What the EZ Squirt Ketchup Flop Says About Coloring Our Foods

Recently a friend informed me, via Slate.com, that the éclair “has surpassed the macaron as the most buzzed about Parisian bonbon of the moment.” (Right, totally. I knew that.) But this isn’t your Parisian grandma’s éclair, missy! It has been fancified with trendy flavors and inventive toppings and, most notably, bold bright colors that would make Crayola proud.

multi colored eclairs

The very same week I went into Nussbaum and Wu’s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to find trays of “Black and White” cookies in different colors. Besides the fact that there was something funny and now  “inaccurate” about these pink and white, or green and white cookies labeled “Black and Whites,” they caught my attention, especially after hearing of the “new” éclair.

colored black and white cookie

Now, I am not sure how I feel about the éclair of 2013. Or, to a lesser extent, this updating of what many might call “the official cookie of New York,” (which is expected to appear as its names suggests). How far can one veer from an original, from tradition, before you have created something entirely new? Not to mention, these modern éclairs seem to be yet another big city chef’s way of sparking buzz and the salivary glands of local foodies and Instagrammers with what really is something rather common and usually inexpensive—in this case, a sexed-up Euro Boston cream donut (though, I can think of plenty of others: popsicles, cupcakes, rice krispie treats, actual donuts).

Still it seems worthwhile to ponder how color is used to represent innovation and “newness,” especially in the food world. Of course color is important elsewhere. Namely in the fashion world—depending on the season or designer, the “hot look” is either bright colors, no color, or a particular color; and, most apropos of today, in the tech/gadget industry, as just last week the usually monochromatic innovators at Apple unveiled its forthcoming release of two different iPhones—a cheaper version, the 5C, that comes in five bright plastic colors, and a more expensive version, the 5S, that comes in a selection of metallic colors. (Side thought: who decided that “cheaper” equals a children’s paint set, and that those who are willing to pay more, would necessarily want, well, the more boring kind?)

Posted on September 16, 2013

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