Saturday, August 9, 2014

Diabolo Ginger

Diabolo Ginger. A sort of Deleuzian soda for a public trying to find some engagement with commerce. Like all such products, manufactured from fragments of the imagination. A bit here. A bit there. The final conclusion, specious at best, baldly manipulative and misinforming at its heart. Here's a soda, manufactured under the rubric of its Sekai no Kitchen (世界のKitchen) - the "world kitchen" line of soft drinks. It's important to note that the very name of this product is written with Japanese kanji and English orthography, hinting at an almost Hegelian synthesis of meaning. In this promotion, Hungarian grandmothers make yogurt drinks with mangoes and the old ladies of Provence boil down ginger, spices and grapefruits, mix them with soda to make this new-fangled ginger ale. Diabolo - a French slang that sounds almost Spanish - used mainly for describing soda drinks made with either mint, grenadine or raspberries - and Ginger (again in English, not in French) are the exact words they use to describe this thing. This thing, where exactly is it from? This thing springs from the imagination of those food scientists at Kirin, that they market as something traditional, yet not, something ultimately fictive. Do you buy this fiction? Do you buy the story it tells?

It's actually a rather nice ginger ale. Certainly better than the Schweppes or Canada Dry or Wilkeson products that in their pure artificiality signify "ginger ale," rather than actually taste like ginger ale. Which brings up a certain conundrum around the nexus of the taste imprinted on the imagination vs. the actual taste of things. If you expect the taste of ginger to be what's in your basic commercial ginger ale, what happens when you taste real ginger? Which is why Diabolo Ginger, which tastes like the more artisanal and real ginger sodas that began hitting the US market about 15 or 20 years ago, will probably always live in some niche market. It just doesn't taste like ginger ale. Even though, objectively, it tastes better. And what does Provence have to do with it anyway? Nothing, if you're being objective. And as a postmodern marketing strategy it's totally laughable. Choose your Deleuzion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

不二家 ミルキードリンク

I knew there was a reason I can't stop suckin' down this stuff. It says so on the label. ミルキーはママの味. Miruki wa mama no aji. Milky is the taste of mom. Yes! Japanese food technologists have been working for a long time, studying lactating mothers to reproduce that truly natsukashi flavor - mom's milk!

What can I say? They did it. Here's a potent mix of oligosaccharides, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, milk, etc., skim milk powder, whole milk powder, syrup, dextrin, salt, carbonate Ca, stabilizer (cellulose, xanthan), flavoring (milk, soy-derived), emulsifier ( derived from soybean), casein Na (from milk), vitamin B2, and vitamin D that will take you back to those long lost days when cognition was all about a warm breast and free-flowing milk. Granted, a cold hard can is a long way from soft warm mammary. but thank you ma'am or sir or whoever for coming up with this sweet mix that takes you back. Back to just out of the womb. I think it's those protective and nurturing oligosaccharides that really do the trick.

It makes me imagine of all those milk donors, lining up in florescent white sterile halls, waiting for particularly nerdy researchers - pocket protectors and black thick-rimmed coke-bottle glasses - finally having their wet dream come true, to harvest their fresh milk. These beautiful beautiful young mothers, all giving up a little of their child's sustenance to these pervy doctors in search of lower truths. Damn human kindness! The dystopia of food-technological will not be thwarted! The milk is rushed in pre-cooled thermoses to be either centrifuged, freeze-dried, boiled, held at a slow simmer, brushed onto microscope slides, analyzed, tasted, observed over several weeks, thrown against the wall, fed to monkey babies, secretly made into cheese, whatever their diabolical minds could imagine. Finally all the cognate chemicals and bovine lactic variations are arranged and rearranged and tasted and tested until... until... the perfect simulacra for sweet mommy's milk is developed. Bravo, you brave bulls.

Monday, August 4, 2014


Somewhere sometime in the 80s, I'd wander the West Village in a cocaine-Boodles-Gin-martini daze, not exactly a daze, it was more strident, more enlivened, but now it's all a daze, and more often than not home in on this little corner cafe famous for its cheesecake and a pretty new wave girl who worked behind the counter. Dark hair spiked with product. Pale white skin, black lipstick and fingernail polish. I wore all black at the time. Now I pepper my wardrobe with some white. And some gray tones.

I'd order the plain cheesecake. I was a purist at the time. All white. All black. No gray tones. She'd serve me up a thick creamy slab of the very best cheesecake I'd ever had. No such thing on the West Coast in those days. Still isn't. I'd smile wanly. The drug-knowingness shrugged off as she went to serve other customers and I was left with the most immense creamy sugary tart ivory-colored intervention to the New York high that accompanied life in those days.

Though I don't remember exactly where the place is/was - and I do generally have a great place-memory (that's how high I was) - it comes back to me as the ur-cheesecake, the one that will always be remembered (beyond the grave, even?), the one that will never be found again. As will the new wave girl, perhaps an amalgam of all those new wave girls, perhaps never existing.

Food, memories, food-memories play tricks on ya. They lie. Except in the case of this cheesecake. It was really the best. And the times themselves, ill-remembered for the details, indelible for the feeling are not forgotten. So when my wife joking asks, "You want some cheesecake for dessert?" - a joke more hurtful for thin-skinned folks in the cheesecake desert of Japan - my mind always shoots directly to those lost years in lower Manhattan.

So, I walk into the convenience store the other day and there it is - the (double)W cheezukekitaruto (Wチーズケーキタルト). This thing actually has the appearance of being somewhat cheesecake-like through the plastic wrap. On the package there's a disturbing little phrase in English that must have been a warning - May there cakes bring you a nice teatime. This here cake or them there cakes? Perhaps it was advising me to buy other (there) cakes, rather than this one.

All in all it was a very sweet, slightly crumbly cake wrapped in a sweet, moderately crust-like crust with little bits of browned process cheese product on the top. At 531 calories, it was a meal in itself. And did I tell you it was sweet?

Again, let down, burned, bummed by the complete misunderstanding of the meaning of cheesecake in Japan. Just like the way this place tricks you with French, Spanish, or Italian cuisine. Where's the bread? Where's the abondanza? Where's the nicely cooked seafood? Where's the garlic? Like the bagels. Like the Mexican food. They just don't get it here. Could be not having the right ingredients - Mexican food. But they got the stuff for most other things. Of course the quality for the likes of Mediterranean food is lacking.

So, I'm left with fading memories. Things I'm making up. Things that I wish for. Unfulfilled. What do I expect, relying on convenience stores? There's no memory-making or remembrance there. Find what you need. Make what you need. And remember... remember.