Labels are useful. They offer a shorthand view of what lies beneath. When applied to people, they encapsulate identities, worldviews. When applied to packaged foods, they convey nutritional quality, expiration dates, an origin story. But, as we know, labels can also be harmful. They elide complexity, collapsing what is multifaceted into something flat. Canned foods, as the first packaged foods, have a long history of labels—both useful and, potentially, harmful. When canned foods first came on the scene in the early nineteenth century, there was huge variation in how they were labeled. There was no standardization, and individual canneries put just enough on the containers to indicate what was inside. The development of lithography in the 1880s brought changes. While…

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The tasting room is full of the heady smell of fermented apples and alcohol, and the sound of good-natured conversation and laughter. The tasters, who are in various states of inebriation having been drinking now for a good couple of hours, are huddled around worn wooden tables upon which sit multiple plastic cups filled with amber liquid of varying levels and hues. Marking sheets, with scribbled notes denoting flavours, balance, and sweetness, litter the table and, after taking a mouthful from their cups, each taster marks a number on the matrix – giving the cider they have just drank a definitive mark out of ten against key pre-defined characteristics. This is the judging room of a U.K. regional cider festival…

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