Saturday, July 02, 2005

When Did Raspberries Become Blue?

When I was a child I longed for food to be blue. This was the late seventies and marketing at the major food corporations was still not convinced that people would warm up to the idea of eating food in the color in the color that appeared less in nature than any other color in the spectrum. Little did I know that they would finally grant me my wish by the time I was in my 20s. No, during my childhood, lemons and citrus fruits were yellow and orange, berries came in shades of purple or red. Greens were for all purposes green.

I remember reading an essay in my Childcraft Worldbook Encyclopedia about the science of coloring food. As I recall the photo display of edibles in the article included a half an orange, or was it a grapefruit, a bowl of cereal, bacon strips, and a plate of toast with an unmelted pat of butter. However, everything in the photo was white and colorless. The article noted that people had been given food in tastes tests in various colors and were asked to note whether or not they could taste a difference. The food itself was not altered in anyway; therefore, theoretically it would not change in taste. However the scientists discovered that foods' color definitely influenced the perception of taste. This essay noted that the least popular coloring for food among those tested at the time (probably mid 70s- now I've just given out my approximate age) was of course blue. Later I remember reading a hypotheses that reasoned that blue was not a commonly occuring color in nature among edibles... with the exception of blueberries.

My, times have changed.

You walk into any supermarket aisle with products aimed directly at kids and you'll find blue everywhere, and it just doesn't stop with blue marshmalllows in the Lucky Charms. Blue juice, blue fruit leather, blue candy, blue sour strips. I suppose if you put all of these items in front of anyone who would be my grandparents' age (if they were alive), they would recoil in horror and ask why we were feeding them plastic, window cleaner, and laundry detergent.

What does this say about how we view food now... or the sensibilities of our children? It makes complete sense to me why this generation seems to enjoy many things artificial. I watched a pair of children last night at a party who busied themselves with their gameboys on the couch while the adults around them chattered, ate and filled themselves with cocktails. Their eyes were glued to a video screen half the size of a scratch pad, and their eyes followed Sponge Bob Squarepants as he danced around a sea of blue dodging undersea robots or riding through a maze of coral on a seahorse. Much of what these children are atuned to is artificial. The colors, the sights, even the dimensional attributes. They view things that are three dimensional on a two dimensional screen. Their colors aren't defined only by what is seen in the natural or real world. So why then can't raspberries be blue?

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