Food, I.M.H.O.

Queen Of The Hill

A half-gallon container of iced-tea.
A half-gallon container of iced-tea.

For the past few days, I’ve been drinking water au naturel, with a massif of ice cubes in it. Well, it’s hardly a fact worth a declaration, you may ask. We are, after all, in the throes of the heat-wave season. It’s only expected that I’ll be guzzling water.

However, it’s certainly new to me—only because I rarely do it. I’ve been forced to take up drinking water because my daily drink is presently unavailable.

The neighborhood grocery store, where M. and I get our provisions, has been undergoing a protracted renovation, with its refrigeration section getting a facelift.

On account of this, the shelves are in disarray, the inventory is down, and the shipment of cold drinks, sodas, fruit juices, and dairy products, has been off and on. And bitterly, for me, one of the victims of this erratic supply has been my routine drink.

In the fairy tale, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” after trying bowls of porridge that were either too hot or too cold, Goldilocks came onto the one that was “just right” for her. Over the years, I’ve drank many brands and flavors of iced-tea: Arizona, Ssips, Nestlé’s Nestea, Lipton’s Brisk, Starbuck’s Tazo, McDonald’s, and a few others. I’ve stuck with none.

I found one to taste like a liquid dessert, overly sweetened. Another would have the insipidity that comes from containing no sugar at all. Still another would have an organic blandness about it. One had the chemical, bitter aftertaste of artificial sweeteners. One would be too overpoweringly scented with a fruity flavor.

Only one worked. Neither sinfully sweet, nor too acidic, Turkey Hill’s lemon-flavored iced tea was the one that was “just right” for me. And ever since I realized it how much I enjoyed it, I’ve stuck with it with a peerless tenacity, jonesing on it.

It’s become my sustenance, my absinthe, my obsession.

For the past fortnight, M.’s attempt at procuring it has been fraught with nervous tension. As soon as she arrives at the supermarket, I suspect, she gets jumpy. If she could crane her neck from afar, just to be able to catch a glimpse of it, she would.

She knows that I’ll be waiting anxiously for a text from her, assuring me that it’s there, waiting on the shelf with the resoluteness of a gargoyle on a Gothic building and for her to load it on the cart.

As soon as she sights it, she must heave a sigh of relief, not so much for herself, but because she knows that I’ll be relieved, on her confirming that it’s there.

Then, one day—

M. informed me gingerly, to tell me that the store had depleted its entire stock. Not one half-gallon container remained. I took a gulp. A jerry can-shaped void formed inside me.

Somehow, I took Turkey Hill’s iced-tea to be a certainty. I’d grown so accustomed to having it several times a day that it didn’t occur to me to think that there could come a day when it may not be around.

Much hullabaloo over a brand of iced-tea, you’d think? But that’s precisely how indispensable it is to me.

What makes it so dear, I wonder, in my moments of idle analysis? Going by what’s published by the company, the secret may lie in its being “cold-fashioned.” “Each and every bottle of Turkey Hill is made cold, bottled cold, shipped cold, and of course, sold cold.”

They’re kept at about 38 degrees Fahrenheit from the time they’re made to the time they arrive in the supermarket coolers.

If that be the case, then maybe, it’s even apparent, I’ve reasoned. As far as appearance goes, one iced-tea doesn’t look perceptibly different from the next, as would, say, an espresso from a latte. More or less, they all have the same pale brown hue.

Turkey Hill’s traditional flavor is no exception. What distinguishes it from the pack, though, would be its turbidity. I supposed it isn’t any less factory-processed than its commercially-produced cousins, but it does appear to lack any obvious synthetic sheen, a quality which, I reckon, endears me to it.

A tumbler of it, when held against sunlight, appears faintly cloudy, not transparent, a sign of its home-brewed goodness. Till the time we’re are able to replenish our stock, which sadly, has dwindled to just under 10 ounces, I’m having it sparingly, savoring it like it were a wine of rare vintage, a few sips at a time.

I have to make it last. I won’t switch to any other brand of iced-tea. I’ll remain celibate, imbibing only water, until the return of the queen of the hill.

Is that brand loyalty, or what?

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