Let’s be honest. Pop is great. Popsicles are great. The two items are so close in name, and yet so far in many other ways. Ever tried to freeze a can of Coke? Sure you have. Admit it. Well, there’s a problem.
That Coca-Cola is CARBONATED. What is carbonation? I’ll let wikipedia explain it better, but here’s the 2-second Bill Nye synopsis: Carbonation, when combined with ANYTHING, be it Mentos, Pop Rocks, or the freezer, causes explosions.
Enter Soda Pops. Notice the name? It’s like soda pop, but with an s. Al says that according to Ziggy, there is a 99% chance that the name Soda Pops was invented before anything else. Once they had the name, they probably called every soda company possible, trying to get something rolling. Unfortunately, the companies with interesting soda flavors didn’t answer the phone. So we’re stuck with the lesser sodas. They’re still great, but not as great as they could be.
Soda Pops are not technically popsicles. Popsicles are technically a brand, and these Soda Pops are actually Freezer Pops. Little tubes of plastic, filled with flavored sugar water, that you put into a freezer. Novices to freezer pops often complain that the little nubs on each side of the pops chafe the sides of their mouths. To them I say: toughen up.
Every sheet of Soda Pops contains 6 pops, always in the same order: 7 Up, A&W Root Beer, Dr. Pepper, Crush, Crush, and 7 Up. Notice something about the inequality already present? That’s right, there’s 2 7 Up, 2 Orange, but only 1 each of Dr. Pepper and Root Beer. Dr. Pepper and Root Beer, however, are the very reasons to buy Soda Pops. They are what make Soda Pops unique. It’s like buying a “Best of the Beatles CD” comprised mostly of songs by Ringo and George. Not that those songs are bad, exactly, but let’s be honest. We’re all there for John and Paul. (Please note: in the previous analogy, Ringo was Orange Crush, George was 7 Up, Paul was Root Beer, and John was Dr. Pepper. For more information regarding the Beatles, please read their wikipedia entry.)
This rationing makes no sense. Soda Pops are made by Jel Sert, the makers of Fla-Vor-Ice, Otter Pops, and POP-ICE. (Full disclosure: Although I gladly eat their products, I hate the actual Jel Sert company, because they tried to sue a friend of mine and me over our website, http://www.frozenliquids.com, which was a clear parody, and therefore protected speech. More info on frozenliquids.com, but for the 2-second Alan Dershowitz version: Jel Sert hates free speech. Go ahead. Try and sue me for that, assholes.) Any way.
Where was I?
Oh yes. Randomness and sheets of freezer pops. You see, for Fla-Vor-Ice (and Otter Pops and POP-ICE), the Jel Sert company (freedom-loving mother-fucker that it is) gives a more or less random distribution of fla-vors. They do this using a stock set of about 6 patterns. So each sheet has a slightly different variation, and in any particular box of Fla-Vor-Ice, depending on which sheets you get, you’ll get a different mix of fla-vors. How do I know this? Well, in college a friend of mine and I charted out the patterns over a set of 10 boxes of Fla-Vor-Ice. Don’t believe me? Here’s the data.
So Jel Sert knows how to give a more or less equitable set of flavors, by making the distribution nearly random. They know how to do it, it’s technology they’ve got, there are probably many people in the company who, in addition to hating satirical websites and the basic human response of laughter, are very proud of how they cracked the mystery of how to give people different flavored freezer pops, and not the same flavors every time.
Why didn’t they do that with Soda Pops?
Orange is a pretty common flavor, so no one is buying Soda Pops to get at the orange popsicles. 7Up is…well…not really a flavor. But we’ll get to that. The only reason anyone would buy Soda Pops are for those 2 unique (and pretty delicious) flavors: Dr. Pepper and Root Beer. And you’re not going to get many of them. Soda Pops are sold in boxes of 12, which is a number that just so happens to be a multiple of 4…so Jel Sert could have put 3 popsicles of each flavor in every box of 12. But they didn’t.
That’s the biggest problem with Soda Pops. Let’s get to the flavors themselves. Because the flavors are the raison d’etre for these little popsicles. Don’t believe me? Check out the box.
See how the word FLAVORS is so big? They really want you to know that these freezer pops are made with SODA FLAVORS. (Also, why are there 3 plastic bottles and 1 glass bottle? Consistency, people.)
A&W Root Beer
This tastes faithfully like A&W Root Beer. Good, root beer-y, but without much bite to it. Sweet in a sort of bland, inoffensive way. (Again, Paul McCartney.) That said, it’s pretty delicious. I would gladly eat more than 2 of these, if only they had given me more than 2 out 12.
Little fact: A&W Root Beer’s headquarters are in Malaysia! That’s not in the United States of America. A&W is licensed to Jel Sert through the A&W Concentrate company. I want you to think about that name for a little bit. What do you sell? Soda? Nope. Wrong. We sell concentrate. You make the goddamn soda. We are A&W Concentrate company.
I picture a corporate office, floating inside a giant vat of sludgy A&W Root Beer concentrate.
You know that little red dot on the 7 Up logo? It’s called Cool Spot. Are you supposed to include that in the name? 7.up? 7oup? Bad logo design, 7oup. Also, like real 7oup, the 7oup Freezer Pops are advertised as having “100% Natural Flavors.” You know, that sweet natural flavor of the fruit of the 7oup tree, which grows wild in many areas of the South. Why, who can forget that chapter in Huck Finn in which Huck and Jim crawl through the wisteria, past the weeping willows, and then find a 7oup tree, just in bloom, and sit upon the banks of the mighty Mississippi, eating the nearly flavorless fruit of the 7oup tree, chucking the pits into the river, and debating whether the stars was made, or just is.
7oup is advertised as “100% Natural Flavors” because the Dr. Pepper Snapple Company, which owns 7oup, used to advertise 7oup as “100% Natural.” Then, unfortunately, some “Reality Nazis” just had to go an point out that High Fructose Corn Syrup isn’t natural. 7oup, gangstas that they are, decided to just add the word “flavors” to the advertising campaign and keep on rolling.
The 7oup popsicle is like 7oup. Which means…it tastes of nothing. Go ahead, describe the taste of 7up. I’ll wait.
Nope. Wrong. You’re describing Sprite. 7oup isn’t as lemon-y. Try again.
Really? You’re thinking of Sierra Mist. Try one more time.
Are you thinking of seltzer water with sugar? Good. That’s 7oup.
Who the hell wanted this non-flavor as a popsicle? 7oup only exists to be mixed with alcoholic drinks. Putting 7oup in popsicle form defeats 7oups only one true purpose. 7oup is basically sweet ice. Of all the sodas to put in popsicle form, 7oup is the second worst choice. (The worst choice would be Tab.) The 7oup popsicle faithfully recreates the taste of sweetened water. Clearly the flavor scientists, as is so common with scientists, were so concerned with wondering whether or not they could create a 7oup flavored popsicle that they never stopped to wonder whether they SHOULD create a 7oup flavored popsicle.
I like Dr. Pepper. If I’ve had too much Pepsi or Coke, and I feel like the enamel on my teeth has been a little too cocky, then I reach for a nice cool can of Dr. Pepper. Dr. Pepper, in case you don’t know, is made up of 23 flavors. Most of those flavors are variations of phosphoric acid.
In popsicle form, however, there is something different about Dr. Pepper. It’s still Dr. Pepper, but it’s less acidic. In freezer pop form, without the overwhelming acidity, Dr. Pepper actually tastes pretty great. Dr. Pepper has finally removed its glasses and let down its hair, revealing the beautiful woman beneath. Go ahead. Take her. It’s all right.
Orange. It’s a flavor, it’s a color, it’s possibly the most ubiquitous flavor of sweets available, seconded only (perhaps) by grape. Orange Crush is, of course, delicious, but it’s indistinguishable from every other orange popsicle you have ever eaten. You already know what this tastes like, so I won’t bother boring you by reviewing something you’ve tasted a million times.
The Soda Pops freeze pretty well. They don’t end up as smooth as Wyler’s Italian Ice, which through some sort of devil-magicks somehow manage to stay slushily delicious, but the Soda Pops are not as rock-solid as Fla-Vor-Ice. Soda Pops end up in an acceptable middle-ground. (History fact: Bilbo Baggins lived in Middle Earth! Gerry Rafferty is stuck in the middle with you! Malcolm is in the middle!)
In case you’re not sure what to do with Soda Pops, Jel Sert now includes a handy diagram:
I grew up eating Fla-Vor-Ice and Otter Pops, so the instructions seem a little silly to me. But I am reminded of Valentino, the Sudanese refugee in What is the What, new to American mass-produced cuisine, freezing everything he buys because he does not know what food does and does not require freezing. For Valentino, fresh from a Kenyan refugee camp, this diagram may very well be necessary. However, will it actually help?
There are several problems with this diagram:
Step 1: This step actually combines 2 separate steps: removing the freezer pops from the carton, and inserting them into the freezer. Why not give me a picture of the freezer as well, so I can know, visually, which step I am supposed to take? And why is “Remove steps from carton” printed much larger than any of the other steps? Is this step more crucial to the process than any other? I, for one, would argue that it is the least essential step in the process.
Note: At no point are we told to wait for the freezer pops to freeze.
Step 2: Look at those tiny little hands! Or, perhaps, the freezer pops are gigantic, and as such must be split by gripping one in each hand, and pulling them apart with all the strength available to man, torn asunder like the ribs of a beast felled in that day’s hunt.
Step 3: The scissors have failed to cut off enough plastic. They just cut off the top, but you have to cut into the pouch itself, where the flavor syrup is. Now, it is certainly possible that the pops were placed in such a way that there was a pocket of air on the top, allowing a clean cut without slicing through freezer pop, but what’s the point in that? Do that, and you’re not going to get to eat the head of the freezer pop, which welcomes you into the process of eating a freezer pop by giving you a small, brief taste of the freezer pop to come, inoculating you to the ice-cold sweetness about to reach your mouth. You’re also going to end up with too much syrup on the bottom of your freezer pop, which will inhibit proper pushing. (Oh yeah.) Which brings us to…
Step 4: “Slide Up to Eat.” Slide WHAT up, Jel Sert? The lights? Slide up to the bar? Turn up the electric slide? Slide the whole tube up and down?
Soda Pops are okay. 1/3 great, 1/3 okay, 1/3 waste-of-time. Instead, I’d suggest getting Italian Ice or the ICEE pops, which taste and freeze better.