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.