Artificial flavors: Taste confronts style

Valerie Zinger. Flickr. April 29, 2012.

Grape soda, orange ice pops, lemon drops, nondairy coffee creamer, and artificial sugar substitutes are well-established treats for many Americans.  Children who relish their morning orange juice may still clamor for artificially flavored grape soda and orange ice pops.  Grandparents who grow backyard vegetables may still dispense artificially flavored lemon drops to neighborhood little ones.  Parents who hand cut beef and vegetables for crock pot stew may still sprinkle their coffee with nondairy coffee creamer and sugar substitute at the office.  All of these items are available in the same place.  How is it that cherry-flavored Jell-O and chocolate-flavored cold cereal are available in the same grocery stores that sell whole coffee beans and freshly baked breads?

The pluralism of which Americans are so proud doesn’t just include ethnic foods.  It straddles generations and social class.  Gourmet cooks shop for olive oil and specialty cheeses as Lean Cuisine devotees head for the frozen dinners’ aisle.  Football fans pile their carts with chips and cases of soda pop.  Grandmothers scrutinize the fresh greens and meats as college students speed toward the checkout line with boxes of instant oatmeal, packages of Ramen noodles, and jars of peanut butter.  Young mothers with toddlers ensconced in their carts choose steaks, baking potatoes, soda crackers, and instant chocolate pudding.

American tastes call for hot dogs, hamburgers, and French fries at public sports events where plumbers, office managers, and bus drivers sit side by side with accountants, professors, and engineers.  It wouldn’t be fashionable to eat quiche or drink champagne at a baseball game.  Holiday office parties attended by the boss, managers, and staff can include wine, cheese, submarine sandwiches, and brownies.  Holiday dinners may include grandmother’s handmade ravioli and auntie’s Jell-O mold.  No one can claim to be the sole arbiter of American taste or style.  There is too much variety to permit it.  What is artificial about that?

© Laura Rizzardini, Inc., 2011

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