My introduction to soda pop began in my earliest years. Growing up in Buckhead we all knew there was one beverage, and one beverage only, that could soothe even the most fevered brow. Coca-Cola. Some folks called it Coke, some Co-Cola. Whatever you called it, it was considered medicine in our family to be used only for the treatment of disease, and never for recreational use.

Now there were certainly lots of other pop drinks around us in those days. I remember when Fresca was introduced my mom got hooked on that for a little while. Tab was another one that had a strange affiliation with teachers. Without exception every teacher I knew in the early 1970s in Atlanta drank massive amounts of Tab. For a while I liked Nehi grape soda and of course in the hot Atlanta summers we guzzled as much Kool-Aid as was humanly possible.

But Coca-Cola was another breed altogether. Its uses were myriad and legendary. Pour in some salted peanuts and you’ve got yourself a complete and balanced meal. My brother taught me that when your car’s windshield got too hazy it could be remedied by slowly pouring Coke over it. Need to loosen rusty bolts or neutralize skunk odor? Coke is your best friend.

My dad in his nutritional wisdom tried to keep Coke out of our house. He considered it too potent for daily use. The only time I saw it in our refrigerator was when we were sick, he then bowed to the wisdom of my mother and allowed the brown fluid to be freely administered until our fever broke.

Of course, what is denied is desired. 

When we were out and about, we drank as much Coke as we could get our hands on. Everyone knows the best dosing strategy involves drinking it directly from an ice-cold glass bottle. You don’t want to pour it in a glass with ice, that is only for those pathetic individuals who are not able to handle the full experience. The only exception might be when we were at one of the local drug stores, maybe Tuxedo Pharmacy or Wender & Roberts. We would order the exotic mix known as a “cherry coke.” As a one-off from pure Coke, an occasional cherry coke is acceptable, but there is a delicate balance in the Coke and cherry flavor and therefore should only be left up to the mastery of an accomplished soda jerk. Luckily, Buckhead harbored a few of these experts.

So now, my brothers and sisters, it is time to get real. The final truth must be revealed. As was said by Jesus, “He who had ears, let him hear.”

There are two categories of soda pop. There is Coke and then there is all the rest. Don’t talk to me about New Coke or Diet Coke or Coke Zero. They are but false prophets and you will be led astray. Do not speak about aluminum cans or plastic bottles as appropriate vessels. You should know better than that. If you don’t, then a bit of re-education is necessary. 

The one thing you must know is that the only pause that refreshes is the proper formulation within the protection of a glass bottle. Most Coke now sold in the US contains high-fructose corn syrup. This was not the sweetener we encountered in our childhood. This adulteration has gone unnoticed by many, but it is truly a great charade on the American consumer. The nefarious switch from cane sugar to corn syrup in Coke is considered by many as the Crime of the Century. In our childhood the sweetness was added by way of real cane sugar. Thank goodness it is possible that with a little due diligence one can find the holy grail of original Coke. 

South of the border, down Mexico way, there are a few factories still cranking out Coke with cane sugar. Going by the name of Mexican Coke, it can be found with a little work. Do not your taste buds be deceived. Demand that your store stock Coke that contains those lovely white crystals.

Enough said. Here are my directives to you. Follow them without exception.

Now all the experts try and tell us that a heavy reliance on traditional Coke is probably not the best foundation for a healthy diet. I’m not going to argue with them. But there are times, extreme times and dire circumstances when only a Coke will do. My recommendation is to keep at least a couple of cases of Mexican Coke hidden in a safe place in your home. A dark and cool place. You just never know what can happen in this crazy old world. If the economy collapses, if Armageddon arrives, if our country is invaded, we know that money will become worthless. 

Only gold and Coke will hold its value and be used to barter for the necessities of life. 

And you can’t drink gold.

Jim Tate
Author, Buckhead Tales