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A Grapple a Day...Won't do Much for You

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Let me tell you a little bit about the Grapple.

The Grapple is part apple, part grape. More precisely, to quote the container my four Grapples came in, the Grapple "Looks like an apple. Tastes like a grape."™

In other words, it is the miracle that the countless legions of people out there who love the way grapes taste but can't bear to look at them have been waiting for.

Or the Grapple would be, if these people existed, and if it weren't so disgusting.

My introduction at the supermarket to the Grapple came, as I imagine it does for most people, with an initial wave of excitement. "An apple and a grape combined! We humans are so clever! Oh, I love being one!"

There is something fantastic and joyous about hybrids -- two species that should have no business being together combining to produce something beautiful and odd. As Napoleon Dynamite says of the liger: "It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a lion and a tiger mixed . . . bred for its skills in magic."

Simply put, hybrids are exciting. Just listen to M.B. Crane and E. Marks' excitement as they described, in Nature magazine in 1952, their pear-apple hybrid:

"The occurrence of apomixis in the Pomoideæ, and the high frequency of diploid seedlings, 23 out of 39, in a family of pears we raised from crossing the diploid variety Fertility with the triploid variety Beurre Diel, suggested that they may have been apomictically, or in part apomictically, reproduced."

Can you feel it?

Or maybe I'm overstating things. Maybe I'm still on a high from visiting the "Gregor Mendel: Planting the Seeds of Genetics" exhibit at the Field Museum. On the same day I met and took home the Grapple no less.

Poor Mendel -- he paved the way for the field of genetics but never received credit in his lifetime. Maybe if he had done his crossbreeding experiments on something a bit flashier than peas. If Mendel had worked with ligers, perhaps it'd be his face on T-shirts at Urban Outfitters.

But back to the Grapple. There are two things you should know. First, it's pronounced "Grape-L." The Grapple makers make sure to tell you that on the container. Technically, there's a long vowel symbol over the "a." But, still, it's always a bad sign when a manufacturer has to instruct you on how to say its product.

The second, more damning thing is that the Grapple isn't really a hybrid. It's barely even a fruit. The Grapple's ingredients are: apples and natural and artificial grape flavor. In other words, essentially all that the Grapple manufacturer has done is infused an innocent apple with Grape Crush.

I probably should have realized immediately that an apple-grape hybrid was impossible. But after growing up with only three varieties of apple available to me and now not understanding the apple section of the supermarket, that fruit seems capable of anything.

The first bite into a Grapple actually isn't bad. In fact, it tastes like an apple. But I defy you to finish one. Pretty soon, the artificial sweetness is overwhelming. As is the smell, and, eventually, everything around it, too. My wife's salad last night smelled like Grapple. My cubicle has been Grappled. I am now part man, part Grapple.

Perhaps the Grapple signifies the end of the line for new food products. Do we need Cheddar Triscuits, or Twix Ice Cream or Eggo Cereal? Maybe we should take some time off to relax and just feel good about the edible crap we've already invented.

Then again, it's possible the Grapple's been with us ever since the serpent convinced Eve to take a bite.

(Mark Bazer can be reached at mebazer@gmail.com.)

(C) 2007 MARK BAZER, DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.