Tag Archives: Coca Cola

Gardening leave

Back in the days when I was merely a fledgling Brit Out Of Water barely out of short trousers, I always knew it was summer when I was sitting at a wooden table in a pub garden holding a bottle of Coke with a straw in it. One or other of my parents was always with me, before you start to panic. If they hadn’t been there, obviously I’d have had a vodka in it too.

For some it might be the flowering of blossom or the smell of meat being gently yet irretrievably incinerated on a rusty barbecue, but for me the summer just didn’t get going until I could feel that heady mix of carbonated water, caramel, sugarhigh fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid and caffeine rushing through my veins. Preferably with a packet of ready salted crisps to chase it down.

Since those days, pub gardens have formed an essential part of my summer experience. I’ve spent memorable nights lapping up the late evening sun in pubs the length and breadth of Britain. I once lost the ability to walk after an afternoon on the grassland outside The Mill in Cambridge (although that was less to do with muscular injury and more the result of the debilitating effects of scrumpy on a person’s physical coordination). And is there really anybody who isn’t capable of enjoying him or herself in a riverside pub garden along the banks of the Thames as the sun slowly sets? If there is, I don’t want to meet him.

For The Special One, the whole pub garden concept has come as a bit of a shock to the system. Most Americans believe that the world will implode if a single alcoholic drink is exposed to light or the outside world. As such, the idea of having an area outside a bar where adults can have a casual drink (and where kids can run around or play on climbing framesjungle jims) is about as socially acceptable as casually plucking hairs from warts on your great-aunt’s chin in public.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, such as the Gowanus Yacht Club in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. But given that the GYC is not on the Gowanus River, does not enable yacht mooring, is not a club, and is actually just a back yard selling beer and wine in plastic cups, it can’t actually be held to be a prime example of outdoor quaffing at its best.

New York’s in the grip of an early summer at the moment, with temperatures in the high 70s. You know something unusual Is happening when you see New Yorkers walking around with smiles on their faces. Shorts are becoming de rigeur, while women are shedding clothes in a manner that suggests they’re heading for a girl’s night out in the North of England. It’s like Britain for those ten days in July when everybody’s happy. And it’s only April.

If only there was a pub garden I could go sit in with The Special One, for a quick post-work drink, all would be well with the world.

A bottle of beer furtively wrapped in a brown paper bag just doesn’t have the same cachet, let’s face it.

Best snack (in a supporting role)

Shortly after my sister’s first trip to New York, I sent her a text message asking her what she thought of my (then) soon-to-be-adopted-city. Her response? “The sandwiches are huge”.

Maybe it’s not the first thing that they put in the guidebooks, but it’s fair to say that excess is a central part of life in New York and America. And never more so than when you go to the flicks cinema theatre theater.

Yesterday, The Special One and I joined the Gourmet Godmother to catch an afternoon showing of (the Best Picture Oscar winning) No Country For Old Men. Now, when you’re going with two women to see a film with (the Best Supporting Actor Oscar winning) Javier Bardem, it’s always best that you get snacks to take your mind off the dribbling that’s taking place in your immediate vicinity. The fact that he looked like a psychotic pageboy with serious anger management issues is apparently neither here nor there to the female population.

Aware of the scale of the problem, I made a beeline for the kioskconcession stand and opted for a large popcorn and a large Coca Cola. One mortgage later, and I was in possession of what appeared to be a industrial-sized keg of fizzy soft drink, and enough popcorn to cover all the small playgrounds of America in order to cushion accidental falls and wipe out knee grazes in an instant.

I swear that I ate popcorn near-constantly throughout the 122 minutes of the movie, and that by the end there was still more than three quarters of a bag left. This was despite being told by the employee who served me my food that I could return for a free refill of either popcorn or drink at any point. That’s like breaking the world record for most hot dogs eaten in a three-hour period, and being rewarded for your victory with double your own body weight in hot dogs.

As it was, I spent most of the evening going to a restaurant toiletbathroom attempting to rid my body of the entire lake of soft drink that I had inexplicably managed to consume. Given the number of visits that I made to the men’s room, I’d imagine that the vast majority of my fellow diners assumed I had a coke problem, rather than a problem with Coke™.

I’m only just coming down from the caffeine high now, more than twenty four hours later.

Incidentally, watching the Oscars this evening, The Special One asked if Marion Cotillard had won the Best Actress award for playing ‘Edith Pilaf’.

The movies and food can’t be separated in America, it would seem.