Food is one of the fundamental parts of any functioning society. That’s why I love to write about it so much. It forms the connection between us as people, it brings us closer together. It’s a shared experience that also happens to sustain us physically.
Where would we be without this? What a living nightmare it would be. Could you imagine eating food that does not replenish and nourish you, but actively attempts to harm you?
This is the story of Rowntree’s Fruit Gums, one of the worst ‘foods’ I have ever eaten.
I was going to a local grocery store chain. This one is notable to me for currently being the cheapest place for groceries in our area, despite being the biggest and most… I dunno, expensive-looking. You know what I mean? Sometimes you can just walk into a grocery store and know that if they can afford the fancy noisy floor tiles, everything’s gonna cost way too much. But when eggs were $5 at Aldi, this was the only place brave enough to sell them for $4.
So I had dropped in mainly to get the essentials (eggs). In order to get to the dairy section all the way at the back, we usually take a detour through the import foods aisle.
I’ve always enjoyed the imports at these kinds of middle-end grocery stores. It’s a fun excuse to spend way too much on frequently mediocre candy – or, once in a blue moon, you get something really good that’s still way too expensive for what it is.
“Look! They have ‘Fruit Gums’,” Paula had exclaimed, showing me a packet of some sort of fruit gummy.
“Are you thinking of wine gums?” I asked.
This seemed to trip her for a bit, but she proceeded: “Yeah, but they probably changed them to not be wine anymore, you know. For the kids.”
This made absolutely no sense to me, but the packaging was similar-looking enough, and they were right next to the Violet Crumble, another import foodstuff I had often seen next to the wine gums at Cub Foods. So, sure, I let her get the Fruit Gums. I was way more excited about the Violet Crumble, anyway.
I’ve had wine gums before, when I was a kid. They were alright! They came in different packaging than I was used to, and they had a harder texture than gummi bears, and the flavors were a little less flavor-y. That’s about all I remember, but it was a cool novelty, and I was intrigued by the opportunity to try them again.
So we took them home, and at some point I had decided we’d try them while I was doing my weekly drawing stream. That is why this next photo was taken on my drawing tablet.
As for why I took it with my camera’s flash on, rendering it a photograph suitable only for Wikipedia: I dunno. I didn’t put any effort into any of these photos because I had no idea what was about to happen to me.
The next few minutes are a haze for me, because at some point I realized… these were not wine gums. The embarrassment and existential horror began to consume me as I was live on Twitch. I have been struggling with my agoraphobia recently, and this was just about the worst event I could imagine – I had been inadvertently, accidentally tricked into presenting one chewy fruit-flavored gummy product as if it were another chewy fruit-flavored gummy product.
Still, there was nothing to do but eat them. So I took a bite into one… and was instantly met with one of the worst sensory experiences I have ever had.
I suppose this is the opportunity to mention that I have been struggling with my wisdom teeth for, well, a while now. I really should have gotten them removed as soon as they started becoming a problem, but I didn’t learn that until they had long since rooted into my skull. The pain became truly unbearable last year, and I only managed to schedule an appointment for a consultation back in November, at which point they scheduled me for February. Then they canceled that appointment, claiming that they’d call back with a new date. I waited weeks, only to have to call in and get it rescheduled for mid-March… a week after me writing this article, while I am actively (even as I am writing this winding paragraph) suffering from some of the worst pain of my life.
It would be faster, cheaper, and easier if I removed my wisdom teeth with these things. I have thought about it.
And oh my God, they are bad. The orange flavor tastes like floor cleaner. The lemon also tastes like floor cleaner. So does the lime.
The strawberry is just OK. I had saved the blackcurrant (the only Wine Gum flavor I could remember, because blackcurrant is novel to me since we don’t really get it in America) for last, thinking it’d be a shoe-in for the best flavor, but it was also just OK and that was an unimaginable disappointment.
These… are bad. I have been really trying to think optimistically, anything to counteract the whirlwind of things that have gone wrong in my pathetic little life recently – in any other situation, I would desperately be thinking “well, I bet someone likes these, I should be nice, and grateful I have fun things at all” – but these are just bad. I do not like them. Even the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about them in order to write this article is too much.
Unfortunately, the real curse of the Fruit Gums came to me the next day.
Not to overshare, but I have been absolutely suffering from a case of Motherfucking Depression. In case it wasn’t obvious. And, as it turns out, Fruit Gums are the absolute worst possible thing to expose to a depressed person.
Here’s what happened: I woke up. My eyes were crusty and I was dehydrated. The bag of Fruit Gums was on my desk, and I was starving, and too upset and exhausted to make myself food. So I ate a handful of Fruit Gums.
Then I felt substantially worse. So I went back to bed, slept for two hours, woke up again, and ate another handful of Fruit Gums because I was still too tired to make breakfast.
This is when I realized these things were under the effect of an active curse. They have a psychological effect, one where they convince you that they’re almost edible. If you eat them slower, maybe they’ll taste better. Maybe a certain combination of flavors will hit the spot just right. Maybe you’re just being too harsh on them.
And I spent way too much time reading about them. That was when I learned Rowntree doesn’t even make wine gums. Never has. These have nothing to do with wine gums, not even conceptually.
Except, what even are wine gums? I guess I was a stupid kid because I assumed they must have had maybe an alcohol-themed flavor, but looking them up now, they’re also just generic fruit flavors… with the names of alcohol printed on them, for some reason. And people don’t even know what the flavors are and they fight over them!
It just gets worse. I tried looking up the brand of wine gums I had tried as a kid, only to find that this specific brand seems to exist solely to be sold in import aisles across America. They advertise their product with words like ‘historical’, suggesting to me that they were made solely to make Americans say “Wine gums? I’ve heard of those!”
This is way too much stress for my poor little brain. Food should not cause this level of psychological damage. It should be a source of unity and kindness in this miserable world.
Here, here’s the punchline. Check out the back of the bag.
THIS IS NOT A TREAT. This is not a treat. It’s not. This is not a treat. You have not treated me, Rowntree. You have punished me. This is a punishment food and I am suffering.
In closing, here’s some quotes from my journey:
i have discovered a few things about Rowntrees Fruit Gums. one, they are literally the worst thing to eat after a depression nap. two, they are infinitely spawning, the bag does not get any smaller
they might put melatonin in these
i think this might be one of the fantasy foods that exists on furaffinity
rowntrees fruit gum might actually be a measure of time
if you take every molecule in a fruit gum and lay them out in a line it wraps around the earth infinitely tight