Jul 26, 2010
Vulture Crash: Culture Out of Context
Exhibit 1: Mystery Gum (Product Name Unknown)
I bought this chewing gum at one of my local shops. It’s made by Lotte, which I believe is a Korean company. I could look into it further, but as I’ve said before, what kind of blog would this be if I did research?
The gum is intriguing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its colorful packaging. Even though I’m at a total loss to read the wrapper or to determine its contents, my initial reaction is to fall back on the universal law of food packaging–namely, that the product will taste like whatever is pictured on the package (hence, a bottle of ketchup boasts a shiny tomato). By that logic, this gum should taste like one of three things: jingle bells, anthropomorphic cats, or gold anthropomorphic cats. I just had to try it.
Turning over the package, I see one more flavor possibility: wide-eyed little boys! Curiouser and curiouser. Cracking open the seal reveals five fruit-scented sticks, each in a uniquely illustrated sleeve.
I know it’s just a pack of gum, but since I can’t read a word of it, the whole thing unfolds for me like a tiny work of art. “When everyday objects are divorced from their major signifiers, they are rendered more mysterious, and the gap is narrowed between ordinary and extraordinary,” says the former Lit major in the back of my brain. “Shut up, nerd!” says the part that knows better. Sometimes it’s preferable to enjoy things for what they are and not to over-analyze them.
Each inner wrapper presents a new riddle. Is the cat not only a cannibal but also, judging from that pouch, a marsupial, too? Why can’t the puzzled little boy tell the difference between a gold ring and an inner tube? How did koala-cat fly his miniature spaceship into the cop’s tea-cup, while also flying a full-size version into the naked girl’s bathtub? And did I mention Go Go Dog?!? Clearly, this is some pretty inspired packaging. But the real question is, how does it taste?
Unwrapping a stick, I find that the gum itself is a pale shade of blue—robin’s egg blue, Tiffany-box blue. Otherwise, it looks (and tastes) a little like red Fruit Stripe. It has an odd combination of bubble-gum and floral notes, with a fructose sweetness I’m unable to place. Blue raspberry? Snozzberry? Most likely the latter.
The finish is more gum than flowers, and the flavor, much like Fruit Stripe’s, dissipates in record time. Just two minutes after it hits my teeth, the stick has gone from fresh to flat, totally devoid of taste. However, it still blows a pretty mean bubble.
In the final analysis, I don’t think I’ll be buying this gum again (unless it’s to collect the colorful inner sleeves). Sadly, it failed to deliver on its promise of golden, cat-like flavors. And what it did deliver disappointed my mouth. Like most products, it’s all looks and no substance. But at least, as looks go, it’s a perfect 10.
Reporting live from the field,