The menace of "red drift"

"Red drift" might have had a political connotation some decades ago, but now it refers to a problem with apple varieties.

This week's New Yorker has an article on apple breeding called "Crunch" (not free online, but I still read paper magazines), centered around the breeding of a new apple variety with the unfortunately overengineered name SweeTango.

I like articles about the day-by-day labors and decisions that go to create and then change everyday objects we take for granted, so I liked this one.

The most revealing, and disturbing, thing was the market-force-created ailment suffered by popular apple varieties, called "red drift" by the apple grower Dennis Courtier.  Natural variations in an apple variety will create some that are redder.  Retailers prefer them because they think customers like red apples better, and they hide bruises.  Breeders go for more of the red ones. So flavor goes down as red goes up, sapping flavor from Gala as it did from Red Delicious, and now, apparently, going after Honeycrisp.

The article is about trying to come with a kind of appellation contrôlée for apples (the author, John Seabrook, does not use this term, by the way), so that buyers can rely on a common flavor profile--a clear identity for the apple.  More and more, there will be such defined entities in mindspace, occupying defined parameters of crispness, sweetness, redness, shape, smell, place of origin, name of grower, connection to sense of simplicity or grace. "This red and no redder" will be the battle cry.

In the modern world, if you think something is simple, you must be missing something.