Sunday, August 3, 2008

It's the real thing. Really!

I’m not a big drinker of sodas, or “drinks” as they’re called in the south. I do like to have a real Coke occasionally—maybe six times a year. When I was a kid, if my mom let me pick out a soft drink, I went for the odd-ball choices: cream soda, root beer, or orange Fanta. When we would visit my grandparents in Dallas, my grandma would buy big bottles of their local grocery store brand soda, and she’d get the neon fruit flavors, like strawberry and grape. I loved that stuff. (For a very brief period, which she later denied vociferously, my grandma put strawberry soda on her cereal instead of milk! It was probably an early sign of dementia, but as a twelve year old, I thought it was marvelous). All through high school, when I ate at McDonalds (as we were wont to do in our suburban wasteland), I gulped down their non-carbonated orange drink.

Nowadays, I enjoy a Coca-Cola as a treat. And Pepsi won’t do (despite residing in North Carolina). My favorite mode of Coke delivery is the 8 oz. glass bottles that DH’s grandparents used to have in regular stock, ice cold on their back porch. These days, if you buy a six-pack of little bottles, you’re paying for nostalgia. My second choice is a fountain coke, slightly flat and a little watered-down by the ice. For about two years in my late teens, I joined the crowd and drank diet sodas. I distinctly remember my aunt panicking when they banned saccharine; she filled her guest room with cases of TAB. It is true that Fresca tasted better when it had that bitter chemical aftertaste.

I object to the habitual drinking of soda for all the common sense reasons: sodas lack nutritional value, and they are dehydrating rather than hydrating, etc. I object to the drinking of diet soda because I believe we need to be accountable for what we consume. I won’t eat fat substitutes either. I like the real thing, thank you very much. Now studies suggest that diet sodas may be making our nation heavier; they appear to be associated with metabolic syndrome. Meanwhile, Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma has made us all aware of the rampant use of high fructose corn syrup in all processed foods (to wit, corn chips with legs). Regular sodas are, of course, 100% corn syrup.

I only recently became aware that Cokes made in Mexico still use cane sugar. So today I went to the Tienda La Potosina on Rosemary Street, and I bought a couple of Cokes with azucar on the label. And then I picked up a six-pack of little Coca-Colas—Americano-style. Time for a taste-test!

I knew my ds would be on board for a Coca-cola tasting. We managed for about 8 years to keep Ds soda-free. And since he’s picky, he wasn’t much interested in trying them. (Believe it or not, my in-laws, who swig soda like water, actively try to get both kids to drink the stuff. I think DS's initial reluctance struck them as just one more way our family's strange). Around age 9, though, DS got hooked on Cokes. He wants them every time we eat out. And, in all honesty, I’m not very strict with the Cokes when we’re at a restaurant because I secretly believe that a little caffeine helps him focus better. While we were in Italy, the rule seemed to be that whenever the adults had wine, he could have a Coke. So he had Cokes constantly. And they cost more than the wine.

Anyway, back to the blind taste test. At approximately 2:00 this afternoon, DH and DS sampled 2 oz. of Coke-Mexico and Coke-HFCS. And the verdict? DS preferred the Mexican coke, but he thought it was American. DH and I also preferred the Mexican Coke. It’s definitely flatter, but it lacks the odd acidic aftertaste of American Coke.

Word is, if you want to buy sugar cane cokes in your neighborhood grocery store, wait until Passover. Kosher cokes are the real thing!

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