Columbo

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Re: Columbo

Post by Nanohedron »

benhall.1 wrote: Mon Apr 17, 2023 1:00 pmI'm aware that Americans use that word for what we call 'pop', but I don't really understand why, because such products usually don't actually contain any soda. Soda, in the UK, is what you guys call 'Club Soda', except that, for it to be called 'soda' at all, it should contain at least some soda, i.e. bicarbonate of soda.
But it does. Or it did. I don't know about present-day commercial manufacture, but the carbonated water-making process (invented in England, BTW) originally involved the use of "soda powders", and "soda water" was a logically commonplace term; in the States the term stuck, but in referring to soft drinks, its use is now regional. The details as to whether actual sodas are present in the finished product I will leave to those in the industry, as Wikipedia's a bit vague for my liking. What I did learn on looking up "soda powders" is that "sherbet" carries a far, far different meaning in the UK than it does in the States. And it blows my mind. Just another reason to stand agape at each other. I find it entertaining.

For my money, once again the Left Pond preserves older locutions. We should remember that there's going to be history behind usages: We didn't pull the term "soda" out of our backsides, willy-nilly, in designating carbonated beverages; it was bestowed upon us by British inventiveness, and we simply saw no call to abandon it.
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Re: Columbo

Post by PB+J »

benhall.1 wrote: Mon Apr 17, 2023 1:00 pm
PB+J wrote: Mon Apr 17, 2023 11:07 am Cream soda was common in the US in my Childhood, in the Philly area. It was basically vanilla soda. I never liked it. I don't see it much anymore, but it was really common fifty years ago
See, we're coming up against another little Transatlantic puzzle: soda. I'm aware that Americans use that word for what we call 'pop', but I don't really understand why, because such products usually don't actually contain any soda. Soda, in the UK, is what you guys call 'Club Soda', except that, for it to be called 'soda' at all, it should contain at least some soda, i.e. bicarbonate of soda.

Out of interest, I've never come across vanilla pop, either ...
Some places in the US do say "Pop." In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, on the western end of the state, says "pop." Philly, on the eastern end, says "soda."

The difference between club soda and seltzer and carbonated water is close to negligible. Most commercial seltzer has things added to it to offset the acidity of straight carbon dioxide
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Re: Columbo

Post by benhall.1 »

Nanohedron wrote: Mon Apr 17, 2023 1:29 pm
benhall.1 wrote: Mon Apr 17, 2023 1:00 pmI'm aware that Americans use that word for what we call 'pop', but I don't really understand why, because such products usually don't actually contain any soda. Soda, in the UK, is what you guys call 'Club Soda', except that, for it to be called 'soda' at all, it should contain at least some soda, i.e. bicarbonate of soda.
But it does. Or it did. I don't know about present-day commercial manufacture, but the carbonated water-making process (invented in England, BTW) originally involved the use of "soda powders", and "soda water" was a logically commonplace term
Until now, I had not come across the term 'soda powders' either.
Nanohedron wrote:The details as to whether actual sodas are present in the finished product I will leave to those in the industry, as Wikipedia's a bit vague for my liking.
I agree. I got the notion that there was no soda in American 'sodas' from detailed descriptions on various cocktail sites (I'm heavily into me cocktails).
Nanohedron wrote:What I did learn on looking up "soda powders" is that "sherbet" carries a far, far different meaning in the UK than it does in the States.
It certainly does. Or at least, it does now. If you read books - particularly humorous books, for some reason - from Britain in the early 20c, you'll find the term 'sherbet' used to mean almost any strong alcoholic drink.
Nanohedron wrote:For my money, once again the Left Pond preserves older locutions. We should remember that there's going to be history behind usages: We didn't pull the term "soda" out of our backsides, willy-nilly, in designating carbonated beverages; it was bestowed upon us by British inventiveness, and we simply saw no call to abandon it.
Maybe ... It still seems nonsensical to me ...
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Re: Columbo

Post by Moof »

Nanohedron wrote: Sun Apr 16, 2023 8:45 pm Tell me more.
I don't know how to explain dandelion and burdock if you haven't tasted it! :lol: It's a bit unusual, but not in a way that tends to invite strong dislike. It's got a hint of liquorice to it, and I wonder if it might be a bit like sarsaparilla. I've never tasted that, but it could be in the same ball park. Of course, the pop version of dandelion and burdock doesn't taste anything like the real stuff, which is an alcoholic drink I've only ever had once.

Apparently you can get dandelion and burdock in some places in the US – Fentiman's brand – though I've never tried their version myself. We used to have Corona or Ben Shaw's, and the bottles were delivered once a week by the pop man. He had a flatbed lorry stacked up with crates and crates of all kids of pop.

Fizzy pop has to be distinguished from let-down pop, of course, which isn't carbonated and mostly comes concentrated for dilution with water (it might be called cordial elsewhere). However, up until perhaps the 80s, the Co-op milkman used to deliver ready made let-down orange in milk bottles with foil tops.

Oh yes, and in parts of Yorkshire, pop is called beer and beer is called pop. Obviously.

Marmite ... nooooo, I can't bear anything even slightly yeasty. But sherbet has two variants in Yorkshire, one called sherbet (powder, usually plain white) and the other called kali (crystals, often brightly coloured in layers). We used to rot our teeth with both.


Edited to add: if sarsaparilla is fruity, we might have a version here called Vimto. Another huge childhood favourite.
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Re: Columbo

Post by benhall.1 »

Moof wrote: Mon Apr 17, 2023 3:40 pm Edited to add: if sarsaparilla is fruity, we might have a version here called Vimto. Another huge childhood favourite.
Sarsaparilla isn't really fruity. I used to love it. There used to be a sarsaparilla bar in one of the arcades in Cardiff city centre. I loved that place. Up until recently, a newer cafe, close to where the old sarsaparilla bar used to be, used to serve sarsaparilla. I don't think it does any more, sadly.

But I would say that, although sarsaparilla has its own, unique taste, it is, as you suggest, somewhat along the lines of dandelion and burdock. Better, in my opinion, but maybe that's personal taste. The fact that sarsaparilla doesn't seem to exist any more in this country - or not so's you'd notice - leads me to think that my taste may not be universally shared.
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Re: Columbo

Post by Nanohedron »

I've had burdock root in Japanese cooking, and dandelion root brewed straight-up in infusions. Not much of a fan of either, flavor-wise - dandelion doesn't seem interesting enough to use for a commercial product, and burdock's a bit repellent to me - but maybe they redeem each other in soft drinks. If I found some I'd definitely try it.

Root beer - a Left Pond soft drink, by name - has a distinctive, robust flavor that I can't compare to anything else in my experience; it shares some subtle elements with wintergreen, but the relationship is far too distant for me to sustain the comparison. "Fruity" might apply if you stretch the meaning to within an inch of its life, but it misses the mark by a mile, because there's an up-front, warm, earthy-spicy, almost myrrh-like razzle to the flavor that defies "fruity" in the way we might usually think of it. In the US, root beer's a nostalgic taste from childhood, it's always readily available in the shops, adults still drink it - I do from time to time - and it's its own beast altogether. Which brings us to sarsaparilla:

What was called "sarsaparilla" in 19th-century US would actually have been basic root beer as I know it: sassafras root and birch oil, not genuine sarsaparilla, were the flavorants. So technically "sarsaparilla" was a misnomer at the time: actual sarsaparilla is a tropical plant that probably cost too much to be generally affordable on a large scale, but the flavors of sarsaparilla and our much more readily-gotten native sassafras root are favorably compared, hence the substitution. I'm wondering, Ben, which kind was the sarsaparilla you had; but if you ever taste Left-Pond root beer in the future, I'm sure you'd recognize the flavor.

In the US, the word "sarsaparilla" is culturally now almost exclusively confined to Westerns where it carries a quasi-mythical status because most folks nowadays don't really know for sure what it is or ever was anymore, but as a viewer you're expected to take the undefined aspect of it at face value. All you need to know is that it's supposed to be thought of as quaint and outmoded, and whatever it is, it ain't booze. This mysterious potion of a bygone era marks the teetotaler - a dissonant element in a screen milieu where putative real men drink whiskey. Otherwise in daily use we've abandoned the name, no doubt in no small part because there's no actual sarsaparilla involved. Truth in advertising, I suppose. In the older Westerns, especially cartoons, your dusty, weatherbeaten, gap-toothed muleskinner caricature might pronounce it "sasspa-rilly", blurted as an incredulity when someone else orders it: A grown man doesn't order "sarsaparilla" in the Wild West, not without suspicion of being not quite fully formed, and of being possibly a milquetoast out of his element, whereupon a surprise contrary to expectations is often anticipated by the viewer - much like Columbo in his way, now that I think of it. The old black-and-white film cowboy hero and children's icon of wholesomeness, Hopalong Cassidy, drank nothing but the canonic so-called "sarsaparilla". But then he wore all black, too, both anomalies among the genre's usual iconography for the buckaroo, and for the good guy, respectively. In my cultural milieu, "root beer" would never fly in a Western, for the truer name cannot be divested of its association with carefree happy children, which would obviously deflate the heroic cowboy narrative beyond any help; "sarsaparilla" it must be, then, if we are to take the story line's Wild West credentials seriously.

In Westerns, "sarsaparilla" is the root beer that dare not speak its name. :wink:

Of course, these days your average root beer is more likely to be composed of artificial flavoring, but the flavor's pretty consistent in any case.
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Re: Columbo

Post by benhall.1 »

Apparently sarsaparilla is still manufactured in the UK. For the most popular brand, I might have to go to Tesco, though, and I won't do that on principle.
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Re: Columbo

Post by Nanohedron »

Have you ever checked the ingredient list? I'm curious. I'm guessing I can get honest-to-goodness sarsaparilla in the States, but it's going to be a specialty with limited availability, considering the plant's tropical source and how prevalent its substitute, sassafras-based root beer, is. I have never yet seen any soft drink labelled Sarsaparilla, but then I generally shop at the sort of workaday venues that cater less to exotic tastes and products, and more to basic needs.

That reminds me: Have to run errands soon, and all this is giving me a hankering for root beer. :)
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Re: Columbo

Post by chas »

Nanohedron wrote: Wed Apr 19, 2023 3:37 pm Have you ever checked the ingredient list? I'm curious. I'm guessing I can get honest-to-goodness sarsaparilla in the States, but it's going to be a specialty with limited availability, considering the plant's tropical source and how prevalent its substitute, sassafras-based root beer, is. I have never yet seen any soft drink labelled Sarsaparilla, but then I generally shop at the sort of workaday venues that cater less to exotic tastes and products, and more to basic needs.

That reminds me: Have to run errands soon, and all this is giving me a hankering for root beer. :)
Sassafrass and sasparilla are two very different plants. Sassafrass is a smallish tree that grows from the Northeast all the way well into the South.

Most Sarsparilla is made from some weird tropical plant, as you allude. There's another sasparilla, a small plant that is prevalent in New England, but quite rare in the Mid-Atlantic. I know, I've tried to grow it down here. I love sassafrass (leaves, commonly used in gumbo file), but sasparilla berries are the stuff of the gods. I try to get to Maine and New Hampshire each year when the berries are ripe; I most often miss the season.
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Re: Columbo

Post by Nanohedron »

Interesting. I was under the impression that sarsaparilla came from places like the Philippines, and was in danger of over-harvesting.
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Re: Columbo

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Nanohedron wrote: Fri Sep 29, 2023 4:15 pm Interesting. I was under the impression that sarsaparilla came from places like the Philippines, and was in danger of over-harvesting.
I didn't mean to imply that; my bad. You're correct, and the East Coast plant called sasparilla isn't related (I don't think).
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Re: Columbo

Post by Nanohedron »

chas wrote: Tue Oct 10, 2023 6:06 pm
Nanohedron wrote: Fri Sep 29, 2023 4:15 pm Interesting. I was under the impression that sarsaparilla came from places like the Philippines, and was in danger of over-harvesting.
I didn't mean to imply that; my bad. You're correct, and the East Coast plant called sasparilla isn't related (I don't think).
Got pics? I'm curious about this plant as compared to sassafras (I'm kind of an amateur plant geek).
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Re: Columbo

Post by chas »

It's nothing like sassafras, as it's closer to a ground cover than a tree. It's only maybe 4"/10 cm high, three compound leaves with usually 7 leaflets. Here's a pretty good pic of it in bloom. The little corona-like blooms will become dark purple to black berries. (damn, it's been a really long time since I posted a pic.)

https://www.wildflower.org/gallery/resu ... mage=44572
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Re: Columbo

Post by Nanohedron »

Looks like it should be in my area, but I haven't noticed it. Then again, it doesn't look to be at all likely in urban locations, and I haven't tramped the woods in a long while. Those flowering and fruiting heads are pretty distinctive. And I'm always ready to try an edible berry, especially the stuff of the gods, but I have to remind myself not to be greedy.
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