Monday, March 8, 2010

New Flavor Sensations

A couple weeks ago I bought my first ipod. Or is it Ipod? I’m not sure of the capitalization rules that Apple has claimed. Although I have been shoving a lot of my music onto it, one of my real interests is podcasts. As spring, ever so slowly, approaches, I’m looking forward to shaking off my hibernation and beginning to walk and run for fitness. (Ok, so maybe it’s what most people regard as “jogging,” but I am trying to follow Melinda’s terminology, “There’s no such thing as jogging, only walking and running.”) When I have to go back and forth on the same old terrain, I want to have some educational, thoughtful, provocative, scintillating and possibly titillating words to listen to.

So I took 2 days to learn how to work the whole computer (laptop at a fast connection spot like Starbucks)/ device/ download/ sync/ rip/ copy cd/ playlist/ i-store/ thingy. If I had not had Tristan helping me, I’m sure it would have taken longer! But I think I’ve got it now, by George!

One of the first things I did was to take a shopping spree (technically not "shopping," since I only got the free podcasts) at the i-store. I subscribed to:

Grammar Girl: Oh the lovely anticipations of pronouns and dangling participles. I can feel myself salivating. Watch out, you poor recipients of my Grammar Evangelism Fervor!

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: I love to have a history lesson that offers more questions than answers! Did the original labor-saving device, slavery, stall technological innovation in societies? and more on the subject…

Medical Matters: What is bullying? Has the definition gone so far that even the normal learning experiences of childhood are avoided?

Persiflagers Infectious Disease Puscast: Chock full of wonderful tidbits relating to the world of fascinating disease elements. Alert! Family dinner conversation is about to get very interesting.

Stuff You Missed in History Class: Haven’t listened to this one yet, but queued up is “Zenobia, Warrior Queen.”

And the last, the one that finally will get me to a food subject…

Brain Stuff: 2-4 minute episodes in which the guy, Marshall Brain (I assume the name is a happy coincidence) answers the kinds of questions that everybody has but didn’t know it until they saw it answered. The episode that caught my attention was, “How do artificial flavors work?”

I would have to listen to it again to give all the correct details such as the esters, volatile chemicals, sensory cells, etc. but what intrigued me was how hard people work, using trial and error and chemical analysis to get flavor agents that taste like something real. It only takes one chemical to get banana flavor, or orange flavor, or grape. But if they want it to be more real, then they start toying with the mixture, adding a little more acetate and butyl aggregate etc. But what is rare is to make a flavor that DOESN’T TASTE LIKE ANYTHING ELSE!

Think about it, all those fruit flavors we grew up with: Cherry, Strawberry, Lemon, Grape, Orange, Lime, and Watermelon (courtesy of Jolly Rancher). They are all very distinct. Yes, I know that the fake flavor may not taste a whole lot like the real flavor, but it’s the fake flavor we are talking about right now. You could shut your eyes and know what color and flavor it was. Strawberry and Cherry were always problematic, since they are both red. But the industry seems to have handled that by making Strawberry more pinkish. Pineapple, while distinctive, curiously didn’t seem to be in use much back then in gum, suckers, chews, KoolAid, Jello, fondant creams… In the past few years, a few more flavors have crept up. But honestly, they aren’t especially distinctive. Kiwi, Mango, papaya, tangerine, yeah yeah…

Can you imagine how exciting it would be to see a new color that had never been noticed before? Would it be the same to experience a new fruit flavor that had never been tasted before? Something intense and distinct, like a big wad of Sour Grape Mouthful Gum? (If you lived back in the late 60’s you might remember the birth of sour candy and Mouthful Gum, a solid package of gum the size of a deck of playing cards.)

The example they gave was Juicy Fruit Gum, that it was a made-up flavor. I was a little disappointed in that example. I remembered Juicy Fruit from a long time ago as being a nicely mellow, sweet and gently fruity grayish stick of Wrigleys. Recently I had a nostalgic turn and bought a pack. It was very yellow (I guess they got the hang of artificial colors) and it reminded me mostly of banana punch.

So, please, someone out there take the challenge and invent a new fruit flavor! And when you do, give it a color and a shape so we can visualize the mysterious new vegetable and wonder what the real flavor of it is.


  1. This is so interesting!! I know that the music aspect of my ipod has been great, but the podcasts are where I'm really loving it. I love NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!" show, as well as The Boundless Show (Focus on the Family's college ministry webzine/podcasts). You've given me a couple that I shall have to try out now :)

  2. I am listening to Tess of the D'Urbervilles also. It is on Libervox recordings, or something like that. All of the audio books are in the public domain, so it's all free. It is very intriguing to be listening to it. I haven't done that much before. It lends a new dimension to the words, to have them come in aurally.

  3. Is the "medical matters" one on BBC radio? it looked interesting and I'm trying to find it

  4. I have gotten all my podcasts on the iTunes store. Do you have an account there? They make it really easy to keep your podcasts current and the old ones deleted when you subscribe.
    You may need a credit card to get an account there, though.
    Next time I go there, I'll send you a link.