Sunday, August 11, 2013

Peanuts in Coca-Cola

So many of you wrote to tell me how much you enjoyed my blog article about peanuts last week and I thank you. I talked about the three major ways to enjoy peanuts, roasted, candied and boiled. But a lot of you, especially those of you from the south, told me that I missed the fourth and probably the most important way to enjoy peanuts; dumping a bag of salty “Toms Peanuts” fresh from the vending machine into a cold bottle of Coca-Cola or Pepsi. I can tell you now that omission was not by accident; it gives me a chance to devote an entire article to this delicacy all by itself.

The practice of mixing peanuts and cola came so early in my life that I can’t remember ever not knowing about the magic of merging these seemingly unmixable foods. With apologies to the front line fighters in the Coca-Cola / Pepsi Cola war, it didn’t matter to me which form of cola was used. My Mom used to buy both depending on which had the better price that week. So I was a switch hitter in my youth and didn’t join the Pepsi lovers until when I had my first job in radio and found that Pepsi worked better as a lubricant for my vocal chords than Coca-Cola.

I suppose in many ways the practice of eating peanuts with cola was the first widespread “sweet and salty” experience for most Americans. I’ve read somewhere that the concept of putting peanuts into the bottle rose out of the need to create a “one handed” package for the kids that were always on the go. In my memory, there were very few times that I put peanuts into the bottle when I was not on the go. There was no way to ride a bike down the street with peanuts in one hand and a bottle of cola in the other. But combined it was easy.

There are some downsides to the all American peanuts in the bottle delivery system. The biggest one for me is that the cola washes the salt off the peanuts and the result was a more bland eating experience. Mind you, there were times when I preferred the less salty treat. The other downside is the possibility of getting a peanut stuck in your throat as you take a swig and hit a bump in the road with your bicycle simultaneously. That resulted in an emergency “all brakes” tire squealing stop so you could cough up the offending peanut. I suppose some day, they may outlaw the peanut in a bottle experience in the name of safety, but I hope that doesn’t happen in my lifetime. I will take the responsibility for my own safety in this case.

Quite naturally, we experimented with other fruits and nuts, but nothing made the grade like peanuts and cola. The closest thing for me was chocolate covered peanuts, but the chocolate often melted off the peanuts. That reminds me that in addition to plain cola back in the day there were also cherry, vanilla and chocolate colas. These were best when mixed up fresh by the soda jerk at the lunch counter in the local pharmacy. Because these were served in glasses instead of bottles, the addition of peanuts to the mix was not as glamorous as the fresh in the bottle variety. Later in life, the cola manufacturers offered bottled cherry colas but I never thought they tasted as good as the kind you got in that tall glass complete with the straw and the maraschino cherry placed strategically on top of the ice with the stem leaning over the edge of the glass.

Today, there is a disturbing rift in the soft drink universe. Kids today are dropping Mentos into large bottles of Mountain Dew then capping them quickly to create a “glow in the dark” light. If they shake the bottle it is possible to build up enough internal pressure to rupture the plastic bottle with a resounding bang. If they leave the cap off, the result is an eruption of a foamy mixture all over the place. For some reason, this has zero appeal to me. I think that is because if I made a mess like that, I had to clean it up.

So on this warm sunny summer afternoon, I will sit back and watch the puffy white clouds drift by in the clear blue tropical sky and think about maybe running down to the convenience store for a bottle of cola and a bag of peanuts. Oh MY!

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