Friday, August 18, 2006

Pop Rocks

Woody Gutherie found Dustbowl Era America out on the plains of the West. In The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe located the soul of 1980’s America in New York City; in the folly of Wall Street. Francis Ford Coppola revealed the mad spirit of the 1960’s in the dark heart of Vietnam. He pointed us to it coiled like a snake in the black twisted river flowing inexcerably towards the moment of climactic ritual assassination.

Is there always a place where a nation’s soul resides? If it can be in a place, can it be in a taste? Is there a food that captures the essence of where we, as a nation, are at this moment in history? Can an era be found in flavor; an epoch learned in a sensation along the edge of one’s tongue?

In a previous post, I suggested that perhaps our moment could be tasted in the smoke and fire pit of bar-be-que. And there is much to be said for that view. But perhaps I was missing an ingredient. Yes, this is a time of smoke and fire. But it is also a time of Pop, pop as in acrid sweet, pop as in impossibly wide, pop as in just as shallow, pop as in there goes the bubble, pop as in explosive. Pop and fear. Our moment can be found in the flavor and gas bursts of Pop Rocks on the tongue.

Pop! All the world’s a stage. Pop, pop! Another one’s down. Pop, pop, pop – it feels like my mouth might explode.
When I was young and actually liked to eat Pop Rocks there was a rumor that Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials had died from eating too many Pop Rocks. Every kid knew about the untimely demise of Mikey. Of course it only added intrigue to the Pop Rocks. A little fear piques the interest. Fear and Pop Rocks. The slight scare is definitely part of the candy’s appeal. Maybe the makers of Pop Rocks invented the fear to promote their little cracklings of pops and sweets. Imagine that.

Pop, pop!

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