When You Badly Need Something Bad

From my younger days, I still remember watching how an animated character was courting his girlfriend on a Saturday morning cartoon show.  He had composed a love song —

I love you, Stella.

I think you’re swella.

Sure glad you’re not a fella.

Terrible!  No wonder he was still single!  Then it dawned on me.  Somebody had to write that!

So how do you intentionally write a bad song?  (For the record, I did ask a songwriter about that once, and did not get a satisfactory answer.)

I was reminded of this recently when I was listening to the NPR radio program The Splendid Table.  Yes, it’s about cooking and food.  At the end of the program, they discussed the Jelly Belly candy company.  Jelly Belly manufactures, according to their website, “the world’s #1 gourmet jelly bean, made in over 50 amazing flavors.”  (If memory serves, this was President Ronald Reagan’s favorite candy.)  But that wasn’t the topic of conversation.

Harry Potter fans will recall “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans”; Jelly Belly makes the real-world version, as well as other Harry Potter-inspired candies, like Chocolate Frogs.  The company also produces a line called BeanBoozled.  If you have never heard of these jelly beans, they really do contain every flavor, from the usually delights to the realistic taste of Dead Fish, Rotten Egg, Ear Wax, and other obnoxious offerings.

Why people would want to buy candy that tastes like Stinky Socks, etc, in the first place is a different topic.  The question today is how does one go about inventing the flavor of, say, Cat Pee?

Many times the trick is to start with the object whose taste you’re trying to duplicate, like having people bring in their dirty socks, then putting them in a bag to let them “ferment.”  Chemists try to find the source of their scent by putting an extract into a gas chromatograph to examine the chemical makeup.  The flavor maker then works with the resulting list of chemicals to reproduce the flavor.

Or sometimes the solution is a promising flavor that just didn’t turn out.  Once the flavor makers tried to develop a Pizza, but they didn’t quite get it.  Later someone realized the failed Pizza flavor was perfect for the Vomit bean.

Such a product line leads to an interesting management problem — How to keep the smells from the obnoxious flavors from interfering with normal production?  One way is to produce these flavors later, like on second shift. But that’s not always possible when you’re making tons of candy.  So there is a small room segregated from the rest of the manufacturing floor where most of these beans are made.

So if you’ve been beset with a failure in life, take heart — there really is a market for “bad” products!

The Splendid Table podcast is “Program 674: Hanging Out with Mike Solomonov,” from December 28, 2018; the jelly bean segment starts at about minute 45 ( https://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444592/the-splendid-table ).   There is an article entitled “Jelly Belly Explains the Process of Creating Uniquely-Flavored Jelly Beans” by Cassidee Moser at  https://www.ign.com/articles/2015/04/02/jelly-belly-explains-the-process-of-creating-uniquely-flavored-jelly-beans.  And if you’d like to actually try these products, the Jelly Belly website is https://www.jellybelly.com/ . The picture is from the Jelly Belly website.

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