So at that Greek place I mentioned in my Rhode Island post, we were very hungry and I was very thirsty. I ordered an iced tea and the waitress asked: “Sweetened or unsweetened?” Thinking I was in Atlanta, where sweet tea is often house-made, I picked sweet tea. When it came out I took a sip and nearly gagged.
“Blech!” I said, when the waitress left. “This is so sweet; I think it came from a machine and only syrup came out or something. It’s like drinking maple syrup.”
When she came back I told her about the tea and she said, “It didn’t come from a machine, it came from a bottle. It’s Snapple.”
And, strangely enough, my disgust turned to understanding. “Oh,” I said. “That’s ok, then. I can drink this.”
Knowing it was Snapple, I drank it fine. No problem. It made lots of sense; this sweet abomination had a reference point and one that I could connect to my teenage years, drinking Snapple in my high school courtyard with a turkey sandwich and pretzels purchased at a deli.
But isn’t that strange how, without knowing the reference point, it tasted disgusting but once I knew what it was it tasted ok? Is that a function of marketing? Or branding? Or something to do with how food and memory go hand-in-hand; how, for example, because I ate them as a kid, certain processed foods–like Vienna Fingers or Entenmann’s’s Chocolate Doughnuts–will always taste good to me? But would they only taste good if I knew what they were, if I saw them come out of the packaging? How much does branding affect how food tastes?
I’m not sure. But if you’re ever in Rhode Island at a Greek restaurant near Brown University and you order iced tea, don’t be disgusted: it’s only Snapple.