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  • Writer's pictureDavid Boylan

The perfect combination of soda and food

Updated: May 23, 2019

Coke has been running a great campaign over the past couple years highlighting the natural combination of Coke with food which is so obvious I’m surprised it took them so long to put that out there. Pepsi soon followed with a similar effort. Soda, or “pop” as we call it with the hint of a nasally twinge in

Boylan Soda paired with Pork Egg Foo Young and Chow Fun Rice Noodles from Chinatown in Lecuadia – photo David Boylan
Boylan Soda paired with Pork Egg Foo Young and Chow Fun Rice Noodles from Chinatown in Lecuadia – photo David Boylan

Michigan as been a preferred food pairing mine for since I can remember. The "pop" people are mainly concentrated in the Midwest and Northwest, while the "soda" speakers live in the Northeast, Southwest and pockets in between. Most Southerners tend to call any soft drink a “Coke," no matter what brand they're drinking.

I’m going with pop for the balance of this column, as that’s still what I tend to refer to it as. No offense to all you soda folks.

Don’t get me wrong, there are food and wine pairings that make me very happy, but on many of those occasions, I’d be fine with a glass of sugar and bubbles of the cola or ginger ale variety. And what is it about being on a plane that compels me to order a ginger ale every single time? It’s almost instinctual and I wonder if it’s just me or is this a common request in that environment? Sure, there have been times when going out with the dudes for a burger and a beer was a good thing, but I preferred the beers before the burger and on many occasions make the switch to pop as soon as the food hits.

The obvious pairings are pizza, burgers, wings, ribs, po-boys, and Chinese food like the fabulous Pork Egg Foo Young and Chow Fun Rice Noodles from Chinatown in Lecuadia pictured above. I could very easily pick a minimum of one dish from every restaurant I’ve ever been to that I’d happily have a pop with.

The next topic for discussion is almost a played out debate revolving around cane sugar (sucrose) versus high fructose corn syrup. Bottom line is they are both sugar in different forms and too much of either of them is not a good thing. The difference in how the body handles the two sugars has led to the belief that HFCS is much worse for you than regular sugar. That said, several studies have clearly shown that HFCS and sucrose have indistinguishable metabolic effects and the same health consequences. The reality is, neither type of sugar is good for you.

In my opinion cane sugar pop simply tastes better but I’ve had very satisfying experiences with the high fructose variety especially in fountain form while nursing a hangover, which is another fine time for a pop.

Mexican Coke started the resurgence in cane sugar and it’s been prevalent in the San Diego area for quite some time. Ironically, Mexican Coke is only exported from Mexico these days as their tax on soda has led Coke to the high fructose variety in Mexico. Almost every brand has jumped on the cane sugar bandwagon and some brands, like Boylan Soda, have been around since 1891. That’s when a pharmacist named William Boylan created an elixir in his Paterson, New Jersey, apothecary. He named the serum, a derivative of birch trees, Boylan’s Birch, and began selling individual cups from a barrel in the back of a wagon. As cane sugar soda goes, Boylan’s is among my favorite. The Ginger Ale is a great fit with food and the Root Beer is as good as I’ve had. Plus it’s just such a great name! You may have to search a bit for it, but Bev-Mo carries it locally. Other brands on the cane sugar bandwagon include Jones Soda, Boots, Fanta, Sprite, Pepsi’s 1893, and Hansen’s.

Diet soda is another option and not one that I’m a fan of. The debate over its perceived healthy benefits and dangers has been going on for years. I’d rather keep my sugar soda consumption in check and enjoy the carbonated sugary rush of enjoyment that comes with it. If it’s just bubbles I’m craving, I go to one of the many sparkling waters on the market such as La Croix. They have actually helped me cut way back on my soda and sugar consumption and work nicely with food as well.

Soda or pop, however you want to say it, is an indulgence that should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle and diet. Those are my Lick the Plate words of wisdom for this week.

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