Minor life mysteries: Solved!

I've never been especially fond of grapes. I'll eat them, but I'll pick just about any other fruit (or artificial froot-flavor) first.

It turns out that this is because I've been eating supermarket seedless grapes all my life. Those are flavored mostly fructose, with a touch of tannin. Someone brought several pounds of Concord grapes to the PMRP green room during the show run this time, and now a lot of things make a lot more sense.

Firstly, I am still flummoxed by the idea that food plants grow randomly in suburban yards here. I grew up in Arizona, a place where nature tries so hard to kill you the Australians would feel right at home. Food comes from stores, and yards are covered in Bermuda grass, which looks kind of lawn-y from a distance, but is in reality made up of tiny unripe punji stakes, and not to be walked on barefoot. All the plants look like they come from Mars and eating them is a bad idea 99% of the time. Prickly pear fruit is tasty, if you can get the spines off and get over the fact that they have so many seeds it's like eating around a load of buckshot, but aloe vera is a dandy laxative.

[Rats, on the other hand, love prickly pear, also called cactus fig. They stick their little feets in, grab a seed, and eat the pulp off of it. Then they drop the seeds all over their cage, because rats. Cactus fig juice is also a lovely deep velvety red, slightly bluer than red velvet cake, and the color is pernicious. If you ever need to dye a rat claret, cactus fig is the way to go.]

Aside from that, I've always wondered why in God's name Americans thought grape was an acceptable substitute for blackcurrant, which is what the rest of the Western world uses to flavor candies and syrups. I came to the conclusion that it wasn't, but we changed over during the Revolutionary War for the same reason we changed our spelling, which was basically, "No, fuck you, Dad." Concord grapes do taste a lot like blackcurrant, albeit sweeter, and if you drown them in even more sugar you get something that tastes like Manischewitz.

These things also make the idea of slaves peeling grapes make a lot more sense. Supermarket seedless grapes aren't really peelable -- you could do it, but it's like picking the skin off blueberries, difficult and pointless even if you're Hedonismbot. Concord grapes have substantial skins, and in fact if you bite down on them, the fruit part tends to come loose on its own, held together with a lychee-like membrane that makes the whole "peeled grapes as eyeballs" Halloween gag make a lot more sense as well.

I still can't explain artificial grape flavor. I guess methyl anthranilate smells like Concord grapes, but on its own it doesn't taste much like them. It may be based on a cultivar of grape that doesn't really exist anymore -- artificial banana tastes as weird as it does partly because it's based on Gros Michel bananas, which were nearly wiped out in the mid-twentieth century, and the Cavendish bananas we eat now have a different flavor profile.

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