A Matter of Taste

August 9, 2002

I was in the grocery store the other day and saw the weirdest thing: blue butter. This butter wasn’t moldy, it wasn’t Dr. Jonas Salk’s own special blend, this was butter that had been specially processed and dyed so it was the color of lapis lazuli. Why? Based on the zany, zigzag designs on the package and numerous explosions surrounding the words, "IT’S FUN FOR KIDS!", the idea was apparently to make it fun. For children. Or young goats. This still doesn’t explain why, though, any more than it explains why ketchup is now available in purple and green (also apparently fun for young goats).

When I was a kid–a child, that is–ketchup was red, butter was yellow, and blueberries were sort of a purple color. Blue, as in sky blue, sapphire blue, or even aquamarine, was limited to the sky, sapphires, and mouthwash. Oh yeah–antifreeze and various household cleaners, stuff marked with a big skull and crossbones, which is another way for advertising to say, "Fun for kids!" were also blue.

Then some genius in a laboratory working on a cure for cancer accidentally discovered how to make soft drinks an eye-startling shade of blue, quit working in cancer research, and became rich as Croesus by selling the secret to soft drink companies. A friend of mine told me that he was actually in an emergency room when a group of young children were brought in who’d been drinking antifreeze, not because it was fun, but because they thought it was a soft drink. I have to wonder how many other times this has happened. And to get around to the original question, why make blue butter? Is blue cheese not good enough? Supposedly it’s fun, but why does food for children have to be strange colors to be fun? When I was a kid food just had to taste good. If it tasted good, I was going to eat it. And if it was on my dinner plate, I had to eat it whether it tasted good or not because I wouldn’t get any dessert. Besides, my mother would always remind me that there were children starving in China. I had no idea how cleaning my plate would prevent other children from starving, and I was perfectly happy to give up my brussels sprouts if it would help, but it didn’t work that way for some reason. Allan Sherman, the "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" guy, had a similar problem: his mother made him feel so guilty about children starving in Europe that he cleaned his plate four, five or six times a day. Unfortunately, he said, "They kept starving, and I got fat."

When I was a kid food was fun if it tasted good and there was enough of it around that you could throw it at your friends if the need arose–and it always did. And food that wasn’t fun, like liver or boiled cabbage, foods that really are fun if you use your imagination–and don’t eat them–usually had to be eaten, otherwise I wouldn’t get any of the food that was fun. And then there was the food I just wouldn’t eat for anything. I didn’t like mustard until I was seventeen. Why? I have no idea. I think I tried it once when I was three, didn’t like it then, and it took me fourteen years to decide to give mustard a second chance. It had nothing to do with the color, and that’s precisely the problem with giving foods weird colors to try to make them more appealing: no matter what color it is, there will always be some people who don’t like mustard. Food makers of the world, listen to me: genetic engineering will eventually give you the power to make apples orange, oranges blue, and bananas hot pink, but it’s not going to make people who don’t like apples, oranges, or bananas suddenly change their mind. Of course you could always give the stuff to goats–they’ll eat anything.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Food for Thought

* There are three kinds of people: those who can count & those who can’t.

* Don’t use a big word where a diminutive one will suffice.

* I used up all my sick days, so I’m calling in dead.

* Mental Floss prevents thought decay!

* Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change ready.

* Be nice to your kids . . . they’ll be the ones choosing your nursing home.

* Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

* There can’t be a crisis today, my schedule is already full.

* I’d explain it to you, but your brain would explode.

* Did you ever stop to think . . . and forget to start again?

* A conclusion is simply the place where you got tired of thinking.

* I don’t have a solution, but I admire the problem.

* Don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.

* If at first you DO succeed, try not to look astonished!

* Diplomacy is the art of letting someone have your way.

* It’s not hard to meet expenses, they’re everywhere.


At Duke University, there were four sophomores taking Organic Chemistry. They were doing so well on all the quizzes, midterms and labs, etc., that each had an "A" so far for the semester.

These four friends were so confident that the weekend before finals, they decided to go up to the University of Virginia and party with some friends there. They had a great time, but after all the hearty partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning.

Rather than taking the final then, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed it. They explained that they had gone to UVA for the weekend with the plan to come back in time to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.

The professor thought it over and then agreed they could make up the final the following day. The guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had told them.

He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet, and told them to begin.

They looked at the first problem, worth five points. It was something simple about free radical formation. "Cool," they thought at the same time, each one in his separate room, "this is going to be easy."

Each finished the problem and then turned the page.

On the second page was written: For 95 points: Which tire?

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