Posted by: gdevi | January 12, 2014

Bait and Switch

There is a new game in town that the kids are playing, and it is a, well . . . interesting one. At least, I think it is new; I am the parent of a 13 year old. The game is called “Bean Boozled(TM).” My daughter bought it with the amazon gift card that she got for Christmas. It is sold by the Jelly Belly candy company.

Here is how you play it: there are 20 flavors in one packet of Bean Boozled. 10 of these flavors are flavors that human beings are used to tasting in their mouth, or “tasty, popular flavors.”  10 of these are “different” flavors that a human being would not even dream of tasting. The game? The catch? Both the “different” and “tasty and popular” jelly beans are color-coded the same. They are all mixed in together. Barf and Peach look exactly the same.

To play the game, you and your friends pick one jelly bean each from the box. It is all a mystery. It is like playing the runes. Did I pick the rune right side up or wrong side down? You have no idea if you picked the “different” flavor or the “tasty and popular” flavor. You will soon find out. The friend who got the “different” flavor would gag and spit and run to the bathroom sink. Ha ha ha!!!

Here are your options. Put your innocent hand trembling into the box now and pick one.

“Tasty, Popular” flavors     “Different” flavors         Color
Tutti Frutti                               Stinky Socks                      Multicolored (NEW!!!!)
Lime                                           Lawn Clippings               Lime green (New!!!!)
Buttered popcorn                   Rotten Egg                         Golden yellow
Berry Blue                                Toothpaste                       Blue
Peach                                        Barf                                    Peach/ Salmon color
Chocolate Pudding                 Canned Dog Food          Brown
Juicy Pear                                Booger                              Yellowish Green
Caramel Corn                          Moldy Cheese                  Speckled Yellow
Coconut                                   Baby Wipes                      White
Licorice                                   Skunk Spray                     Black

The box has this disclaimer: “Naturally and Artificially Flavored.” Really? Really? Come on, people. Which are the “natural” flavors? Booger? Barf? Canned Dog Food?

Since she got a 97% in the last geometry test, my daughter begged me and pleaded with me to play the Bean Boozled game with her yesterday. How about I download a 99 cent song for you, I asked her. No dice. I am an only child, she said. I already played this with my friends. And now I have no one else to play this with other than you and dad, she said. Dad won’t play this with me. You have to play this with me, please, she reasoned. Oh, okay, I said, but please remember that I am practically a vegetarian who loves fish and eggs. But rotten egg? No. I am very sensitive to taste. I am traumatized at the thought of several of these revolting flavors anywhere near my mouth, I warned her.

Saturday is a bad day to play this game, I soon found out. I first picked Booger. That was so funny. At my second turn, I picked Booger again. We just about died of laughter. Since we did not want to die of laughter yet, my daughter allowed me to put the Booger back in the box — violation of rules — and pick another one. I picked Coconut this time. It tasted like coconut. Bait and Switch.

Did I say Saturday was a bad day to play this game for me? The other flavors that I picked were Lawn Clippings, Toothpaste, Rotten Egg, Barf, Canned Dog Food, Moldy Cheese, Skunk Spray, Licorice, Tutti Frutti, and Stinky Socks. The Rotten Egg was asphyxiating. It even had that Hydrogen Sulfide smell. The worst one was Canned Dog Food. Good Heavens! You poor dogs, is this what we feed you everyday?

Science tells us that “taste aversion” and “taste avoidance” are “conditioned survival mechanisms” developed in our brains through millions of years of evolution. When we eat something, and it makes us sick, and brings us close to the verge of dying, BUT we survive, our brains remember that stimulus. So when we are next presented with the same taste, we get nauseous and repelled by that food. We don’t eat it, because our brain associates that food with illness, toxicity, and ultimately death. We develop an “aversion” for it.

Sometimes this aversion is irrational, and directed towards the wrong stimulus, as in a person who drank slightly spoiled milk in the morning, and later ate a perfectly fine hot dog in the afternoon, and threw up an hour later. The individual is likely to associate the vomiting with the hot dog, and develop an “aversion” for it rather than the spoiled milk because of the time delay.  We might even generalize an aversion. My daughter ate squid once and threw up. Now she does not eat scallops, mussels, sometimes, even shrimp, because they all share certain features.

When looked at in this light, the Bean Boozled game exploits and reinforces our evolution-built “taste aversions.” We have been conditioned to “barf” out disagreeable foods from our bodies. In fact, in some cases of food poisoning, vomiting has to be induced to get the toxic item out of your system. In the revolting moments of gustatorial tautology in this Bean Boozled game, we “barf” out all the things we are not meant to eat as a species — vomit, dog food, rotten egg, booger, moldy cheese, lawn clipping etc. We don’t want to eat baby wipes, because of what it wipes. We don’t want to eat skunk spray because the sense of taste and the sense of smell are intricately connected. Bad smell warns us off of rotten foods.

In some ways, this game takes children close, very close to tasting things that would really be dangerous for them in real life, such as vomit. Popular culture is littered with celebrities who died in their own vomit. This is why, Bean Boozled endures as a game, and fills children with such nauseating glee. Hey, we ate dog poop, and we survived!


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