Tuesday, 27 October 2009

A Matter of Taste

Nutrition experts talk about how portion sizes of foods have expanded with our waistlines over the years, but I find it fascinating that we haven't talked much about how our tastebuds have evolved in a relatively short time. Or maybe it's not scientific or evolution-based. Maybe it's merely money-driven. What I'm getting at is the mysterious disappearance of grape soda.
When my mom was a child in the late 1950s, she and her family would pile into the car on a Saturday night and head to the local burger joint, where she'd order a single burger (probably a Jr. size by today's inflated standards), a small fry (again, probably kiddie sized), and a grape soda. Grape soda, popularized by the now-scarce Nehi brand of soft drinks, was everywhere. The flavor, a purely artificial sugar bonanza that never really tasted like real grapes, was consumed all over television. In fact, it was Radar on the acclaimed series, "M.A.S.H."'s signature quaff at the bar.
But something happened sometime between the 1970s and 1980s to grape soda. It was as if the flavor had been snatched off of its proverbial vine and replaced...replaced by orange, in fact. By the early 1980s, when yours truly came along, the only bubbly made available to us kiddies was some version of thick syrupy orange stuff or a limon concoction. Grape sodas had been culturally banished to the ghetto (or so urban legend says), along with BBQ chips (also tasty--why?). By 1988, when R.E.M. released its sixth album, "Green," "Orange Crush" was a household name. Grape, as we knew it, was marginalized, practically gone.
Orange, however, now takes a back seat to other flavors. By the 90s, we had every flavor we could ever wish for in fizz. Biggest on the list in fast food corp fruit flavors were things like cherry limeade and grapefruit (Fresca). Jones sodas have an extensive list of flavors and are available at places like Panera Bread. Is this flavor explosion a sign of sophistication in tastebuds, greed, or too many choices in America? To quote a wise candy commercial: "The world may never know."

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