Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Drinking. ginger ale.

When I was a child ginger ale was something you drank when you had a cold or the flu and got to spend the day at home in your parents' bed watching The Love Boat re-runs instead of going to school. It was sweet and faintly flavored with ginger and fizzy, pale gold in your glass. Ordinarily I would never be drawn to the green plastic bottles or aluminum cans, stamped with Canada Dry or Schweppes, skipping over to the other soft drinks. (Actually when I was a child the closest I usually got to soda were the flats of variously flavored sparkling water my mother would buy at Costco, lemon-lime or mixed berry or mandarin orange; for parties there would be the sparkling apple cider which came in dark green glass bottles that looked like champagne, and as we got older there would be the kind of root beer that came in brown glass bottles and looked like beer).

Much later - by now I was grown-up and had a job - I found that the pub not far from work brewed its own ginger ale. S. and I would go down there and beg them to sell us some to take back to work; they didn't have take-out cups and so they would give me the ginger beer in cardboard tubs meant for soup. On hot days or just busy days when the afternoon dragged on and we needed something to cheer us up I would run down to the pub, clamber up (ungracefully) onto a stool, ask the bartender for some ginger beer to go. Sometimes they would only charge me for one ginger beer, and I would tip lavishly (relatively speaking) in return, hurrying back to work, eager to pop the vented cardboard lid off that squat little container and take a long swallow of the icy-cold ginger ale. It was not as sweet as the bottled stuff, with a slow burn, the intense aroma of fresh ginger. We were crushed when they stopped making ginger beer (something about needing the taps for real beer, although why they felt the need for that sacrifice remains a mystery to me). Lunches of burgers and fries or fish and chips or shredded pork tacos seemed so sad without a tall, sweating glass of ginger ale at my side.

Time passed, and the quest for ginger ale continued. Out of nostalgia I still turn to the Schweppes/Canada Dry of my childhood during airplane flights; in supermarkets I try all the different brands that come in green glass bottles with brightly colored labels, hoping that my tastebuds will find some gingery nirvana. It hasn't happened yet. Some taste slightly medicinal, others are too syrupy sweet, still others make me sneeze with a burst of ginger as I try to drink it. I wonder if I could persuade my favorite pub to resume brewing their own ginger beer again, or if my quest will continue in vain. But I am sure I will find something, someday.

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