As a child, I loved fruit cocktail. It was one of those treat foods - the kind I might get in a restaurant or when mom decided a meal needed a little something extra. My favorite part of the fruit cocktail was the little half grape dyed red so it could stand in for a Maraschino cherry. I think I was an adult before I realized it was a grape and not a cherry at all. No matter, it was all good.
Fruit cocktail comes in many quality variations. More expensive brands feature evenly cut fruit and the cherry is often a real cherry. Cheaper brands substitute the dyed grape. The cheapest brands have oddly shaped cuts of fruit in a watery syrup.
It is my guess that fruit cocktail is one of those products that uses up bits left from other more desirable things, like canned whole or half peaches, pears, pineapple rings etc. Rather than toss them they mix them together and label them "fruit cocktail" thus getting another product from leftovers that might otherwise be wasted. The cheaper (read "commercial" or "institutional") brands don't bother with the dyed grape. Their customers are not expecting nor likely interested in a Maraschino cherry.
My husband had knee replacement surgery 10 days ago and is now in an inpatient place for daily physical and occupational therapy. I visit him daily, usually at meal times. Fruit cocktail has been on his meal tray several times. Today, he ordered a tray for me and we each had "meat loaf", mashed "potatoes", yellow wax beans and, you guessed it, fruit cocktail (minus cherry or dyed grape). I ate my entire meal and puzzled over the fruit cocktail, what it was about it that made it so special to me as a child.
I guess it was just because it was something different - something we did not have every day. And that little half grape, dyed red, bravely doing its best to make one believe it was a Maraschino cherry - well you gotta admire anything or anyone with that kind of nerve, that's all I have to say.
You can open a can of fruit cocktail if you want an old fashioned treat. Better yet, dice some canned or fresh fruit - peaches, pears, pineapple, even oranges, apples, melon and banana. Combine a handful of fresh mint with equal parts lemon, orange and/or lime juice in the blender, about a tablespoon or two of each, and whirl until combined. Pour this dressing over the fruit chunks, toss well and chill until serving.
Quotable Quotes; in the category My God, Man, Just What Do You Think This Is?
"It's a cuppa tea, not a bloody fruit salad!" My husband's toy soldier friend Len Taylor, whom we visited at his home in Wales, upon being asked by me for a slice of lemon for my tea.