One of my colleagues has just called in. He's been at a meeting which provided a packed lunch. I don't know what meetings he gets invited to, but at mine there are coin slots on the windows, let alone free water. Apparently convinced that the rest of us are starving to death over our computers, he has presented me with a spare packed lunch.
In the bag is a cheese sandwich, a cake and a bottle of Pepsi.
Well, I've never tasted Pepsi. I'm no Coke devotee either: I think the last time I tried one was when I was eight. It was vile and I've never had any desire to go back. So basically the only fizzy drink I've consumed since 1983 has been champagne. And now alcohol's banned on campus, I can no longer swig that during lectures. My family, on the other hand, swigged fizzy brown stuff at ever opportunity, except for my mum. Despite both parents being doctors, I don't recall any caution about the stuff. I didn't reject it for health reasons: I just found the overwhelming sweetness completely disgusting.
So in the spirit of Martha Payne and her wonderful blog Never Seconds, and a little bit by I've Never Seen Star Wars (I've seen twenty minutes here and there of the original trilogy, and was forced to see The Phantom Menace by friends, which convinced me that George Lucas despises you all), I'm going to try this brown carbonated water and review it for you.
So. First impression. Bottle: extruded plastic. No aesthetic qualities, and destined to poison the environment for some time to come. After it rattles around in my office for a couple of years. Colour scheme: red white and blue roundel is clearly meant to inspire subliminal American patriotism and – accidentally – perhaps British patriotism too. As I have an Irish passport, I'm pretty resistant. Oh, and because I'm not a capitalist and don't believe that consuming Pepsi (or Coke) is living the American dream. The lower-case typeface is airy, rounded and clearly influenced by urls and Apple. Personally, I think it's cowardice: like The Guardian becoming theguardian and therefore announcing to the world that it's a secondary product. But I digress. Basically: I feel patronised. I know Pepsi isn't cool and friendly. It's a corporate monster which makes money by persuading people to get fat and sick on its products.
Talking of which: the ingredients. In order of content: Carbonated Water; Sugar; Colour (Caramel E150d); Phosphoric Acid, Flavourings (including Caffeine). The links are to analyses of what these things are, and how much there is in the drink. The good news is that the Carbonated Water is pretty harmless, though quite ridiculous. Next: the sugar. Well, it seems that there are 13 teaspoons of this stuff in the bottle. Rather naughtily, the information on the bottle gives the amounts per 100ml and per 250ml. In very small print. Odd choices of quantity, given that the bottle itself is 500ml. Almost as though they hope anyone bothered to check the amounts won't notice the sleight of hand. The chart on the front lists the most important quantities per '250ml serving': though I'd guarantee that very few people indeed drink just half the bottle of fizzy stuff. OOH! No fat, Saturates (er, fat) or Salt! It must be healthy. Except for the 53 grams of sugar and the 10% of daily recommended calories.
The caramel seems to be harmless enough: carcinogenic in very large quantities but relatively piffling here. The Phosphoric Acid is what gives the drink its tang. But it's so bitter that it apparently needs the 13 teaspoons of sugar (sorry, but that number is obscene. I don't put sugar on anything and only have it in the house for guests who like a teaspoon of it in coffee) just to make it palatable. And then there's the caffeine, which although it's listed as a flavouring, is actually undetectable in scientific taste tests. It is, in fact, there as a mildly addictive stimulant to make you want more. The utter scum.
I've actually given up caffeine. I used to drink coffee in enormous amounts. A full stove-top espresso machine for breakfast, several trips to the CorpoCup bar at work, shaking, tired and weird by lunchtime. So this is going to reawaken a lot of bad memories.
Right. Enough displacement activity. Time to try the damned stuff. Good job I've been for a swim today. I'll open the cap. Helpful arrows to show which way it turns, which seems particularly moronic. It will only turn one way.
Pleasing sound of carbon dioxide escaping into the atmosphere. That'll show those polar bears who's boss.
Bouquet? Sugary with an undertone of acid. The Phosphoric Acid, that'll be. The stuff also used to remove rust and which reduces bone density. A hint of lambs gambolling across meadows. I'm getting hot-air balloons and starfish. Chignons and cherished books.
Not really. It just smells of sugar and acid.
And finally: emptying this stuff into my innocent, unsullied mouth.
Instant fizz on the tongue, teeth and upper palate. A huge rush of sweetness with the dense acid undertow. There is no 'body', as the wine-tasters say. After a microsecond, only the sweetness and the fizzing sensation are left. The 'finish' is revolting. Really, really unpleasant. The best I can say is that it's over quickly. Except that it isn't, of course: as the foul pollutant courses through my intestines, it induces a bout of belching of a most ill-mannered sort. My teeth, too, feel like they've been given a faux-fur coating.
What do people see in this stuff? Are you all just hooked on the caffeine? Or is it the marketing? I just don't get it at all. Beer, that I get. But brown sugary water with an addictive substance mixed in? No.
Will I be repeating this foray into Convenient Carbonated Sodas? Ask me again in another 30 years. Perhaps the memory will have faded. Actually, I'll be 68 then, so all my memories will have faded.