignity and has built his fortune off of the exploitation and degradation of the working class. A real “classy” guy. 

Class traitorship has been manufactured by social elites as a tool to create internal divisions. 

It should be obvious to us that a member of the middle class showing their lunch isn’t an attack on people experiencing food insecurity. Continually trying to one-up each other by talking about the “real poor” doesn’t help marginalised people. It just shows that the hate thrown at left-wing communities by the right has nothing on the constant infighting and self-loathing exhibited by left-wingers themselves. 

As a raging anticapitalist, it drives me insane to hear people on the left constantly cannibalising themselves for not eating leftist meals (whatever that means), for buying something pricey and being overall bad leftists. It’s a bizarre form of online virtual signalling. Instead of being caught up in ideological purity, we should be dismantling the system that put us here in the first place, the system destroying our self-worth. 

Jeff Bezos represents the people we should be targeting, not some poor girl who was just sharing her lunch on Twitter.

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