The 2 Artificial Cherry Snacks Andrew Zimmern Can't Resist

It turns out that connoisseur of bizarre foods Andrew Zimmern has a palate for mundane junk food as well. Processed food and lab-engineered flavor would be the last thing you'd expect Zimmern to get on board with. After all, he's said to Larry King that "processed foods are killing us" (via YouTube). However, the former Travel Channel host recently admitted he breaks his resolve for two cherry-flavored treats in particular.

Artificial cherry flavoring would seemingly be frowned upon by highbrow critics. For one, it doesn't really taste like cherries. Secondly, it's composed of dubious, likely unhealthy chemicals. A good deal of research, including a 2020 study, has affirmed chemicals in cherry flavoring to be carcinogenic. But how did this cherry-named flavoring come into existence and get us hooked?

The origins of the flavor lie in esters, chemical compounds derived from other manufacturing processes that were combined to emulate wild cherry flavor. The flavoring of the popular wild cherries of the past was far sweeter than today's supermarket cherries. On Science Friday, Nadia Berenstein deemed this an "heirloom flavor," similar to artificial grape flavoring, which is more closely based on Concord grapes than modern seedless grapes.

Since its conception, cherry flavor has become a staple in candies and sodas alike, as ubiquitous (and as sweet) as cherry pie. Zimmern's favorite forms of this addicting vice are both relatable and surprising for the worldly foodie.

They are sweet, guilty pleasures

In a recent YouTube AMA, chef Andrew Zimmern surprised viewers with his answer as to whether he'd ever had anything cherry-flavored that was "any good" (via YouTube). First, he gushed over one of his favorite cherry-flavored snacks: Van Leeuwen's black cherry chip ice cream flavor. This cherry-flavored ice cream has cherry chunks and chocolate chips in it. With a classic flavor combination and famously creamy texture, it's easy to understand why Zimmern calls it a personal favorite.

His second cherry treat is a far more sinful and artificial one: a cherry slushy. That's right: move aside blue raspberry, it turns out Zimmern's a cherry guy. He says that he knows it's an artificial, chemical flavor, but he just can't help himself. The next logical question is how often he indulges in this treat. Does it include Sonic Slushes? Does he grab a free Slurpee on National 7-Eleven Day?

He was quite specific about the occasion: "When I go to the movies, I want popcorn, and a cherry slushy. That doesn't make me a bad human being!" he adds. No, it doesn't, Andrew. If anything, it just makes you more human. This engineered flavor has hung around for so long because people like it. After all, no matter how unhealthy they are, some things just taste good.