Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Forgotten Soda Pop Experience

Still inspired by the visit to the original KFC, and thirsty from a Saturday full of running errands, we stopped in at a recently remodeled A&W Restaurant in our area (We were surprised to learn that the original A&W is only an hour or so away in Lodi, CA . . . it started in 1919.). We were also pleasantly surprised to receive an ice-cold frosty mug rather than the standard plastic cup that we filled by ceremoniously pulling the root beer from the special tap.

In our food culture, the beverages collectively known as "soft drinks", "pop", "soda", or "coke"--generic term depending on your geographical location (above)--are not often celebrated and in fact are more often maligned. If you choose to drink soda, it makes the most sense to drink it in moderation. And it is interesting how a little functional pomp and circumstance completely alters the experience by simply engaging the senses.

The special tap produces a head of frothy, white foam easily seen through the glass against the dark contrast of the liquid. The heft of the mug telegraphs that something substantial is coming your way. The touch of the ice-cold glass on your fingertips and lips queues imminent refreshment. Your nose, now buried in the tipped glass, allows you to draw in all the aromas just as the creamy foam coats your lips and the beverage pours across the length of your tongue. Since there is no need for ice, there is no dilution in flavor over the entire experience. I'm glad A&W still has this figured out, because for some reason, we've taken soda and put it into an adult sippy cup -- where you cannot see, smell, or feel the beverage until it shoots out of the straw in the back of your throat. We had completely forgotten how pleasurable the soda pop experience could be and we savored it much more by drinking it from these frosty glasses.

We wonder if the proprietary recipe of "herbs, berries, barks, and berries" is sitting next to Col. Sanders' Original Recipe in the YUM! Brands (the restaurant operator) safe or in that of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (the beverage distributor)? I do have to say that the diet version is as tasty as the original, which is a similar what's been pulled off in the diet version of Dr. Pepper. Their flavor chemists certainly have earned their salaries.