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i read this for the cheerwine

August 18, 2010

Article in today’s NY Times: “For Some Foods, You Just Had to Be There.”  I honestly did click on it just because the picture with the headline is of a woman thoroughly excited about some Cheerwine.

It’s a fun read, full of anecdotes about people’s food souvenirs.  It also tries to get at the question of why people will travel for a specific food in this age of the internet.  It is an interesting question, and for some things, it’s obvious — I can’t exactly get someone to ship me an Allen & Sons BBQ plate — but for others it’s less so.

In a lot of ways, it’s about the experience.  If I did by chance convince someone to freeze some Allen & Sons BBQ and ship it to me, it’s an objective fact that it wouldn’t be as good as it was fresh, but I think it also just wouldn’t taste as good to me unless it came out of a styrofoam container onto a paper plate at my parents’ house, or as it does sitting in a plastic deck chair in front of a red-checkered tablecloth in their dining room, drinking their syrupy-sweet tea.  I am also firmly convinced that a certain style of burrito tastes better in a falling-down old building, with Mexican oompa music playing.  This is something agreed upon by the folks they interviewed for their article, too.  On Cheerwine:

“The anticipation, it’s the entire experience,” she said. “It’s walking into the convenience mart, seeing the display, grabbing one and cracking it open and it being so cold and refreshing. It cannot be matched by opening up a mailbox.”

On things from a NYC bakery:

“My enjoyment of New York is taking the subway to go to the bakery. The guy who runs the bakery is a character. I enjoy all that when I buy it and bring it back.”

On NM chiles, he takes it a step further:

…he will not order them via the Internet. “The thought has never really crossed my mind because it is part of home,” he said of the chilies, “and to have some anonymous person deliver a piece of home isn’t the same.”

Indeed.  I am all in favor of non-anonymous people bringing pieces of home, however (in fact, I posted enthusiastically a few months back when a friend moved to town and brought a few 20-0z Cheerwines with him).  I once delivered a Cosmic Cantina burrito to Europe, too (from the proper Cosmic, mind you).  Amazingly, a foil-wrapped, cylindrical object got through customs without incident.

I definitely relate about it being a piece of home, as well.  I almost always have a mental list of places and things to eat while I’m home: pulled pork BBQ (preferably Allen & Son’s), Cheerwine, fried chicken from Bojangles, a giant veggie burrito from Cosmic, Carolina peaches if it’s summer…etc.  I rarely hit my entire list  — especially Cosmic, and now Bojangles after an unpleasant incident with some chicken supremes from the Bojangles in the Charlotte airport — but it’s fun to try.

I have to fess up, though, that I have looked into ordering Cheerwine from the internet, if only for the purposes of evangelizing here (initial responses have been, “it’s not gross like I expected,” and “tastes like Dr. Pepper kind of”).  Alas, it is prohibitively expensive.  Maybe one day I’ll break down, though, and get a 24-pack, along with a bunch of Blenheim ginger ale.  Until then (whenever “then” is, probably when I have a better-paying job), it’s all about the experience.

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