I should have known it was a mistake to allow my hopes to rise to such lofty heights, but this had all of the ingredients to be a truly wondrous, momentous occasion. It would be a day and an experience long remembered, for the most deserving and legitimate of reasons.
I mean, I love vanilla. Worship the stuff. If I could, I’d spend every waking moment sniffing one of those little brown bottles of vanilla extract. I hate the bad rap vanilla gets, as if it's not even an actual flavor, like if something is boring and mundane, it gets labeled as being "vanilla." What? You’re going to try and convince me that chocolate is better? Strawberry? Sheep...all of you.
And then you're going to add orange? I mean, come on? Orange and vanilla, together, as part of some long-overdue concoction that society has somehow lived without since the days of Fred and Wilma and Barney and Betty, when a Brontosaurus Burger was considered haute cuisine? Tell me where to camp out for days waiting to be the first to try this, and I'm loading up my tent and other necessities and I'm going wherever I need to go and pounding some stakes into the ground.
I grew up around pop. Don't counter that it's properly referred to as "soda,” please...I’m strolling down memory lane and trying to tell a story here.
Both my parents spent much of their professional working careers employed by the Coca-Cola company in Crookston. When I was young, my friends used to think I was so lucky to be around all that glorious, sugary, fizzy goodness...until they'd come to my house and see nothing but awful, vile, chemically-laden diet pops like Tab and Diet Coke, the caffeine-free variety, stocked in the fridge and in the pantry closet.
Remember Tab? Before Diet Coke came along, Tab was basically the diet pop standard in all the land, with that hideous pink label. In the decades since, the goal of those who have crafted the formulas that go into every diet pop that's made it to market has been to make it taste as much like a pop containing sugar/corn syrup as possible, while minimizing as much as possible that unmistakable, cringe-inducing diet-pop aftertaste.
But Tab? It was like the goal was to make it taste as disagreeable as possible, like nothing more than an obvious, in-your-face diet pop not just in its aftertaste, but in its “beforetaste” and “duringtaste” as well.
I did get to drink sugar pop from time to time as a kid. At the Coke plant, they had a thing called "breakage." It consisted of individual cans or six-packs or 12-packs or cases of pop that had maybe fallen off a two-wheeler pushed by a delivery guy or tumbled out of a delivery truck, or somehow got lodged in a pop machine and had been damaged as a result. Many of the cans were dented, many were sticky because cans near them had exploded or otherwise burst open or a sprung a leak. Many times as a kid I accompanied my dad to the office on weekends or evenings when he had to do a little work, and it was my predominant hope as I tried to occupy my time while waiting for him to finish that we'd head over to the breakage area and bring home some syrupy-sweet deliciousness, like Mello-Yello in a deformed can, or maybe some Dr. Pepper or Barqs Root Beer.
I know I could lose a few pounds and I'm probably not in ideal shape when it comes to fitness, but one thing I think I have in my favor when it comes to my health as I inch closer and closer to the age of 50 is that I drink very little pop, diet or otherwise. We don't buy it at the grocery store. I don't grab a pop if we stop to get gas on a road trip. I don't get pop in restaurants. I mostly just drink water.
But when I saw the commercial for new Orange Vanilla Coke, I was beyond intrigued. Our youngest son saw the same commercial and sought me out because he knew I’d be stoked by this new pop revelation.
A few days later in the grocery store, my hope was I’d be able to buy a single bottle or can so I could sample it. But all they had was 12-packs, and I couldn’t resist.
Upon returning home, I placed a can in the freezer until, in my estimation, it had reached that magical temperature where it’s about half a degree from turning slushy, but is still entirely in liquid form. I popped the tab and took a healthy guzzle.
Tragically, it was nothing special. It was entirely forgetful. I even mixed some with ice and a shot of Grey Goose Vodka one evening while hosting friends at our house, and what a waste of respectable vodka. They have orange-flavored Grey Goose, a friend mentioned, and vanilla, too.
Hold my beer...