Ask Ceil – Grapey Things

Dear Ceil,

Why does grape flavor taste the way it does when actual grapes don’t taste anything like it?

—Juicy in NJ

The grape flavor that you find in soda or pop (we’re not getting into that here), jelly, candy, and medication is not the green or red seedless variety from your local supermarket that you tell yourself is ok to steal one or two of while you’re deciding between Roma Tomatoes and Beefsteak Tomatoes. The flavor you’ll find in these every day items is based on the ubiquitous Concord grape. This grape was cultivated by Ephraim Wales Bull who, by 1849, had planted over 22,000 grape seedlings in his quest for the perfect grape. He did great, won an award, was loved by children and dogs everywhere, and put his fantastical grape plants up for sale for $5 a vine. He made something like $125 and a goat, and everyone who bought a grape vine raised their own crops, making him one of the shortest-sighted farmers in history.

The Concord Grape gets its name from Concord Massachusettes, where Mr. Bull — obviously not “Bull Market’s” namesake — hailed from. While Concord is a place rich in national and literary history, it somehow only managed to get its name on a battle and a grape.

Concord’s lack of self-promotion notwithstanding, it’s amazing how many things are actually made with the classic Concord Grape flavor. The list is not only surprisingly diverse, it is just plain surprising. Here are just a few things that I dug up on the treasure trove that is the internet:

  • Electronic Grape-Flavored Cigarettes
  • Grape-Flavored Cigars
  • Grape-Flavored Condoms
  • Grape Tang (though from what I can tell, only in Mexico)
  • Grape-Flavored Medical Marijuana
  • Grape-Flavored Nail Polish Remover (I’m hoping they mean Grape-Smelling, not Grape-Flavored)
  • Grape-Flavored Vodka

While some of this admittedly caught me off-guard (I had no idea they could flavor marijuana — what will they think of next? Grape Flavored Crack?) the one thing that absolutely stopped me in my tracks was this:

  • Grape-Flavored Apples

I can’t put my finger on it, but this is completely wrong. I would have thought that apple-flavored apples would be sufficient for most folks. Are we at the point where we have to artifically flavor our fruit? Didn’t we used to flavor other things with our fruit? Is this really something that we needed to use technological resources for?

Grape-flavored apples are sold by Grapple, who tells us that their apples achieve this suspicious flavor by way of “a relaxing bathing process”. Our apples are now more relaxed than we are. I’m really not comfortable with any of this. And while they are not yet available in my home town, they are available in a city near me. Horrifying.

Dear Ceil,

How early is too early to start drinking?

—Plastered in PA

Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that any time you’re at work would be too early to start drinking, unless you are in quality control for a beer manufacturer.

Assuming that you are free for the day, driving nowhere, not responsible for children and not planning to fight with your significant other — particularly if firearms are involved — there’s an appropriate drink for whatever time it is. There is even a breakfast drink named “The Breakfast Drink”.

Many people believe that you should wait until at least after noon to have a drink. In my opinion, those people are paying much too much attention to the clock, which is as much a man-made concept as alcohol.

I think whether or not it’s too early depends entirely on who you are and your situation. On one Christmas morning, my 75-year-old aunt who had gotten an airplane bottle of blueberry brandy in her stocking, looked at it and asked what time it was. “10am.” I said. She shrugged her shoulders and cracked it open. And that was before breakfast.

So, even if it’s five in the morning — which is, by the way, the name of a drink — if it’s ok with you and everyone around you, go ahead and have a drink.

In a life marked by crippling indecision, Ceil Kessler has worked too many types of jobs to count, and is finally in her own business, consulting on business intelligence software. Ceil also markets and publishes the magazine “Business Perks”. Like everyone else in the world, she is working on a couple of novels. She also runs the Laurel Highlands Vegetarian Society, plays pool in her increasingly rare free time, and is an appreciator of fine wines and single-malt scotches.


2 thoughts on “Ask Ceil – Grapey Things

  1. Great stuff! I have often wondered about the grape flavor issue, and the watermelon flavor offshoot (all watermelon-flavored candy and gum tasting like each other, yet unlike watermelon). Excellent explanation.

    Also relieved to know that I need not wait for the sun to be over the yardarm before a tipple.

    Best to Auntie,


  2. Reblogged this on That's All She Wrote and commented:

    I had (unfortunately) begged a celebrity to comment on this post, because Neil was desperate for comments on his blog! And there, commenting as “Renny Finn”, is Josh Malina. Thanks Josh! Wish I’d waited until I hit my stride before I begged you to notice my posts! Actually, when did I hit that stride…?

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