Pudding, meet candy

21 11 2010

When I think about watermelons, I think about summer days and seed-spitting contests with little redheaded, pigtailed Susie who won every single year because she had a gap in her front teeth.

Okay, so I grew up in Chicago and Phoenix and I’ve never been to a seed-spitting contest. I’ve never met a gap-toothed girl named Susie. And honestly, I don’t really think about watermelons very often.

But when I came across watermelon pudding in the grocery store, the first thing that came to mind was neither seed-spitting contests nor watermelons. It was pure, unadulterated disgust, coupled with the question, Why?

Yes, I bought it. Of course I bought it.

What stood out to me the most about this (besides the combination of the words “watermelon” and “pudding” in the title) was the color. Not quite pink, not quite orange, it was only very slightly reminiscent of a real watermelon. Maybe if a watermelon had jaundice, it would be that color. Can watermelons get jaundice?

Anyway. It’s probably worth mentioning that the pudding wasn’t the only one of its kind on the shelf — displayed next to it were also juicy pear and cotton candy varieties. (Bright green and Pepto Bismol pink, respectively. Who picks the colors for this stuff? Crayola?) Pear pudding didn’t seem that strange, and for awhile it was a toss-up between the watermelon and the cotton candy, but in the end, I chose watermelon mostly on account of its color. And also because I could not for the life of me fathom how watermelon pudding was supposed to taste.

I was about to find out.

The first thing I did when I took off the lid was sniff the pudding (of course). It smelled sweet — almost sickeningly so. It actually smelled a lot like Jolly Ranchers (only even sweeter) — which was a little strange considering that it’s made by Jelly Belly. But I’ve always thought watermelon jelly beans were a little boring anyway. Maybe sweet would be okay.

When I scooped it onto my spoon, it looked like Jabba the Hutt was clinging on for dear life. Not exactly appetizing. (But then again, can orangey-pink pudding be expected to look appetizing? Ever?)

I put the spoonful in my mouth and contemplated.

Not bad, actually.

At first, it tasted almost exactly like vanilla pudding. Don’t ask me why, but it did. Maybe my taste buds have gone a little crazy after all I’ve put them through.

The aftertaste, though, was most definitely watermelon. And by watermelon I don’t mean the seed-spittin’ kind, I mean the artificial, sugar-loaded flavor that’s in Jolly Ranchers — and I suppose also in jellybeans.

I liked the original flavor better.

In fact, I kept eating it in little spoonfuls, savoring the flavor and then taking another quick bite before the aftertaste had time to kick in.

The verdict? It’s a little too sweet (and fake-watermelon-y) for my taste, but for as strange as it seems at first glance, it’s really not bad. I’d pick butterscotch pudding over this brightly colored wonder, but if you’re a big watermelon Jolly Rancher fan, this is probably heaven in a cup.

And if you don’t like watermelon Jolly Ranchers and you’re ever forced to eat this for whatever reason, shovel it down in quick spoonfuls. It’s better that way.

———

Ingredients: Nonfat milk, water, sugar, modified corn starch, vegetable oil (contains one or more of the following: soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil), contains 1% or less of the following: natural and artificial flavor, salt, xanthan gum, disodium phosphate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, Yellow 5 and Red 40.
Price: $0.99 at Fry’s Marketplace (4 per package)
Pros: Tasted like vanilla pudding at first. Colorful. Almost pretty…like a sunset…
Cons: The strong, sweet aftertaste wasn’t my favorite, and pudding that tastes like candy is still a little incongruous.





Smurf juice

16 10 2010

When I see a gallon jug, I usually expect it to be filled with milk.

But not always. Sometimes it’s filled with water, apple cider or fruit punch.

This was pretty close to fruit punch…except it was bright blue. And maybe a “blue raspberry fruit beverage” isn’t all that strange, but when it looks like someone stuck a Smurf in a juicer over a gallon jug, I’m going to question the edible (or drinkable) nature of what’s in that jug.

After lugging the gallon home, I poured some of the liquid into a glass, which seemed oddly incongruous. I felt like I should be drinking it out of a sippy cup, or at least one of those plastic restaurant cups with a squiggly straw. (Maybe it’s because if I were eight years old, I would’ve begged my mother to buy the pretty bright blue stuff as soon as I saw it.  Years later, it failed to excite me as much.)

As I lifted the glass to my lips, I was reminded of that scene in Star Wars when Obi-Wan is drinking glowing blue…something. (Yes, I’m aware this makes me a nerd, and that I probably need to…well, rethink my life.)

The liquid (I hesitate to call it juice, because it’s really not, and calling it juice reminds me of that Smurf) didn’t really taste anything like blue raspberry.  Then again, I’m not really sure what a blue raspberry tastes like, since I’ve only ever seen and eaten red raspberries, and all the “blue raspberry” flavored things I’ve consumed have essentially been sugar-flavored.  So actually, in that case, this tasted exactly like blue raspberry…because all it was was a sugary beverage with some sort of ambiguous artificial flavoring thrown in.

Now, don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t bad.  In fact, it tasted kind of like watered-down Kool-Aid. But that leaves me wondering: what’s the point of watery Kool-Aid?

The upside is the price: $1.19 for a whole gallon. So if you’re looking for a good beverage for your kid’s alien-themed birthday party — or you’re just getting tired of buying fruit punch — this is a decent option. But be warned: as far as flavor goes, you get what you pay for.

Oh, and one last note… The longer I stared at this stuff, the more it started looking like windshield washer fluid. So if you store your windshield washer fluid in a gallon jug (for whatever reason), and you’re fond of putting it in the fridge (for whatever reason), you may want to either leave this drink on the shelf or rethink your storage habits. Because you really, really shouldn’t drink windshield washer fluid. Smurf juice, though, is okay.

———

Ingredients: Water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, propylene glycol, natural and artificial flavors, gum acacia, potassium sorbate (preservative), neotame, Blue #1 and brominated vegetable oil.
Price:
$1.19 at Fry’s Marketplace
Pros: Great price, good kids’ drink except the sugar content (22 grams per 8 oz).
Cons: Watery, sugary, indiscernable flavor.





Cherries gone wild

19 09 2010

When I was in kindergarten, I learned that cherries are red. The sky is blue, grass is green, lemons are yellow and cherries are red.

Seeing these on the shelf at AJ’s defied everything I had ever understood about color. My kindergarten self would have had a complex.

A blue cherry makes no sense. Everyone knows cherries can’t be blue. But lo and behold, here these were, in all their neon glory. And actually, this jar was only part of a whole rainbow of cherries on the shelf. Surrounding it were yellow cherries, green cherries, orange cherries, brown cherries… My head started hurting a little.

Now, odd-colored fruit is one thing. But these weren’t just colored differently — they were flavored differently. Lemon flavored cherries, lime flavored cherries, wild berry flavored cherries, chocolate flavored cherries… Now, hold up. Is it just me, or aren’t cherries supposed to taste like cherries? Doesn’t re-flavoring them defeat the purpose? Were these cherries freaks of nature?

The only normal jar in the bunch was the one filled with maraschino cherries. Those were red, like cherries should be, and I knew they were normal because I eat them on top of my ice cream. The rest of the jars had me curious, especially the blue one: wild berry flavored cherries. Isn’t a cherry a berry? Don’t they grow in the wild? What made these so special (aside from their rather…glowing appearance)? I had to know, so I snatched the jar off the shelf and bought it.

When I opened the jar and looked inside, the sight of blue cherries (such an oxymoron, still) floating around in bright blue juice didn’t really seem all that appetizing to me. Hesitatingly, I reached in and fished out a piece of the supposed fruit, the vibrant juice dripping from my fingers.

My first impression upon eating the cherry was that it was sweet. Really sweet. Not sweet like a strawberry or an apple or a (normal) cherry; more along the lines of let’s-see-if-a-spoonful-of-sugar-really-works-like-Mary-Poppins-says-it-does kind of sweet.  (Don’t tell me you never tried that as a kid.)  I think the strangest thing was that it didn’t taste like a cherry. Not one bit.

It had the texture of a maraschino cherry. It looked like one, it crunched like one…but it tasted like the love child of berry blue Kool-Aid and cotton candy.

(Yes, I know they could never have a baby cherry. Just roll with it.)

While it was certainly an interesting (and very sweet) flavor, I’m not sure what purpose it serves in cherry form. I think cherries taste fine just the way they are, without needing to be flavored like berries or limes or lemons…or whatever.  (The chocolate flavored ones made some sense, though personally I think I’d prefer regular chocolate-covered cherries.) Maybe you could put a wild berry cherry on top of your ice cream sundae, if you felt like those maraschinos were getting boring. But honestly, it’s sweet enough as it is that I feel like adding it to ice cream might put someone in a sugar coma.

The bottom line is, wild berry flavored cherries aren’t terrible, but I don’t see any practical purpose for them.  (Other than maybe a brighter substitute for blueberries on my mom’s yearly Fourth of July cake…or maybe I can take them along to the next black-light party I go to and wear them in my hair.)  If you can think of a better use for these, send your ideas my way. I’d love to hear them…especially seeing as I still have a nearly full jar of these sitting in my refrigerator.

———-

Ingredients: Cherries, sugar/high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, added as preservatives, calcium chloride, natural and artificial flavor, PD&C Blue #1, and sulfur dioxide (as a preservative).
Price:
$5.99 at AJ’s Fine Foods
Pros: Vibrant blue color if you’re trying to decorate something with oddly colored fruit. Perfect if you’re looking for blue raspberry cotton candy in cherry form.
Cons: Overpoweringly sweet; seemingly pointless; kind of pricey.








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