Have you heard of Soda Free Sundays yet? It’s a community-wide challenge to skip soda and other sugar-loaded beverages one day per week, now through early June. I quite literally can’t remember the last time I drank soda, but I took the pledge anyway and am passing the message on. Whether you drink soda or not, I hope you’ll sign on and spread the word.
Why pledge to go soda-free once a week if I’m already soda-free? There are a few reasons.
1. Heightened awareness.
I generally notice the extensive presence of soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks, but somehow signing on to Soda Free Sundays made these drinks stand out in my visual field more than ever. I notice ironic or ironically-placed beverage advertising, like this sign over a small grocery in Seattle:
We should notice this stuff. Soda vending machines with giant Coke ads. Energy drinks next to school supplies. Soda at youth athletic events. None of this is coincidental. If you haven’t read Mike Jacobson’s article on Coke’s 125th anniversary yet, you should. He quotes from from Coca-Cola’s chilling ten-year vision statement: “We are creating new strategies that are winning over a massive new generation of teens to drive growth of Trademark Coca-Cola.” Soda is a significant contributor to obesity and diabetes, and adolescents drink a lot of soda. Is this really something Coke should brag about?
2. Reinforcing and spreading the message.
It’s one thing to say “I don’t want to drink sodas because they’re bad for me,” and quite another to look at sugar-loaded beverages as a community problem, a public health problem, rather than just an individual issue. Think about cigarettes and tobacco companies a second. There was a stretch of time between the realization that cigarettes are unsafe and the point by which society began limiting tobacco companies’ power and advertising abilities. Individual decisions are important, but signing on to a larger effort means signing on to the goal that we should reduce detrimental beverages as a society, and that we would like to start looking at the beverage industry the same way we look at tobacco companies.
3. An excuse to make up tasty and/or bizarre carbonated beverages.
Who needs a can of soda? Here’s the fun part. Once you discover that you can add carbonated water/seltzer to virtually any other beverage or flavor, the ideas start popping up. Here are a few:
Hands down, this was my favorite, and it was seasonal and so easy. In a pot, place (per serving) half a stalk of chopped rhubarb and a handful of frozen or ripe berries. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down slightly, and cook for 10-15 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a glass. Cool, via refrigerator or freezer. Pour in carbonated water and stir. A great color and delicious.
Vanilla sort-of egg cream
Being originally from New York, I understand the recipe I’m about to give is blasphemous. A drink called an “egg cream” as we know it has neither egg nor cream. It is traditionally made from syrup (chocolate or vanilla, and most of which contains high fructose corn syrup these days), milk, and seltzer. No egg, no cream.
So… I broke most of those rules. (Note: this one includes raw egg.) I beat the yolk of a clean, farm-fresh pasture egg in the bottom of a glass with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then I added a quarter cup of half-and-half (Organic Valley is selling pasture-sourced half-and-half!). Finally, I added seltzer and stirred. It was incredibly delicious.
I also tried, for the hell of it, a soda made from the juice of half a blood orange, a teaspoon of rosewater, and a handful of basil. It was unusual, but I liked it.
Make up your own! Try lemon and/or lime beverages, ripe fruit as it comes into season (or you take from your freezer), cucumber, and spices.