The Coke Habit

We had to move out early because Daniel decided to take a last minute whirlwind “work” trip to California to sun himself (literally, this time). So, while we were supposed to be out of the apartment on May 1st, the date was stress-inducing-ly bumped to April 28th. And there were good and bad sides to that change: The good news was it allowed us to move everything out of the house and take a couple extra days to clean… the bad news was that Daniel conveniently scheduled his vacation to coincide with the cleaning days. So, while he was out in Cali, drinking Piña Coladas with little umbrellas in them, I spent the last two days on my hands and knees in a bucket of bleach scraping the old, dried animal carcasses out of the freezer.

And thats fine. Because, when faced with years of sticky, black buildup on an old bathtub that wont come off until you’ve started crying and clawing at it with your fingernails, you really get to test your skills and grow as a person. That’s what I’ve been telling myself when I feel the urge to dump him over this.

Daniel’s sabbatical also gave me a last minute opportunity to splurge on all things processed, artificial and romantic comedy-themed that I most likely will be forbidden from for the next 6 months. Since my coke (or rather, all soda) habit has been the most scrutinized trait as of late, I decided to go in with an “all hands on deck pop splurge” in the best way. Starting with an intensive 3-day soda pairing for every meal.

Ive recently been lectured about giving up pop altogether for the duration of our “Real Food” road trip. Yes, it is really bad for you — it rots your teeth and has been compared to drinking battery acid, and (for further encouragement) Ive just begun reading The Coke Machine, which gives the dirty details behind the Coca-Cola Corporation as a whole. But Im sure soda has some wonderful, heartwarming qualities as well. So until May 9th, in order to make an educated decision, Ive pledged to spend some quality time with my dear old friend: Coke.

With the suggested resignation of all things soda in a few days, I would be giving up my famed food pairing guidelines. But for one last hurrah, I’ve detailed my 3 simple rules of thumb below as a gift to you. Obviously, there is an infinite array of possibilities… and these are just my opinions based on years of research.

Soda + Food Pairing Guidelines:

1. Balance
When considering a soda, it’s best to pick a drink that balances the natural flavors of the food. Spicy, flavorful food should be paired with a spicy, flavorful soda. For example, Dr. Pepper has 23 unique flavors (eat that, wine!)… which some experts might say, can be matched with a number of dishes. But the tricky part of Dr. Pepper, is that within all it’s amazing essences of berry, high acidity and gentle mouth feel, there is a disgusting amount of sweetness. Sweet drink + sweet food makes you want to vomit. But spicy + sweet creates a party in your mouth. So, when Im eating tacos, or spicy indian food, I party with Dr. Pepper. For those carnivores out there, Dr. Pepper also pairs well with big, beef dishes and creamy pastas. Other shout outs include: Dr. Browns Black Cherry Soda, Cherry Coke.

2. Acidity
Acidic dishes like pasta with tomato sauce pair well with a soda that is also high in acidity. And when it comes to acidity, Coca-cola shuts it down. The slight sweetness of the soda really adds an element of brilliance to the meal. However, this pop’s high level of carbonation can tend to overpower certain dishes (mild seafood or vegetable-based broths). So if you open the can and let the soda aerate for a few minutes, it will create a beautiful soft, aperitif with a lot of complexity.

3. Palate Cleansing
Sodas contain unnatural flavors, which, paired with the carbonation, can have an astringent mouthfeel. This does wonders to cleanse your palate of the fats from your food, leaving you clear and ready to fully enjoy the next bite.

Although I favor all sodas as expert palate cleansers, Sprite is a delicate accompaniment to many dishes, while not overpowering with too much flavor. Plus, the citrusy, developed taste of Sprite (or 7up, for that matter) creates a beautiful, fruity compliment for most meals. I tend to pair Sprite with American and French cheeses, while I prefer Ginger Ale for Italian and Dutch cheeses, or when Im nauseated.