Fruit Flavored Sugar vs Fruit
June 08, 2006
I am in San Diego County, visiting my father. His peach tree has about 20 fruits. The boysenberry has about the same number of huge ripe berries, with many more on the way. There are 'Sungold' cherry tomatoes too, from plants I brought him. The banana tree is setting fruit and there will be pineapple guavas, loquats, lemons, oranges, tangerines, and avocados later on. Fruit in the stores here is excellent and inexpensive.
I keep trying to catch a thought about fruit. It is that we are always being offered fruit-flavored foods, or even fruit scented nonfood items, because it is felt we will be attracted to something that tastes or smells like fruit. And it seems we sometimes lose track of the fact that it is the fruit that is the source of this wonderful taste and smell. Not sugar with a bit of fruit flavor, but complex, vitamin rich, texturally interesting, juicy, fruit.
Makes sense in a northern climate, where fruit is so limited in season and expensive, that people would look for fruit-flavored substitutes, but when I can find and afford good fruit, I find myself going after the real thing. Not fruit-flavored soda, not jam, not candy, not chewing gum (and not fruit-scented air freshener or scratch and sniff strawberry scented something or other either), but juicy, sweet, delicious fruit.
Part of the problem may be that some of the real fruit we are offered is not very good. Peaches picked before they are ripe, strawberries bred to be beautiful, but not tender and sweet, and other insults to our tastebuds, drive us into the arms of the food processors who would convince us to buy sugar products with a fruit flavor.
Having said all of this, in a week when I am luxuriating in fresh berries, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, and more, I have to say that one of my most amusing taste experiences was provided by Jelly Belly candy. Four of us were camping on Angel Island. Night had fallen. We were sitting on a bench overlooking the Bay. I had Jelly Bellies in many flavors, including many fruits. We ate them slowly, one at a time, and wondered at the evocations of different foods as each artificially-flavored sugar candy hit our tastebuds. With the color of each candy invisible in the dark, we couldn't use that as a clue, and since, other than color differences, they are identical, each one was a total surprise. On the one hand, it was a delight, fun to do and fun to talk about. On the other hand, something about the dark and the calm of nature that surrounded us also let me feel how small, how imperfect, how minor an echo were the flavors of the candy compared to the actual objects.
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