Friday, October 24, 2008

I do not know why they call the purple flavor "grape."

It's been a busy couple of weeks, and I haven't had time to get to the grocery store lately. My breakfast scavenging this morning produced an unopened jar of homemade grape jelly, which I know was a gift but can't remember from whom -- the Beas? my friend Susan? my sister Peggy? If you gave this to me, leave your comment below.

So breakfast this morning was whole wheat toast with grape jelly, and I was shocked to discover that this jelly actually tasted like grapes. Wow!

That sounds silly, I know, but I am so used to "grape" flavor tasting like something else altogether: an indefinable combination of fruitiness (hate that word) and sweetness that is recognizably purple, but that we've all just agreed represents "grapes."

"Grape" is not the only fake flavor, but it's the one that bears the least resemblance to the thing it's supposed to be -- except, maybe the "blue raspberry" flavor of Kool-Aid and ice pops, though I never took that seriously as a representation of anything real. If I say to you, "It tastes like red drink," you know exactly what that means, and it's a flavor that is unrecognizable as any one fruit. (Interestingly, the distinctive flavor of Hawaiian Punch is guava; I didn't know that until I was an adult and tasted a real guava.)

Anyway, how did this happen? How did those first food chemists convince us that the purple flavor is "grape," and why do we continue to go along with this?

This is real grape jelly, and I am sorry I didn't open the jar before now (it's marked "2005," but the seal was intact). Now that I know it is possible to make "grape" things taste like real grapes, I'm never eating anything purple-flavored again.

What I Read This Week

Stuart Woods, HOT MAHOGANY. I have been working flat out this week and fighting off the last of my Bouchercon cold; I'm editing a couple of manuscripts and can't manage anything too complex in my spare time, so this book was perfect. Stone Barrington hunts for a priceless piece of furniture that may be an expert forgery, and sleeps with three different women along the way. It's an interesting premise that could have been so much more; what's here is very thin, and Stone's relentless philandering is getting kind of depressing.

Stieg Larsson, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. It took me weeks to get through this book, not because it wasn't good but because I could not turn off my mental editor as I struggled with the translation. Not being able to read Swedish, I have no way of knowing whether this is a good translation or not. I only know that I found the English unnecessarily convoluted and ponderous. But the story, parallel plots of a disgraced journalist resarching a long-unsolved murder and a troubled young female investigator who crosses his path, is compelling, and I'll probably read the next two books in the trilogy.


Ed Lamb said...

The convenience store closest to my house actually sells one-gallon jugs of Purple Drink, Green Drink, and Red Drink. I haven't tried any of those products, but I have to admire the truth in labeling.

Anonymous said...

I remember that there is a soda pop company in Pennsylvania called A-Treat that bottles a blue soda called either Blue Soda or Blue Pop

I never had it so I don't know what it tastes like.


Reg said...

Sorry you didn't like the translation. I originally translated it into American English, but then the book was bought in the UK, and the Scottish editor really did a number on it -- hence my pseudonym. I'm hoping Knopf's edition of books 2 & 3 will come out better. -- "Reg Keeland"

AnswerGirl said...

It's terrifically gracious of you to respond, and as I say, it may well be a fair representation of Larsson's own writing style -- I think that's more likely, in fact, and that it's his own writing style I find difficult.

But thank you very much for stopping by, and as I say, I do plan to read the next books in the trilogy.

Laura Benedict said...

My favorite, favorite, favorite fake grape flavor is Grape BubbleYum!

AnswerGirl said...

Laura, I was specifically thinking of Grape Bubble Yum as an example of purple flavor! Does it still turn your tongue purple, too? I always considered that a bonus.

Laura Benedict said...

I don't know. I hope so. I almost never look at my tongue anymore. Have you watched that BBC America show You Are What You Eat or somesuch? The nutty woman in charge of it is always looking at people's tongues and--well, I can't even bear to tell you what else she looks at--tells them that they have vitamin deficiencies, etc. **shudder**

Reg said...

Well, Larsson was an investigative journalist, not much interested in literary beauty -- but man can he tell a story. Books 2 & 3 are much more exciting, with plenty of action and complex plots. They were lots of fun to work on, which I can't say of many of the books I've done. Enjoy!

"Reg" said...

Don't eat anything that's artifical pineapple flavor. It's the same chemical they use in paint remover.