Friday, January 06, 2012

Maraschino Cherries

We decided to get out of here for a while last night and drove to Ruby's Oceanside on the pier. Usually when we walk there we're bent over backwards by the wind, but last night it was calm and warm.  Fishermen were enjoying the balmy weather, kicked back in lawn chairs with two lines going and musical accompaniment. Two lines is the maximum - one of the many rules you have to obey. No gaffing mussels or overhead casting either.

The beach end of the pier was busy. A yoga class was in progress, a couple of bonfires were burning, teenagers slouched around or whizzed by on their skateboards.  What fabulous weather - January 5th and the teenagers were all in shorts. As you walk out on the pier the scene changes to joggers, romantic couples strolling, families with toddlers and baby carriages. We saw a couple bent down speaking carefully to their toddler, who had a few tears on his cheeks, his fingers in his mouth and his little hand clutching his father's jeans. The father looked over at us and chuckled. He said, "We told him not to swallow. I guess we should have told him first what swallowing was."

By the time you get to the end of the pier, it's all fishermen. Even the air starts to smell fishy.

Ruby's hamburgers are usually serviceable - not great, but the location makes up for the weaknesses. They have new, improved beef patties. Our cute waitress started running down her suggested beverage list and when she hit Cherry Coke, Richard bit. He hasn't had one for maybe 40 years and decided it was time. He took a sip and asked me to taste it. Nudging the neon red cherry out of the way, I slurped up a bit and tasted mostly almonds. This was not a surprise as artificial cherry flavor contains benzaldehyde which component they share with almonds. The original lovely Italian maraschino liqueur was made by fermenting cherries with the pits which added the almond note to the flavor.

Maraschino cherries originated in Italy of course and were a beautiful thing - cherries marinated in the Maraschino liqueur. I tasted one once in a gelato shop. They were loved world-wide and exported everywhere. Then came prohibition in the Unites States and out went liquor-soaked anything.

What to do? Bartenders and soda jerks still needed their cherry garnish. Enter the mad food scientists in Oregon. They invented a non-alcoholic version. First they soaked the cherry in a salt brine to remove it's natural color and flavoring. Then they were pitted and soaked in a sweetener for a month. Finally they were dipped in artificial coloring to render a brilliant red color. As if the florid red ones aren't bad enough you see a green version floating in a drink from time to time. The FDA definition of the cherries sums it up: "The term "Maraschino Cherries" is regarded as the common or usual name of an article consisting of cherries which have been dyed red, impregnated with sugar and packed in a sugar syrup flavored with oil of bitter almonds or a similar flavor." The only part they leave out is the mandatory eradication of any sort of cherry flavor.

Despite my rambling on about these cherries Richard managed to suppress the natural eye-rolling instinct,  tune his husband-ears to the "yes, dear" setting and enjoy his drink. 



  1. Their black cherry sundays are my favorite.

  2. Sounds great...I'll try it next time. No artificial cherry flavor?

  3. Tasted like it had that old cherry verité.