One of my favorite words is saudade. It’s Portuguese, and is one of those spectacular words that doesn’t really have a translatable equivalent because it’s so loaded. Roughly, it’s a longing for someone or something that has passed. Missing something that you have lost, knowing that even if it returns, it wouldn’t be the same. A tragic nostalgia.
This complex sense of loss describes perfectly my relationship with Coke Zero.
Coke Zero was my jam for years. I used to drink two, sometime three cans a day. There was something so satisfying in the sharp carbonation, the mouth-watering acidity. How perfectly it went with food. I long held the opinion that chocolate cake and Coke Zero was the ultimate food and beverage combination.
Then I heard diet pop was bad for you. At first, I didn’t stop–my CZ habit was strong and fierce. And slowly, after doing more research about whole, plant-based diets, I knew I had to wean myself off of the stuff.
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It wasn’t easy–mostly because my family is really into diet pop. We grew up on it, and it is always around, to this very day. My immediate family and I are most likely already damaged beyond any kind of repair. Never the less, I was successful in quitting. Every once in a while though, every few weeks or so, I would have a Coke Zero and it would be glorious.
Until a few weeks ago. That fateful moment went a little like this: I spotted the soda in the kitchen while making some soup for dinner. It called to me. “Raquel,” it whispered. “It’s been awhile.”
Yes, Coke Zero, it certainly has. It sounded quite good to me at the time, but I waited til after I ate to see if the craving was still there. It was.
I like to give into cravings. Then I don’t feel like I’m being denied. This is why I eat a square of dark chocolate every day.
The can felt cool and heavy in my hands. I cracked open the top and took a swing, anticipating the familiar and delicious wash of satisfaction the first sip would bring. But it didn’t come.
It tasted cloyingly sweet, with a weird aftertaste. I sipped again. Still nothing. In fact, a vague dislike began to materialize. The moments that followed were a blur of aversion, confusion, then panic. I could feel this coveted, illicit experience slipping through my fingers. I no longer enjoyed Coke Zero.
I couldn’t even dump the can right away. It stayed untouched on the counter until I could no longer hear its metallic fizzing. As I watched the caramel liquid slosh into the sink drain, I knew I needed to find another fix.
I was inspired by a trip to the my produce market, per usual. For some reason, strawberries are 59 cents a pound, which is on par with summer prices. They’re probably forced to grow under laboratory conditions, but 59 cents. C’mon. (Buying non-local, out-of-season produce is my next hurdle to overcome.)
So I came up with a recipe for soda pop using other tropical fruits I have no business of eating this time of year. I cut up the strawberries, half a mango and two kiwi fruits. Into a saucepan they went, and began looking like this:
Heated over a low flame, they turned soft and syrupy and ended up like this:
Though it doesn’t look like much at this point, it smells incredible. I put the concoction into my Vitamix until it was smooth, then poured a bit of the syrup into a glass and topped with sparkling water.
Tropi-Pop: A Soda Story
Half a mango
Chop up the fruit and place it in a saucepan. Heat over a low flame until fruit is soft and syrupy. Let the mixture cool and blend it until smooth. Place 2 tablespoons of the syrup into a glass and top with soda. Garnish with fruit, leaves, or booze. Enjoy!