I spend quite a bit of time on the internet, compliments of my job. And somewhere in my travels, this image confronted me
Hey, Mother Jones I thought, that’s not the Kool-Aid I knew!
Why is Kool-Aid always the fall guy? First there was Tom Wolfe’s silly book, The Electric Acid Kool Acid Test.
OK, I admit it, I read it. And yes, I enjoyed it. But why Kool-Aid? Couldn’t Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters use something else to down their LSD? It could have been the Electric Raspberry Lemonade Acid Trip.
Then there was Jim Jones and the Jonestown tragedy. I won’t dwell on tragedy but it did leave Kool-Aid with a besmirched name, and it led to people’s saying “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” when they think someone’s blindly following an idea. Look, I wish Jim Jones had not used anything at all to mix his poison, but I’m just saying, if he’d used milk people would be saying “Don’t drink the milk”, and I’d be fine with that – I don’t like milk.
Why you might ask am I so sensitive about Kool-Aid. Do you remember my blog entry about how summers on Cape Cod did not officially begin until my brothers and I had bought our flip flops?
Well Kool-Aid kept the summer going. If not for Kool-Aid, we’d have died of thirst with our flip flops on. You see, we were not a water-drinking family – unless it had Kool-Aid in it.
And Kool-Aid was mighty cheap back then. 5 cents an envelope, with a bulk discount of 6 for 25 cents. I know because as the oldest child I usurped the responsibility of choosing the flavors. There was raspberry, orange, grape, strawberry, lemon lime, and another raspberry. That was 25 cents worth, and then I’d choose another six, this time replacing the second raspberry with a second strawberry to bring it to50 cents. There was a sixth favor I could have chosen. But it was cherry,
and I didn’t like cherry. Brother A did, but too bad. He wasn’t the oldest!
The twelve envelopes would just make it until the next week’s trip into Hyannis for grocery shopping. This was summer time, and that meant my mother had to make a jugful to bring to the beach each day, plus a pitcher for the fridge because brother B was the most generous of the three of us, and he was always bringing his friends in for a glass or two.
Then there were the Kool-Aid pops.
We’d save all our Popsicle sticks for weeks in preparation. After all, they were the most important part of the recipe. My mother would make the Kool-Aid and pour it into an ice cube tray with a stick in each section. Then she’d stick the tray in the freezer for an overnight stay. The freezers of the early 60’s lacked the oomph of today’s freezers.
Getting the pops out of the tray wasn’t as easy as you younger people might think, or as quiet. Ice cube trays of that era were metal, not plastic – no flexibility.
You had to bang it on the sink and wiggle the collapsible partitions that separated the ice cubes. Then more banging and rattling, and if you weren’t careful you’d end up with shattered Kool-Aid pops
I took a field trip last Saturday – to the powdered beverage aisle in the supermarket. I wanted to confirm my memories before I set them to paper. Yes, one envelope makes two quarts. And the directions for pops was still on the back, but what surprised me, besides the fairly reasonable cost of 20 cents, was the calorie count – zero. Were they now making diet Kool-Aid?
I thought about it for a couple of seconds and it came back to me – you had to add your own sugar! I should have known that. You see, with time, I graduated from Kool-Aid chooser to Kool-Aid preparer. The bad part was Brother A got my old job so I had to slit open the envelope and dump cherry powder into the pitcher, add eight cups of water, one cup of sugar, stir it up, and we were ready to h t the beach
One cup of sugar spread out over two whole quarts of water? That doesn’t sound so bad to me, Mother Jones, but then you’ve never seen me adding sugar to my coffee, have you?