Wednesday, 26 March 2014
When I was travelling back from Germany recently, hunting for a coffee in the airport I was struck by the cute 'vintage' decor and feel of the cafe called TASTE OF HEIMAT.
What an utterly bizarre idea. The concept of this chain seems to be to provide worn-out travellers with something faintly resembling home-cooked food. It's intensely nostalgic.
Nostalgia is something that I'm extremely interested in at the moment. It seems to be a response across social groups in the fourteenth century to profound structural and social change. Anyway - more of that anon... But what's so striking about nostalgia is the way that it encapsulates a longing for something which never really existed anyway, and does so in terms entirely framed by present concerns.
What better embodiment of modern nostalgia than a chain of cafes claiming to offer a reminder of home. The decor is reminiscent of a time before mass-production, when family kitchens were individual, warm and inviting - and yet it's a chain which stretches across Germany. The tag 'Heimat' invites a cosy sense of home-coming, but the name is a linguistically hybrid one - Taste of Heimat. Some writers on nostalgia seem to see it as a specifically post-modern phenomenon responding to a sense of disintegration and lack of centred-ness. I'd argue that that sense of being modern and losing one's sense that the world is comprehensible according to a single, continuous and acknowledged framework, is a much older phenomenon, and characterises responses to extreme change in the medieval period also. But whether or not this is true, the multilingual and mass-produced pastiche of a nostalgic reminder of home is surely emblematic.