In a perfect world, my kids would gobble up all the fresh, organic produce I buy every week — all the clementines, apple slices, berries, and cubed pineapple or melon I put in their lunch boxes, not to mention the wide variety of vegetables I creatively prepare and serve for dinner every night.
In reality, however, it’s a different story. With respect to vegetables, I’ve got one child who will try most of them – reluctantly — and one staunch veggie-phobe who (with a growing but still small list of exceptions) simply will not eat them. And when it comes to fruits, the situation is often no better. Both kids will eat fruit but they don’t seem to love it, and I often have to coax a bit to make sure everyone’s getting at least a modicum of phytonutrients in their diet.
So when, a few days ago, my daughter came home from school touting a new fruit she’d tasted from her friend’s lunch box, it certainly got my attention. “It’s called a ‘Grapple,'” she told me. “I really want one in my lunch. Can you find them in the store?”
For the uninitiated, the Grapple (pronounced Grape-l) is a perfectly innocent Fuji or Gala apple that’s subjected to “a relaxing bathing process” (I’m not making this up, it’s on their website) in a mix of water and natural and artificial grape flavor.*
Every food and environmental principle I hold dear was in opposition to these bizarrely grape-smelling, plastic-clam-shell-encased apples. Why do we need to artificially flavor Mother Nature’s handiwork? Why cater to kids’ palates, already mucked up by too much processed, chemical-laden foods? Why does an apple need a clamshell package and why spend the resources needed to recycle it, or, worse, despoil the earth by chucking it into a landfill?
And do you know what I did next, dear readers? I put the Grapples in my cart!
It was a moment of weakness, I admit, fueled in part by curiosity. Just what would a grape-flavored apple taste like anyway? And there was also that tiny maternal voice in the back of my head, the one the Grapple marketing geniuses were no doubt targeting, whispering seductively “So, what’s a little artificial grape flavor if it gets the kids to eat fruit?”
Well, the kids and I tried the Grapple, and here’s our review: Pretty darn delicious. They’re perfectly crisp and juicy (probably from their “relaxing bath”) and rather than tasting like grape candy, they taste more like a really flavorful, if slightly unusual, apple. The kids LOVED them and begged for more.
So what do I do now? Proclaim it a fun experiment, never to be repeated in our home? Become a regular Grapple purchaser (albeit one wearing dark glasses and a trench coat)? Reserve the Grapple for the odd treat, just like other artificial junk?
In writing this post, I can already identify in my head certain Lunch Tray readers by name (and you know who you are) who are about to cancel their blog subscription in protest. The folks over at the Feingold Association, whose sole mission is to get artificial flavors and colors out of kids’ diets, are probably going to stage some sort of intervention. And several of you will just cry softly, shaking your head, as you head off to pick up wholesome, unadulterated apples from your organic CSA . . . .
OK, guys, let me have it.
* The company is really squirrelly about the artificial flavoring. Rather than just owning up to using it, which of course they have to disclose on their label, they hem and haw on their site: “Our main flavor ingredient is the same synthesized grape flavoring agent used in 100’s of other retail food items. Because it is not feasible for us to ‘crush all of the flavor’ we would need from grapes themselves, we are forced to say ‘Natural and Artificial Flavor’. The grape flavoring is the same that you would get out of Mother Nature’s grapes themselves.”
In other words, fake grape.