So How About Homemade Sodas? And Water First?

Homemade Strawberry Sodas at Stella's Kentucky Deli

Homemade Strawberry Sodas at Stella's Kentucky Deli

I wonder when more restaurants and more of us at home will start making our own sodas, as Stella's Kentucky Deli (143 Jefferson Street, Lexington, Kentucky) does. The last time I lunched there, the options were strawberry-mint and jalapeño. At Cookin' Up Kentucky, the Lexington Farmers Market pop-up restaurant, Chef Jacob Graves makes splendid  fruit+herb coolers. Chef Jacob's flavors include apricot-pineapple-sage (my favorite) and a pink lavender lemonade. The coolers are less sparkly than Stella's sodas, but are, as advertised, deeply refreshing.

These are good starts, but they don't represent a lot of progress since I dreamed two years ago that we might wow the world (and boost farm income) by offering locally sourced food and non-alcoholic drinks alongside our trademark Bourbons and Kentucky Ales at the upcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. I imagined peach fizzes and sour cherry coolers and blackberry immersions -- in fact, I'll just quote:

I went to the Kentucky Horse Park for a meeting just after the final day of the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. In the middle of the massive cleanup, I saw a line of vendor carts, each touting the same commercial lemonade drink. I imagined these carts transformed in two years to offer Kentucky blackberry and raspberry fizz, Kentucky apple juice, Kentucky spring water, Kentucky peach sodas, Kentucky grape-ade, even Kentucky celery and cucumber coolers. Stella's Kentucky Deli at 143 Jefferson Street has been making and offering Kentucky sodas for some time now, and they taste delicious. They taste like our land.

Oh well. It didn't happen for this event. We can still hope restaurants and big event vendors will catch on, and even better than hope, we can take sodas and drinks into our own hands at home with homemade fruit syrups.

To add fizz, a friend who is known for his drink savvy recommends a home seltzer-making system, Soda Stream. (This is a basic version; there are many options, as well as other brands, of course.) From what I can tell, this particular system produces seltzer at about the same cost as the lowest end seltzers in big box stores, but without the constant stream of plastic bottles, each requiring 2400 energy calories to produce, and then it's permanent trash. The single use plastic bottle is craziness, when one stops to think about it.

As much as I like handmade sodas as an occasional treat, water is better. Yes, even better than homemade soda. Anita Courtney, Lexington's energetic, wise, excellent advocate for good food and good health, has just created a Facebook group, Water First, that you can join if you are a Facebooker. Learn more at the website, Drink Water First. That has to be the best advice of all, something we can model and teach our kids that will help in all kinds of ways, because...

Kentuckians can lead a national health epidemic and recover our health and our potential for economic health as well - or we can get lost in the bad health backwater. These two recent news stories burn the necessity for new habits straight into the reader's mind and heart:

Bottom line of these stories: Present habits are killing us, killing our children, and killing our future by driving away opportunities for new work and better jobs. Even when locations offer tax incentives, if the work force includes a high percentage of obese people, employers do the math and refuse to take on the expense. With the costs per obese employee higher than those for employees who smoke, employers are choosing business sites where people are healthier. Never mind how friendly the place or how excellent the community's work ethic: health trumps these qualities for some employers.

BUT - those news stories are not the end. They are a report, a reading of the trouble we are in. The way out is all around us in Kentucky. In this case the good way forward is the affordable way forward. We have the fertile land, water, and climate to grow our own food and cook it ourselves. We can eat more fruits and vegetables; eat from the garden and from local farms; give the fast food restaurants a pass; and drink water instead of soft drinks. We can put our bodies back into motion in work and play.

This is common sense, a quality people all over Kentucky value. It is also a most delicious and satisfying way to eat and drink -- a claim Savoring Kentucky tries to illuminate in its stories, usually without quite as much fire-and-brimstone as this post has offered up. One more good thing: we still have plenty of Kentuckians who live wisely and can show the rest of us the way.

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This is Savory Kentucky Bite number 30 of 116 Savory Bites created in honor of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.