Monday, April 11, 2011

Violets and Elderflowers

While in France last month, I noticed that many things came in violet flavor. I had never noticed this before, but brought back a bag of violet candies for the office. It was quite interesting to see people’s reactions as they tasted them, since violet is more associated with bath products here than food. Even I thought the first taste was somewhat unusual, despite loving the original aviation cocktail and currently having a bottle of crème de violette* on my bar. However, I grew to really like the candies, and I couldn’t help but notice that certain people definitely kept coming back for more. I asked a French co-worker if this abundance of violet-flavored products was something new or just something I had never noticed. She had never noticed it either, so I guess it’s a new thing.

I noticed a similar phenomenon in London with elderflowers, which I had the opportunity of tasting (via a bottle of elderflower spring water) while eating lunch at Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath. I liked the taste, and would probably buy a similar product here, but elderflower’s only presence in the U.S. seems to be in the French liqueur St. Germain (which I do not currently have on my bar, but maybe I should). Please let me know if I’m wrong about this.

This got me thinking of flavors and trends. As my co-worker observed, maybe violet is France’s answer to cinnamon—an observation that made me laugh since one French friend’s request for something from the U.S. always used to involve Big Red gum. But, while the spice obviously crops up in many items, especially baked goods, its use as a flavoring seems limited.

Seeing a bottle of green apple soda at the local burrito place made me wonder whatever happened to push that one off the shelves. When I was younger, everything seemed to come in sour green apple. I really miss it, but we seemed to have moved away from the sour to the sweet, haven’t we?

Is there a flavor you think of as distinctly American? For my international readers, is there something that you feel visitors to your country should try? Is there a product you stock up on while abroad that has a flavor you can’t get in your home country?

*For those in San Francisco, you can find crème de violette at Cask, on Third Street near Market.


John Marcher said...

Hi Sylvie,

Re moving from sour to sweet, yes it seems we certainly have. I was recently in one of the so-called "hipper" bars in the neighborhood and everything on their cocktail list was disgustingly sweet to the point I skipped them altogether and ordered mine neat.

Sylvie said...

That's what you get for going into the "hipper" bars I guess!

Anonymous said...

My English friends would always mock me for my love of cinnamon and called me "so American".

They did relish all of our pumpkin dishes; those are definitely "new world". I know pumpkin is a staple in Afghan cooking too, so now I am off to research its origins and story there.

Jennifer said...

I have a friend (a fellow American living in Canada) who claims that they use Maple-flavoring in foods here as much as we use cinnamon in the States. Or, he would argue, they OVERuse it.

As for flavors that I only associated with bath products, not food, I was very surprised by an aloe-flavored yogurt in Japan. I couldn't get past the idea that I was eating lotion.

Sylvie said...

Funny, I was passing by Swensen's this weekend and stopped in for ice cream and was stunned there was no maple flavor. You can take the girl out of New England...