News and Tribune

May 28, 2013

BEAM: Oh, the sweet life

Local columnist

— There’s nothing more satisfying than a swig of Coke.

Wait. That’s a lie. Drinking a whole 32 ounces of the magical elixir definitely trumps a measly swig any day of the week.

And that perfect cup of caramel-colored goodness must be from McDonald’s. I’m not sure why their Coke always tastes better than anywhere else. Maybe they have a special formula that contains ground-up clown smiles.

But every day I thank the good Lord that I don’t live in New York City and would have to endure their attempted ban on my happiness.

Yes, you might say I am a cola connoisseur. Others might say addict. Either way, I love Coke. And I mean the real Coke — not that sweet Pepsi or Royal Crown stuff. Of course, down in these parts, we call everything Coke. Big Red and Sprite are coke. Dr. Pepper is coke. Orange pop still gets called, you guessed it, Coke.

A guy named Matthew Campbell from the Department of Cartography and Geography at East Central University actually designed a map of what survey respondents generically called their carbonated beverages. Clark and Floyd counties lie on the northern line of a fully red south that named these sugary drinks Coke. Not only do our accents show we belong to the south, I reckon now the words we use do, too.

Recently, soda has been subject to some controversy. Warnings abound about its negative affect on health. My generation, on the other hand, was raised in a different age. Back then, most parents would let their kids drink anything: carbonated beverages, creek water, milk past the expiration date.

Little children in Europe who have been suckling fine wine before they could teeter or totter looked jealously on as we drank our sugary lunches, their eyes full of decaffeinated awe. Later the babes would try our tasty treats but in a different form — hot and iceless. Warm water is more satisfying than a room-temperature soda. And so they continued drinking Perrier rather than Pepsi.

Not in America though. We followed a different path.

Why shouldn’t we? Coke did originate here back in 1886. Historians claim the founder John Pemberton might have gotten the idea from a French cocoa wine that was used as a tonic. Take out the wine, and the French didn’t want anything to do with the new concoction, it seems.

In the late 1800s, Pemberton changed his version of the wine into a nonalcoholic drink. Voila! There you have the first Coca-Cola. The “medicine,” as the company marketed it, contained cocaine and caffeine.

Instead of making people diabetic, it made them high. In 1903, the producers decided to ixnay the cocaine element. The formula pretty much stayed the same until 1982, when a diet version of the drink came out.

And then the gates opened and all cola hell broke loose. Decaffeinated Coke soon followed in 1983 and Cherry Coke wasn’t too far behind. At present, according to, the company owns more than 500 brands and has a portfolio of 3,500-plus different beverages. Around the world, the average person will drink a Coke product every four days, the website said, culminating in 1.7 billion servings of Coke products being consumed across the globe every 24 hours.

That’s a lot of carbonation.

All this Coke can get you in trouble. Trust me, I know. Last month, I gave up drinking Diet Coke. People kept going on and on about the bad things artificial sweeteners can do to the body. So I thought, by heck, drinking high fructose corn syrup can’t be that bad. At least it’s natural, right?

Every day, I began buying a $1 large Coke from McDonald’s. OK, sometimes it may have been two, both with light ice so I could fit more of the sweet dew of heaven in the Styrofoam cup. Over the weekend, I weighed myself at the gym and by jiminy, I’d gained 10 pounds. Nothing else in my life had changed, so it had to be the work of my precious soda.

Each large Coke contains 86 grams of sugar resulting in a whopping 310 calories. By drinking one or two a day, I had added more than 2,100 calories a week to my diet, roughly an extra day’s worth of calories. Now I know why the mosquitoes were passing out after biting me. I was just too sweet for my own good. There’s a first time for everything.

All that wonderful cola taste went straight to my belly. Now I look like I’m set to deliver a soda pop baby in four months. There’s not a lot that would make me give up my beloved Coke. Gaining that much weight before my 20-year high school reunion this summer was luckily one of those things.

So, I’ve relinquished my beloved Coke and supplanted it by drinking water. Not having that caffeine intake has caused my head to pound. And I’m angrier and less pleasant to be around. Mosquitos take a sampling and quickly fly away still wanting something more than my sour blood has to offer.

Satisfaction can change in time, I suppose. If not, I might go for a bender and get unlimited free refills at a local fast food restaurant. All things in moderation, right?

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at