the cola conflict

let's talk drinks again. only this time, let's talk non-alcoholic.

like many of you out there, i stopped drinking soda awhile ago.

sure, i had fond memories of reading the (now totally not p.c.) indian in the cupboard while drinking too much soda and munching on crab chips. (remember the scene after the figurine comes to life and the little boy gives him soda to drink and the figurine calls it fire-water? yeah, good times.)

but there does come a time when you get older and you realize sitting around all day, reading books about toys that magically come to life (and build houses and gardens! okay, i will admit, i love miniatures...) doesn't really work anymore (unless you're a parent, and now there are movies for that). not only is there less and less time for reading, but you also have to make some serious food choices.

for the most part for me, it was because of the hfc and the fake sweeteners. i figured that stuff was hidden away in enough ingredients and in restaurant meals, it was better to cut it out where i knew i could.

but that doesn't mean when i come across products (like trader joe's vintage cola above) i don't have some questions.

have i stopped drinking sodas simply because of the hfc? if so, then it's perfectly okay for me to drink tj's vintage cola. they use real sugar. or, at least, the label simply says "sugar."

or have i cut out sodas entirely because of the high calorie count and the ridiculous amount of sugar? (seriously, drinking soda is like punching yourself in the face with sweetness.) if it's because of that, then tj's cola doesn't come close to moderate sugar or sane calories. but if it is about sugar, then how do i justify making my own simple syrup. that's pure sugar and, when used liberally, can pack the same punch.

then there's the question of the ingredients list. when i stopped drinking soda, part of it was because i couldn't tell what the hell was in it. sure, the ingredients were listed, but only chemists or nutritionists could tell what the ingredients actually were. tj's does a better job ...until the end of the list. i have an unnatural fear of the descriptor "natural flavors." something about that phrase is unnatural. it's like saying something is normal... how do you know what's normal and what's natural? but then again, i was an english and an anthropology major. terminology gets to me.

before anyone asks, i don't have any problem with carbonation. while i stopped drinking soda, i did not stop drinking beer. (just cut it back a bit.) but let's not get distracted here; today is about non-alcoholic drinks. mostly i just drink coffee and water these days, along with some juices and lovely, lovely rice milk.

did i cut out soda for ethical or cultural reason? i don't think so. but maybe subconsciously i was. but do subconscious ethical efforts count? i'm not sure — especially if i'm not sure what exactly those efforts were meant to be.

i tasted the vintage cola and the blueberry last night. and while they weren't bad, they were very sweet. i actually felt a little sick from how sweet the vintage cola was. (my mother, though, mentioned that the peppery flavor and the real sugar brought her back to her childhood.) the sodas were also pretty expensive — a dollar a bottle. (look at what i do for you people — shelling out money for first mangosteens and now sugary sodas ... all so i can taste them a report back. it's a hard life.) i don't know how likely i'd be to get a sugar soda again. more likely than a hfc soda or an aspartame soda or a whatever weird sweetener soda, i guess. but that's not really an answer or a decision.

where's the line? where do you stand with sodas — and why?