Red velvet cupcakes will never be the same again.
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1 April 2016
Okay, this is not an April Fool's joke. However, it is a fun story and reminded me of an always favorite day while teaching Candide in the satire class I taught for over three years.
Ironically, the recollection is of a quote made by Candide's teacher Pangloss who is one of literature's most foolish of fools; most often expressed in his naively optimistic teaching that "This is the best of all possible worlds. Everything happens for the best."
In one particularly bizarre episode, Pangloss returns to the story suffering from a sexually transmitted disease that he believes he contracted while in South America (of course, history that used to record that sexually transmitted diseases traveled "from" new world natives "to" European travelers rather than in the reverse direction which science has since verified.)
Anyway, in spite of the serious impact that the disease has wrought upon Pangloss, rather than revisit his opinions about everything happening for the best, he pre-empts that consideration that he might be wrong with this defense when asked if the devil might be the force behind his illness...
""Not at all," replied this great man, "it was a thing unavoidable, a necessary ingredient in the best of worlds; for if Columbus had not in an island of America caught this disease, which contaminates the source of life, frequently even hinders generation, and which is evidently opposed to the great end of nature, we should have neither chocolate nor cochineal..."
Imagine the look on my student's faces when after reading this passage I would casually pour myself a glass of cranberry juice and open a box of Red Hot Tamales candies and then explain to them that cochineal indeed was the product of squashed bugs and that it was the most common way to produce the red dye for clothing and many foods.
You might find this article (http://www.livescience.com/36292-red-food-dye-bugs-cochineal-carmine.html) indicating that it is for this reason that Starbucks ceased using cochineal in its Strawberries and Creme Frappachino mix most recently referred to as either carmine, cochineal, or Red Dye #4.
When did they stop serving food colored with squashed bugs? 2012!!!
And did you know that Starbucks was ahead of the curve? It wasn't until 2013 that alternatives to Red dye 4 were being sought for Danon and Yoplait yogurts, by Tropicana for its fruit juices, Nestle's for Nesquik strawberry chocolate cookies, by Betty Crocker for its Red Velvet Cake Mix, and by Rainbow for its Mentos candy AND in thousands of other common foods such as fake crab and lobster, fruit cocktail cherries, port wine cheese, lumpfish eggs/caviar and liqueurs, candies, ice creams, processed foods and beverages, as well as in drugs and cosmetics.
Besides the thought of eating squashed insects, it turned out that many people are allergic to cochineal and vegetarians found the news particularly revolting.
On a more pleasant note...
For the record, those of you might teach Candide should know that the Candide Google Lit Trip has very recently had a rather significant updating.
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