Thursday, September 8, 2011

Apple vs. Apple flavor... Peach vs. Peach flavor

Over a year ago, I make this post on Yucky & Yummy, and was reminded of it by a friend, talking of teaching our kids to cook.  Even the most rudimentary stuff - as a place to start.

But to move ahead - I also had meant to write a post on Apple vs. Apple Flavor, and then, as so often happens, I got distracted.

But now is the time.
As I'm swimming around in a fabulous kiddy-pool of summer fruit, freezing what we can't eat, making dates to can & freeze more, and reveling in the complicated variety of flavors.  Take raspberries.  I was considering some alternate yogurt (because what I wanted wasn't there), and for all its organic-ness and all-natual-ness, it had "raspberry flavor" instead of raspberry juice.  And that got me caught back up in this old thought train.

Flavor (or flavour... you know who you are) is part of something bigger - or it used to be.  We all know when it's missing - anyone subjected to under ripe fruit knows the problem, the peach is there, but there is no Peach.

The new problem is flavor, but no food to go with it!

Way, way, way back in the day, ya' know before we had phones (and artificial flavors), the only way to get apple flavor, was to eat an apple, drink apple juice, or generally consume something made with apples - and thus all those other things apples have for us - fiber, energy, vitamins, flavanoids, companion vitam-ettes†.  Now, we can get all the appliciousness we can handle without any of the above, and thus sugar-free-apple-flavored-diet.... whatever.

Thus, the eating of something becomes all about the flavor, and the other stuff that accompanies it - the smell, the texture, the stuff your body runs on - is lost.  And since (as paleoanthropologists assure us) we evolved as (and still are) reward motivated consumers - the flavor was the reward for all the hard work to hunt down the tasty, nutritious, energy packed morsels.  Now we are getting all reward for no work.  All style, no substance, and not even the bother of having to go to the store to get it.

And as many a behavioralist will tell you, unearned goodies lead to a jaded attitude, and a desire for more, More, MORE!  (Alas, also with no work.)

And as a result, you go from Apples, to the Grapple:

The important part of the text:
 …created the modified fruit by soaking the apples
 in a bath of water and methyl anthranilate (a flavoring agent in grape gum)
 and other ingredients

Wait - what's wrong with apple flavored apples and grape flavored grapes?  All the goodies grapes bring are lost to us, kids don't get to taste the good of the apple, and, oh yeah, apples go from a nice simple food to a packaged, processed and more expensive one.

So if you are still with me, the last problem is the loss of nuance - if we come to believe all apples need to taste like Apples, and grapes need to take on the aspect of Grapes, and peaches are only good if they taste like Peach, they variety is lost, diversity looses its appeal.  And as the corn industry (like many another monolith) is discovering, mono-culturalism is the calling card for mass infestation of pests (if you can make it against the Bt corn, you can make it Anywhere!)

That's right, from jaded consumers, a national obesity crisis, to the next food collapse all on the shoulders of artificial flavoring.  OK, not really, but it is a problem, and one that bears pondering next time you are looking at consuming something flavored with substances that never worried about rotting.

† OK, now I'm making up words, but you get the picture.

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