Mom had Diet Coke and Dad had beer, and most nights, Mom had beer too. And we had our drinks as well–Mondos, Capri Suns, Shastas, Slices, and of course, King Kool Aid. There was nothing like a tall, refreshing glass of Kool Aid. It felt big to have our own drinks. And sometimes, we’d pretend they were our beers, while also pretending to smoke candy cigarettes.
I always loved my sugar water, and when a display of sugar waters I’d never heard of, Chubby Sodas, appeared in the grocery store, I was intrigued.
They’re fruity. They’re toxic-bright. They’re sugary, with flavors sweet like candy. Slap on a mascot wearing a sideways hat, and it becomes something evil and genius.
While I don’t drink stuff like this anymore, after many weeks of passing the display in the grocery store, I finally caved and purchased these adorable little sodas. How could I resist? Look at them! They’re like little bottles who think they’re big bottles!
Chubby Sodas visit us from Trinidad and Tobago, and if I recall correctly, those are planets. According to the website, Chubby Sodas were a “world first” in 1993, marketing a “carbonated soft drink targeted specifically to children.” The bottle is genetically engineered to fit small hands; the price is cheap enough that any kid can scrounge up a couple dimes to afford one; and the secret ingredient is pink. Add pink. It makes everything delicious.
So I had to try to a few of these. I started with Reggae Red.
I measured a pour of Reggae Red into a fine, crystal glass, giving it a swirl, noting the opacity of the soda. Then I took a small sip, letting the flavors roll around on my palate—Nah. I just slugged it straight outta the bottle, just like I drink wine. I detected top notes of red lollypops. And then just the strong, medicinal flavor of red. The more I sipped, the less taste it had, as though my tongue were going numb.
Next, I sampled something called Sorrell.
What the hell is Sorrell? It’s some kind of berry in Jamaica, which if I recall, is a continent, like Alaska. It almost smelled like a sweet barbeque sauce. I tasted it. It was the flavor of carbonated cough syrup, with licorice aftertaste. Glad we don’t have this berry in America. Don’t these Chubby sodas come in regular fruit flavors?
Ah yes, they do–that perennial fruit, Bubble Gum:
Bubble Gum was pretty bubble gummy. I’ve never liked this flavoring; it leaves a pitted feeling in stomach, like you just swallowed actual gum or some other forbidden fruit, like toothpaste or mouthwash. It reminded me of this toothpaste we had at my grandmother’s house, Miss Piggy’s Bubble Gum Toothpaste. We used it to brush our teeth whenever we spent the night, and the tube somehow lasted for about 15 years.
Next I tried a real fruit, Pineapple Sunshine:
This one was pina colada. Coconutty. Extremely sweet. And when I say sweet, I’m saying that each these of babies packs 35g of sugar into just 8 ounces. I could feel the sugar burrowing into my back teeth, scoffing at my fillings. And with 130 calories in every tiny bottle, no wonder these things are called Chubby. Even the website makes note of this in the FAQ, with one question that asks, “Would continuous consumption of Chubby drinks lead to obesity?”
“Continuous consumption of any product rich in carbohydrates or the regular participation in sedentary activities, may lead to the onset of obesity.”
The answer is yes.
Lastly I tried the charmingly-named Rock N Rolla Cola.
With the flavor of flat, generic soda, this one was the least sweet.
I had to ask myself while trying these if I could ever, in proper conscience, allow my children to drink stuff like this. It’s the question every parents dreads hearing–“can I have a Chubby soda?”
Could I do it? Could I say yes? What about the marketing of these little bottles, which just feels evil? Or the fact that they all taste completely disgusting?
But I’m torn. Kids love this shit. I loved this shit. It still appeals even to my inner-child, though my outer-adult is about to puke. And I wouldn’t want to be the parent who lets their kid eat only organic granola and free range milk. The way I figure it, the kids can eat all the growth hormones and hot dogs they want. I turned out just fine. Kinda. But 8 ounces of blue syrup from planet Trinidad? That could turn you into an alien.
And maybe that will just have to be my answer to the little pizza. “Nope, that’ll turn you into an alien.”