GOING AU NATURALE?

WHY ARTIFICIAL ISN'T ALWAYS SO BAD 

 

You'll have noticed by now that here at Raggedy Ann Girl In A Barbie Doll World we like to keep things real. And, for the most part, we like to appreciate what's natural, God-given and unadulterated. However, there are instances when a little bit of artificial enhancement rocks our boat. Hair dye, nail polish and makeup being just four examples without which I wouldn't like to manage. When it comes to food, of course, we like to work with, rather than against, the seasons and to cook and eat fresh, simple, uncomplicated meals. But there are just things with which that Mother Nature needs a bit of a helping hand. And, since we also like to be a bit traditional, a tad retro even, we like to revisit the treats of our childhood. 

So understandably, we were a little bit disappointed when that household classic 'Dad's whisky trifle' looked, well frankly, just a little bit anaemic. I should say, it tasted as wonderful as ever and it was the lack of colour that let it down.  From the top down it just seemed a bit insipid. From the pale-hued hundreds and thousands (or 'jimmies' if you're from the USA, or 'nonpareils' if you're a bit posh or don't mind paying an extra 80 pence per pot) to the once deep raspberry red jelly which now seemed a rather uninspiring shade of rose, all the colours looked faded out. Even the custard, normally relied upon to be a vibrant tone of egg-yolk yellow, resembled a more delicate primrose. We examined all the packages. Everything was well in date, most of it purchased only the previous week. Then we noticed the one thing it all had in common – no artificial ingredients. And while I normally like to keep away from such additives, it seemed obvious that the use of natural colourings had left the whole trifle looking a bit pale and pasty.

I know, when it comes down to it, food is about taste. And that trifle tasted mighty good. But the fact is we need bright colours, or at least distinct colour, to make us want to eat in the first place. The reason so many supermarkets and shops have the fruit and vegetables at the front or middle of the store is that the bright colours of the produce stimulates the brain, the taste buds and so the hand-to-trolley action  as you begin your weekly shop, or right in the middle just as you tire. It makes you buy more.Think about how lovely and cheerful an array of brightly-coloured tropical fruits makes you feel. And how much it perks you up and makes you want to buy more. The same goes for the all-you-can-eat type buffet bars where that gorgeous, shiny, brightly coloured food just makes you fill your plate right up, doesn't it?

And while I'm all for food being as pure as it can be, there are times when you just wish you could brighten things up a bit. Take mushy peas. If you've ever encountered 'natural' mushy peas you'll know they're not so much green as grey. Now, as far as I'm concerned mushy peas should be bright Kermit-the-Frog green.They just don't taste the same if they're not. Besides which, no food should ever be grey. 

Now I'm not suggesting we should return to the bad old days when any type of artificial, chemical-laden colouring could be added to foodstuffs. But would a tiny little bit hurt us? And surely, 40-odd years after we landed men on the Moon, we can find a natural colouring that could impart some visual flavour to our foods? Can it really be true that, for the sake of our health, we've had to give up on food that looks appealing? On hundreds and thousands that are bright, cheerful and uplifting? That still do precisely what they are supposed to do and decorate our foodstuffs?

Well, actually, as it happens we don't. At least not the latter. Because, irritated that non of my local supermarkets stocked hundred and thousands that weren't pale and anaemic, I went online and it seems, providing you use a specialist cake-making retailer you can have bright sugar sprinkles in just about any hue you care to name. While a good proportion of them don't purport to be 'free of artificial additives' quite a lot are labelled 'natural' and have really quite saturated colours to boot. So why, I wonder, do our supermarkets think we only want pastel shades on our trifles, cupcakes and ice cream sundaes? Perhaps it's some sort of marketing strategy. Well, assuming they aim to keep you shopping with them, it failed on me. I'm off to surf the net to get something cheerful to sprinkle on my trifle. How about you?