Saturday, August 27, 2005

Red Kool-Aid

You how you think about a food or flavor that will flash you back to a previous time in your life and bring back those tastes? That's kinda wha's called an olfactory sense. I've one of those goin' right now, and it is a major jones

It all started with an innocent joke from Kevin and a remix of a cover from an Captain America comic from 1969, featuring The Hulk yelling, "Hulk want some watermelon, some grape soda and some fried chicken!" Now, you all know me well enough to know that I can take a joke like the best of 'em. Some would say that is stereotyping, but I know it's true, unless you're a muslim. Yes, we like the yardbird, the more flavor, the better. Yes, the watermelon is wonderful as well. However, let's talk about that grape soda thing. If you want to know the truth, then you betta ask somebody. Where I grew up, here in Savannah, Georgia, we had the drink of choice...RED KOOL-AID.

See, when I grew up on East 37th and Price in the seventies, we had the Kool-Aid house. My moms was known thoughout the block as making the best red Kool-Aid around. Everybody came out to get 'em a glass of it. Not just the kids, either. Nah, we had grown folks lining up for it, too. Now, mama was a good cook, a great cook. She's bust her ass getting food on the talbe and we were happy to get it and glad it tasted fantastic. Red rice, chicken terazini, collard greens, corned beef, if you sold it in the grocery store, she'd fix it up and make your mouth water. But it was that red Kool-Aid that had you hooked. Not sweet tea, which is a staple here in the South. Naww, kid. That red Kool-Aid was what you needed to beat that heat.

Now, I know what you're sayin'. Kool-Aid comes in flavors, not colors. I know all about the grape, the orange, the lemon-lime. But it was the red that did it for us. You see, red comes in three flavors: Cherry, strwberry, and fruit punch. That last one became the official red for us and we stuck to it when General Foods finally came out with it in 1975. But the trick to making it never following the recipe on the back of the pack. You know...1 quart of water to two cups of sugar. But see, Mama never followed that. She made it just sweet enough, but just enough tartness to savor the flavor. I have seen some moms take four cups of sugar to their Kool-Aid and I can't drink that mess. I don't need diabetes when I drink red Kool-Aid.

Now, you got the imitators out there and they just can't compete. Your Wylers, your Flavor-aids, your Jolly-aids. Jolly-aids was the worst. It was like if you can't even afford ramen noodles, then this was the drink mix for you. Like imagine that crazy idea you had as a kid if you didn't have Kool-Aid at home, so you took a Pixie Stick, or worse, food coloring, and tried to make Kool-Aid that way. No flavor, no kinda color at all. Just sugar and water. You wind up in sugar coma and headache in a second after drinking Jolly-aid. UGHHH.

Every once in awhile, I'll head off to the store and I'll still buy a a pack of red Kool-Aid and make a pitcher of the stuff. I'll sit back on the couch and soon flash to the days of growing up, sitting on the stoop of the porch, drinkin' in the red, with a cold sour pickle and stack of comic books on the side on a Saturday afternoon. That to me was growin' up. I don't care if you're white, black, yellow, polka dotted with plaid stripes. Red Kool-Aid brings everybody together. Go get youself a glass. Prove me wrong.

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