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A Soda Jerk And A Mormon Walk Into A Podcast

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Mar 25, 2019
A Soda Jerk And A Mormon Walk Into A Podcast

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player and subscribe in iTunes.

This week on The Sporkful, we're going on a soda pop odyssey.

Our journey starts in Utah with Sporkful listener Ben Abbott. He loves good food and longs to pair his meals with equally good drinks -- but he's Mormon so he doesn't drink alcohol. He came to us for help:

"I am wondering if you have any advice as far as good tasty adult drinks that aren't alcoholic but can really pair well with different foods?" Ben asks.

Around the time Ben came to me, I was at Galco's Soda Pop Stop, a legendary store in Los Angeles.

Owner John Nese* stocks 750 varieties of soda -- all made by small, independent bottlers. John introduced me to a few of his favorites -- flavored with everything from Greek ouzo to mint julep and even rose petals. He carries 86 different kinds of root beer.

"When you're getting someone who's using really good ingredients, you will know," John says. "You will taste the flavor. It will go pop."

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In the end we get John and Ben on the phone together, and John helps Ben pair his three favorite dishes with some exceptional soft drinks -- like this sangria soda and a rare extra-dry non-alcoholic champagne soda.

Plus, you may have noticed that Dan calls these carbonated beverages "soda." He's from New Jersey -- but if you live in the Midwest or the South, you may call them popcoke, or even belly wash. (Wait, belly what?!)

Why do Americans have so many names for the same drink? Back in New York we asked Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter to school us in soda pop nomenclature.

This map, created by statistician Josh Katz, shows the geographical boundaries of these terms.


Belly washtonic, and other less common names didn't make it on to Josh's map. But Professor McWhorter filled me in on how they came to be, as English evolved over the centuries since the invention of soda pop.

"There was a certain notion that this stuff wasn't very good for you, so it will wash out your belly and maybe have some sort of effect on the other end," he says. "After awhile, people are calling it belly wash casually."

* Editor's note: John Nese owns Natron Bottling Company in Pittsburgh, PA which produces Red Ribbon soda, a soda brand that John promotes during the episode.

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

- "Mother Tucker" by Steve Pierson

- "Child Knows Best" by Jack Ventimiglia

- "Pumpkin Face" by Jack Ventimiglia

Photos: Courtesy of Dan Pashman/The Sporkful,  Josh Katz/"Beyond Soda, Pop, or Coke" Project.

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