I would like to open this inaugural edition of my column by praising the luxury item for which it is named: the moist towelette. Strong, resilient, freshly scented, and laden with cleaning power, the moist towelette is one of the best things the fast food industry has introduced to the world. All hail the moist towelette! Hail its astonishing compact cleanliness! Truly one of the ultimate consumer items—and that is the focus of this column, folks: stuff you can consume, because hey, capitalism is FUN!
Speaking of fast food, this month I had the pleasure of sampling a new food product that comes with its own special edition moist towelette, the KFC Honey BBQ Tender Roast Chicken. I will admit to being a bit of a KFC freak, but even I must admit that this latest offering is not up to the usual standards of my dear Colonel. The BBQ sauce is about average but sufficiently strong to mask the juicy essence of chicken that the Colonel had previously revealed in the classic "Tender Roast" offering. Or maybe it was just a bad batch. Whatever.
The honey in the "Honey BBQ" is only barely evident—and as my dining companion noted, why is everyone jumping on the honey bandwagon these days? Honey BBQ, Honey Dijon, Oats 'n' Honey, Honey shampoo, yuppie honey double bock microbrews—why don't they just flat out say "Hey! We put more sugar in it!" I'd still buy it.
Why is bee by-product so much more elegant than refined cane product, anyway? Most people certainly prefer plants to stinging insects, in any case.
Maybe they are all subconsciously reacting the presence of so many "Dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians" buttons. Secretly, that button makes me picture a cornfield in Iowa, with a sultry voice from above intoning "If you baste it, they will come" and ranks of advancing, hungry-looking Amazons surrounding a BBQ pit doused in K.C. Masterpiece Honey Smoke BBQ sauce. (I'm not going to tell you which object in that image has been sauced, er, doused with sauce, either.)
Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, I think that that food advertisers should be required to have a minimum amount of honey in their product before they can put the word "honey" in the name. After all, if you don't have enough real chocolate in your product you have to call it "fudge" or "cocoa" or some other word in order to tip off the concerned chocoholic that this product will not satisfy their needs. Honey isn't like vermouth—it takes more than a glance at the bottle across the room to make a difference to the final taste. (Obviously, part of this is because the martini is not an ordinary beverage, but is in fact one of the most complex alchemical endeavours. But I will leave the martini rhapsodizing to Eric, who has gone further in that occult science than I, a mere Gibson girl. In one final note, however: unlike the trendy bars would have you believe, a "vodka martini," while enjoyable, is but fool's gold to the true martini.)
Speaking of lame bandwagon bait, has anyone seen any Josta™ in the last few months? For a while you couldn't go anywhere without that black cat staring down at you from some billboard. Now, it's hardly anywhere. What's up with that? Why the big deal over something that tastes like black cherry soda with cola added? The deal is Pepsi attempting to introduce a non-Amerikin taste, namely, guarana, to the cola drinking stiffs of Middle America.
What the heck is guarana, I hear you cry? It tastes kind of like black cherries. It's touted as healthful and exotic—a potion from the Amazon jungle and the latest Hip New Beverage. It is found not only in Josta but also in every other rave/new age/smart/energy drink available and that ever-popular supplement and alleged aphrodisiac "Herbal Ecstasy". It's really rather tasty. But what is it?
It is a berry from the Amazon rain forest. According to the Guarana
Growers Association of America (http://radon.gas.uug.arizona.edu/~eap/guarana.html),
"Natives in the Amazon Basin carry long rods of hardened Guarana powder
and grate it whenever they need a substitute for food. They can travel
for two to three days if they have this rod to nibble on." It has
more than twice the caffeine concentration of coffee. (Woohoo!)
It's incredibly popular in Brazil, where guarana snacks and drinks are
commonplace. Its fans claim that it wakes you up like coffee, but doesn't
give you jitters. And some just like the taste.
In a particularly fun note, "Professor Pan" (of http://www.charm.net/~profpan/) says that Guarana is a key component in Male-X, a virility drug rumored to be manufactured by government foreign intelligence agencies. We're talking the "Intelligence Community" (http://www.odci.gov/ic/) here, folks, a group of 13 government agencies and organizations—headed by the CIA—that carry out the intelligence activities of the United States Government. (Drink guarana and be a pawn of the Men in Black! You know you want to!)
So, what about Josta, the item that originally inspired my research into this storied herb? It isn't totally off the market, but it has become hard to find. The reaction on soc.culture.brazil has largely been to term it an "imitation guarana drink." I'll just end this column with the reaction of one canny American consumer, Paul:
"I can tell you straight away that, whereas I know guarana, I admire guarana, and guarana is a friend of mine, Josta is no guarana. Sure, it includes extracts from the guarana plant, but as far as the actual beverages are concerned, there's just no comparison. (Note: the word "guarana" refers to both the plant and the beverage.) Y'see, real guarana (the beverage) has a light, refreshingly fruity flavor, which is just perfect for a hot summer day. Josta, on the other hand, tastes almost as bad as cough syrup. Well, maybe not that bad, but it's the only point of comparison that I can come up with at the moment, so what the hell. Anyway, Josta is sickly sweet, and as such, it is sure to appeal to the sugar-addicted Americans to whom PepsiCo is flogging the stuff, whereas Brazilians will just keep drinking the actual guarana, and good on 'em, I say.
As for me, I keep my refrigerator stocked with plenty o' Cock 'n' Bull Ginger Beer. Yum! I've tried lots of other ginger beers, but C&B is by far the best. You'll probably find it in the mixers section of the grocery store—a lot of people use it in their alcoholic drinks—but IMHO, this is a crime, as straight C&B ginger beer, after having been brought down to a nice, chilly 35 degrees or so, is one of the most delightful liquid substances that I've ever poured down my throat."
And as for me, if you can't get Cock 'n' Bull, Stewart's Spicy Ginger
Beer may be an acceptable alternative. In fact, Stewart's Key Lime Soda
may be the focus of next issue's consumer rant. Until then, go enjoy