Jewish World Review Jan. 11, 2002 / 27 Teves, 5762

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

What does mid-summer mist smell like? -- ONCE upon a time there was a world where descriptive words more or less made sense. Words used to describe fragrances, flavors, and colors were pretty straight forward. Your nose knew what to expect if you were told something smelled like pine or cinnamon or lemon. Your mouth got all set for the taste of chocolate or vanilla or strawberry. If someone told you the color of something was blue or yellow or red, you pretty much got the idea right away. But that was once upon a time. Things are different now.

Open your kitchen pantry and read the flavor descriptions on some of the products. "Cool Ranch." Now, honestly, what would you expect a flavor called "cool ranch" to taste like? Okay, I know what ranch dressing tastes like, but this isn't called ranch dressing -- it's called "cool ranch." I know what a ranch is, I've stayed at one. I know what a ranch SMELLS like and I'm not all that sure that I'd care for the taste of something that smells like a ranch on a cool day --- especially a cool day with a slight down-wind breeze. As flavors go, one might opt for "cool ranch" as opposed to say, "warm farm," but all things being equal, I'll take vanilla.

Other flavors currently available on supermarket shelves these days are "Autumn Harvest" and "Southwestern Zesty." So tell me, what exactly is the flavor of "autumn harvest?" Pumpkin? Apple? Corn? Dried leaves? Could be anything. As far as "southwestern zesty" is concerned, I'll leave that one to your own disgusting imagination.

Remember when you were in school and they taught you that the primary colors, red, yellow and blue could be mixed to make secondary colors? Then by mixing the secondary colors you could make a wide range of other colors, too. Remember the names of those colors? Green, pink, purple, orange, navy blue, chartreuse, fuchsia, etc. Well, forget it! We've got new names for colors now. Colors no longer have names of their own, designers use names of other things to describe their hues. Names like, "celery" and "hyacinth" and "buttercup" and "parsley" and "champagne" and "cherry tomato." Sounds like the ingredients for a new California salad. Spice names are really big, like "sage," and "nutmeg" and "cinnamon." Not content to let food and spices be descriptive of taste or scent, they are now descriptive of color also.

The ad agencies, or focus group testers, or whomever it is that comes up with cultural change, have really had a field day with fragrances, too. Check out the fabric softener fragrances, for example. Some of the Snuggle scents are "Sweet Slumber," "Cuddle-up Fresh," and "Fresh Rain." "Sweet Slumber" literally means sleep, doesn't it? Does sleep have an aroma? And does 'fresh rain" always smell good? Sometimes not, depending on what's on the ground when the rain hits.

Not to be outdone, their competitor, Downy Fabric Softener, offers aromas called, "April Fresh" and "Mountain Spring." What is the particular scent of "April Fresh?" Is it better than "May Fresh" or "June Fresh?" And what would "August Fresh" smell like? A mountain spring usually refers to water. Water has no detectable smell, hopefully --- unless you happen to live near the Hudson. And I certainly wouldn't want my clothes to smell like the Hudson River, thank you very much. And if anyone reading this can describe to me what "cuddle-up fresh" smells like, I'll eat my hat -- but only if it doesn't taste like "Autumn Harvest" or a ranch on a cool day.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.

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