"Nature gives you the face you have at twenty," the famed designer Coco Chanel told Ladies Home Journal in September 1956. "[I]t is up to you to merit the face you have at 50."
Chanel was speaking well before the days of outpatient facelifts and "preventive" plastic surgery. Nonetheless, her sentiment may be corkscrewed into the confectionary world: Every generation may not get the candy it wants, but every generation gets the candy it deserves.
Take the venerable gummy bear: Before Haribo first bound sugar to gelatin in 1922, the world of candy had been a lot like the German Empire: rock hard. But as martial Prussia gave way to bohemian Weimar, the country revealed its soft cultural underbelly, and the gummy bear claimed its place in the sun.
By the 1980s a generation of Luke Skywalker fans had come to expect their beloved objects to spawn a complete line of ancillary products. Just as Star Wars begat generations of action figures, toy light sabers, board games, backpacks and trading cards, so gummy bears birthed a veritable Noah's Ark of gummy fish, gummy worms, gummy rats and octopi. The ursine confection even served as Disney fodder when the entertainment company released its egregious series Adventures of the Gummi Bears.
Which brings us to our own age, the boutique organic foods set, and its overreaching demand that even junk food appear good for you. More particularly, it brings us to Whole Foods Market Organic Gummy Bears.
These gummies make their organic bones with organic sugar, organic corn syrup and organic grape juice. Sure, they may be more expensive than their industrial brethren, but they taste just as good, with an admirable moistness that even secretes the telltale oily film on the fingers of any fresh gummy bear. But herein lies the rub: These gummies' moisture comes from good old-fashioned gelatin, which is where their organic bona fides break down.
Now, according to guidelines adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for a product like Whole Foods Market Organic Gummy Bears to bear the "USDA Organic" seal, it must be composed of at least 95 percent organic materials. That's a lot of sugar, corn syrup and grape juice. But it also means that 5 percent of the gummies may be made of "nonorganically produced agricultural ingredients which are not commercially available in organic form."
I don't know if you can get organic gelatin. But I do know this: The once-pastoral organic foods sector of the nation's agricultural market has morphed into a hulking $11 billion business made up of vast farms that hold their own against their industrial counterparts. Would it be too far a stretch, then, for one of the plants that slaughter organic beef to further segregate its organic tendons, ligaments and hides from the nonorganic end bits?
These sorts of split operations are common in the cattle business. Take Granite City's Gateway Beef: The beef cooperative's slaughterhouse operation is split between those Angus that are kosher and those that are not. Where does Gateway send its kosher beef? One place: Brach's Glatt Kosher Supermarket, an independently owned grocery in New York.
If a relatively small operation like Brach's Glatt can reach out with its specialized request and become Gateway's main customer, it stands to reason that a national chain like Whole Foods could easily support a processing plant that specialized in organic gelatin.
But the question remains: Why should they? Walking into a Whole Foods Market, the chain's trusting and well-heeled customers are no doubt soothed by the hundreds of "USDA Organic" seals that await them on the grocery's well-tended shelves. The seal's ability to conjure up images of good will, green politics and healthful living has become one of Whole Foods' most popular aliments, and by shopping at the store customers may not only feel better about themselves, but may also imagine they are becoming the people they'd like to be a valuable commodity, no doubt.
Organic Gummy Bears are no different: At $5.69 per pound, the chain must profit handsomely from the gummies' perceived salubrious qualities. Meanwhile, customers no doubt gather spiritual succor from their wholesome mien.
So sure, organic gummies may cost a little more, but doesn't our generation deserve it?