Hippopotamus: a 2,5cm-long tablet-shaped nonliving chewable animal, member of a multi-species flock known as the Animal Parade, which tastes like fruit and is found in little pill boxes on supermarket shelves.
This definition of hippopotamus might seem exaggerated or even a bit ridiculous, and surely unnatural; but I’m afraid it is not, especially for little children. Supermarkets, pharmacies, and online ‘health’ stores are fraught with food (or energy if you prefer) supplements and their rapidly growing sub-category of specialized supplements for children, in which flora, fauna, chemistry and advertising blend together forming the strange nutritional abnormalities of the aforementioned kind.
I will not argue here whether it is beneficial or not for children to consume such supplements from a nutritional standpoint, because food is not just about calories, vitamins, and other kinds of quantitative analytics. Food is also a means for conceiving and apprehending the world, first through its form, taste, color, smell, structure and texture, but most importantly through its origins. No previous practice that alienated food from its distinguishing qualities (i.e. importing, packaging, off-season ‘greenhousing’, fast food) has ever been more successful than the design of food supplements. Food supplements are arbitrarily mashed and shaped, artificially colored and perfumed (with natural flavorings!), enhanced with magical features, and served in pill boxes. They are hyper-distillates of good things only, purged from anything bad, sanitized from the dirtiness and the impurity of the real world. Consuming them doesn’t comprise an experience at all; they have no origins, no actual points of reference; they are pure fiction employing biomimicmarketing to legitimize their existence; and (super)naturally, they are better than the real thing. Food supplements are edible logos: what you really eat is the information on the label.
Quite surprisingly though, there is actually something a child can learn about the world while chewing a hippo-tablet. There is a pill for everything: for every problem there is appropriate medication even if you ignore the problem's existence. Neglecting your medication is socially unacceptable: pill-taking is in fact an act of lifestyle, an intrinsic part of our culture. There could be no better introduction to the rosy world of pharmaceutical drugs (or maybe candies?) than children’s food supplements: first as fun and habit, then as duty and fashion, finally as addiction next nature. Bon appétit!