The other day, in a local supermarket, I was standing in the dairy aisle, looking for my usual brand of sour cream. It was clean sold out, so I was checking out different brands. To my utter surprise one of the tubs said “Natural flavor added”. You know me by now: I was not only flabbergasted, I was clean disgusted. Why would you need to add natural flavor to a natural product? Unless the product is so bad and bland that you wouldn’t want it in the first place?
I have no idea how many naturally flavored products I have eaten in my lifetime. After all, one of the leading manufacturers of natural flavors is near Heidelberg, an hour’s drive away from my hometown in Germany. I’ve never really come to terms with wood chips pretending to be strawberries or mold creating flavors such as peach, nut, or coconut. The older I become the less I think it makes sense, especially since a lot of those flavored products don’t taste anywhere near the original flavor experience. And I’m never sure what chemistry I ingest with it. Well, I guess, a lot of the fruity flavors go into candy – that in itself is not health food, right? But do I have to have strawberry-flavored apple juice? Or fake fruit in a yogurt, flavored and dyed to assume the experience you have when eating a strawberry or a blueberry?
Ah, here goes my next favorite topic: food dyes. And I’m pretty sure I never ran into that amount of it in Germany. One thing that really struck me from the first over here was blue icing. I have a feeling there is an extra high rate of blue icing sales here in Washington State. For one, we have the Seahawks (with an additional shade of green to the cake). And as a retired Air Force spouse I’ve had my share of tongue-coloring blue-iced dessert cakes as well. There are rainbow cake batters and colored sprinkles, and not just kids fall for it. Of course, they do! It’s the older generations that pack all the dyes into kids’ food to make it appear more edible. With the effect that natural produce like vegetable or fruit are less appreciated than colorful cupcakes or candy. I’m not sure we are doing them a favor. Lately I leafed through a recipe book of mine and came across a recipe for deep-frying batter. It called for yellow food dye. Why?!
And then there are fragrances. Scented candles, scented oils, scented potpourris, scented you name-its – you don’t even know what’s in them. Yes, we do have them in Germany, too. I never was one for them. I love the elegance of white taper candles. I don’t want additional smell. My home is filled with the fragrance of cooking and baking. Right now, the tart scent of apples from our neighbors’ garden adds to the mix, along with the smell of rotting leaves when I open the doors or windows. It’s a lovely, entirely seasonal fragrance. I have a feeling you could tell what season it is by just walking into our home and sniffing – without having fake sea scents (I wonder whether it were bought if it really smelled of rotting pilings, algae, and wet sand), pumpkin latte or Christmas cookie aromas. Why would I want to mix the delicious smell of a pot roast with the artificial fragrance of “rain”, which actually tends to remind me of laundry freshly removed from the washing machine?!
What makes us crave for the artificial when we can have the natural original? It seems to be a human phenomenon. The other day I bought stamps from one of our local post offices. They show those popsicles in incredible color combinations. I wouldn’t even want to eat a single one of those if the were for real. I am sure they’d taste as artificial as they look. And – would you believe it?! – when you rub those stamps, they smell!