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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Briar's Premium Lemon Cream

We at the Lab hope that all of you have had a splendid beginning of 2011.
Nazgul (nee Wyvern, nee(2) JAT) and the LAT and I have had a good time so far discussing the nature of the calendar: why we number this year 2011, what other calendar systems exist, and how they have changed (the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar was especially interesting; did you know ten days vanished from our count of time?)

In any case, we're going to attempt to keep up with our review schedule a little more this year. There are several driving forces behind this resolution: first, to Quaff is a deeply enjoyable experience, and exploring Weirdness is my calling. Second, if I don't work through some of the backlog of soda in the Lab vault*, the Kibbitzer-in-Chief will probably start the Weird Soda Reviewer Internal Organ Review**.

So today we'll take something I've never seen before. I came across this at a nameless, immemorial southern California store, lurking on a shelf, clustered with others of its kind. It...called to me.

I walked back and forth along the endless aisles, moving through the store as if to escape a clinging film of beverage ennui. As my wanderings became more frantic, the names and logos began to reverberate in my brain. Commonplace logos trembled and shivered behind my eyelids, resonating at the frequency of mass marketing. I felt my mind and spirit congealing like cooling bacon grease, losing their effervescence as I began to despair at finding novelty in an increasingly stale world. The sky, leaden and heavy with rain, seemed to mock me. "Water," it shrieked, "only water shall I offer you! Water with no flavor, no texture, water to dissolve the fibers of your interest and quench the flame of your esprit de quaff!"

And then a glimmer of gold, like a lost doubloon in a murky sea of hamster burpings. From a distant shelf it whispered, beckoned, summoned. "You've never had me...I know what you seek...come...come to me..."

I found it there, under that sky which promised only the endless deluge of gray and the reflection of headlights on a sodden street.

What was this strange cylinder which promised a relief from the monotony, the tedium? What did the three stars on its label portend? Whence its claim of "Premium"? With curiosity, the long-absent sparrow of my psyche, beginning to flutter, I handled the bottle gently. I sought answers, questing for a grain of truth in the bushel of lies and misdirection which was all I had found in the world. Surely, somewhere on this bottle I could find the key to the persistent questions which had kept me awake on all those nights when nothing could soothe me. How anyone could know what endless gulfs I had contemplated, when those hours lay between me and the false solace of sunrise, I would never know. And yet, somehow, I felt as thoug here I might uncover a clue, like the missing Lego from the Beta-1 Command Base I had as a naive child, to lead me to...salvation?
No, there would be no salvation for one such as I. But solace, and calmness to face my inevitable end.

I turned the bottle carefully. Perhaps there would be a list of ingredients, a catalogue of the components of the mixture (if there can be an enumeration of the elements of tedium, oppression, and release). But there was no label on the back. There would be no ational breakdown, no scientific atomization of this beverage; it wad to be understood holisticlly, in a single experience, or not at all. I, who had spent my years in a futile effort to bring a rational, analytical mind to grips with a universe which seemed determined to confound and confuse such approaches, felt the absence of ingredients as a blow to my very core. Was this bottle conforming the essentially incomprehensibility of the world and the futility of life?

As my fingers skidded fruitlessly over the glass of the enclosure, failing to find secure purchase on this increasingly labored symbolic representation of the utter meaninglessness of existence, I also noticed that there were no bottle bumps. Even those cryptically coded signals, linking the cages imprisoning sodas (or perhaps protecting them) to the lace of their creation, were absent. This bottle stood untethered to any reference, a single, solipsistic figure. It had no beginning, no tie to any parent or God. It was, like me, eternally alone. As I gazed at it, my mind weighed the possibilities suggested by this bottle. Did it suggest that each of us, as a separate being with no possible permanent or meaningful connection to past or future, was inherently doomed to an existence without effect? That each of us was a point both fixed and unfixed, with no reference and no way of measuring its progress from here to there, or then to now?

The scream built within me, but I pressed it down with habits of self repression gained after an infinity of pre-dawn mornings of horror and loneliness, staring into the ashes of a dead fire in which I had burned love letters I had written to myself to extend the illusion of love and acceptance which was all which separated me from utter annihilation.

The bottle bore the words "Est. 1937" like a sigil of doom. Was this soda mocking me, whose relative youth could not allow him to have seen such a fabled year? I, who was born decades after that date, yet who had lived countless millenia of existential grief, I held the bottle in trembling fingers. I would not be mocked by this false carbonated prophet! I raised the bottle over my head, ready to dash it to the floor, shattering it and my dreams of redemption in one blow.
"Begone, fiend! Begone, tempter! You shall beguile me NO MORE!"

"You have to pay for that."
The words, spoken in a simple, unadorned voice, pierced my mind. All of existence froze, the cyclopean millstone of fate which so relentlessly worked to grind the grain of my ambition into the powdery flour of uselessness, to be baked into the bread of futility and spread with the mayonnaise of boredom came to a shuddering halt.

I had to pay for it.


It was not the bottle alone which held the truth. The bottle...and the voice. The voice, which transubstantiated the bottle, brought my life--a careening, futile conglomeration of sharp angles and contempt--into sudden perfect alignment. The Rubik's Cube of my spirit, which had never had more than five squares of the same color on any side, suddenly became a cube of unified, brilliant hues, each face a pure, Platonic aspect of emotion and thought.

I had to pay for it.

I had to pay for ALL of it.

And I would.

I left the store and bought a puppy.

Figure 1: Damnation or salvation. I was so overcome by existential despair and the futility of life that I forgot to take the picture until we had consumed most of the soda. Note the apples of ennui.

Where and when: I honestly don't remember.
Color: A very hazy clear, much like lemonade. Maybe slightly yellowish, but pretty much whitish and slightly translucent.
Scent: Sweet--very sweet. The lemon is tart, but almost syrupy--it smells like lemon bar cookies.
Nazgul: "Actually, it smells more like lemon honey."
The LAT concurs.
Taste: If you were to make a soda out of Girl Scout Lemon Cooler cookies, it would taste something like this. It's strong on the sweet and creamy part, very sweet. Has a nice coolness, and the lemon is tart but mild.
The first thing that comes to mind is store-bought lemon meringue pie, except without the crust or meringue. The cream is a bit vanilla-y, but in the sweet vanilla way (like french vanilla ice cream, rather than vanilla extract). The lemon begins as a cool, slightly tart, quite pleasant lemony flavor on top of the sweetness, then develops a little more tartness. It's still nice.
Carbonation is unusually light, which gives it a slightly watery feeling, but I don't mind it. It's actually probably better that way--it's so sweet that it would be too syrupy without it.

I like it pretty well, actually, although not quite as much as Nazgul and the LAT, who are commenting on how good it is.
LAT: "Lemon cream honey. That's probably why it's called lemon cream. I like it."
NAzgul: "Lemon honey!"

Imagine a flavor consisting of lemon bar and lemon cooler cookies, add a bit of french vanilla ice cream, and just a dash of lemonade, and you'll be there.

Quaff rating: 3.0. A little nicer than average. Quite pleasant. Does not crush the soul under the vast mountainous burden of existence.
Cough rating: 1.0. Really a bit too sweet, and the aftertaste (which only now begins to creep up) is sour and a bit bitter.

* That being under the bench at the kitchen table, plus a corner of the garage.
** Starting with the spleen.

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