brand identity: fish sauce foodie

I keep thinking about a man named Scaurus.

He lived in Pompeii, and he made fish sauce. Or garum, as it was called.

We know this, because he sold them in clay vases, stamped with his logo, and a strap line along the lines of 'the best fish sauce in Pompeii'. I can't stop thinking about him, and the idea that even then - thousands of years ago - people were thinking about brand identity in the products they bought. Even then, people were... foodies.

There was an excellent series - it just won a Bafta - by the artist Grayson Perry (another good pottery maker: he won the Turner Prize, in fact) - called In the Best Possible Taste, in which he explored the British class system, by taking each of the three classes and asking them what kind of stuff they liked. Not surprisingly, it was the Middle Class who were the most confused. They not only didn't know what they liked, but they were quite anxious about being seen as being 'classy', having good taste, and were spending a great deal of money trying to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, to be on the safe side, most just buy whatever Jamie Oliver likes. Which is ironic, because his roots are so proudly unPosh.

Anyway, this Scaurus, with the best fish sauce in town. I picture his wife, who perhaps did an early form of his PR, saying 'you've got to make a stamp on the bottom, so people can know it's you.' I bet it was in all the best homes in Pompeii.

My husband and I went to a Roman ruin, near our favourite hotel on the coast of Andalusia (more about that later: post coming up) and the entire ruin was a small town built on the beach for the factory that made fish sauce. The homes of the workers. It's possible that Scaurus's fish sauce originated there.

This hand made clay vase is made in honour - in memory of the one in the Pompeii show (you can see the original here, or at the show itself). Or you can buy the handmade vase shown here, by UK based specialist potter Andrew MacDonald, through the British Museum Gift shop. I actually heard a rather posh man, in the shop, asking someone if it can be used to hold extra virgin olive oil. And the answer is, yes, it can. Or fish sauce. That's what it was designed for: to be used.

I feel such a fondness for this man. All these years later. While all the other souls in Pompeii remain nameless, their household goods and jewels and even their bodies, left for us to see, but their names, their hopes and dreams, remain a mystery, but Scaurus and his posh fish sauce live on.

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