Sunday, 4 September 2011

Mork food …

Saturday morning we had bagels and coffee for breakfast. Nothing unusual in that except that the bagels were distinctly … purple.
They were supposed to be blueberry bagels and for some reason, the bakery had used fruit puree  rather than berries themselves, and the result was that the bagels had come out distinctly purple, looking what J described as Mork food, incidentally revealing that her youth was not all Russian novels, renaissance art and Tudor history as she would sometimes have you believe.
And that got me thinking. While purple fruit is common, such as plums and damsons, purple food is not. The only other time recently I’ve had purple food was at Cabbages and Condoms in Bangkok where we had dumplings dyed with onion juice to make them come out purple.
As primates we’re quite good at detecting red fruit as it’s probably ripe, and given we evolved in equatorial forests, where trees fruit randomly, being able to see in colour was useful. Having stereo vision was also useful as it probably meant we were less likely to fall out of trees reaching for the fruit.
The same argument probably holds for fruit bats being able to see  in colour and have stereo vision.
But purple is a colour that can be difficult to see, even though lots of fruits are purple/black such as plums, blackcurrants, blackberries and mulberries.
But the interesting thing is that these are all temperate zone fruit, ie fruit from regions where primates did not live. But of course birds lived there, and birds can see different and more colours from us, which would lead me to guess that these fruits appear more brightly coloured to birds than they do to us.
And at a stretch, I guess this could explain why purple food is uncommon. We have a natural affinity to red and yellow food as tropical fruits when ripe are often red and yellow, but not to purple food, as while we have learned to enjoy purple fruits, we don’t have that association between purple and food buried way back in our evolutionary past.

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