Fortunately, there’s still a lot of regional flavor in the United States. Despite the spread of standardized fast-food restaurants, and despite consolidation of businesses, when you travel around the country you can nevertheless find unique local food items that you’ve never heard of in your home territory.
What Midwesterners call “pop,” and people in the Northeast call “soda,” is a good example of that pleasant reality. Coke and Pepsi might dominate the drink aisle, but most stores in most parts of the country reserve some shelf space for regional beverages. If you go down to North Carolina, for example, you’ll find a cherry-flavored concoction called “Cheerwine.” In Texas, the famed local option is “Big Red.” In the Midwest, it’s Vernor’s.
Maine is well known for “Moxie” — which has actually been named the official drink of Maine. Moxie was initially invented as a tonic and is made with roots and herbs that are supposed to help with your digestion. Even its fans admit Moxie is an “acquired taste,” and I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet. But Kish and I have become addicted to another regional offering: diet Polar Orange Dry sparkling beverage. It’s a tasty, brisk drink that has a lighter touch on the orange flavor than the other orange sodas I’ve tried, which pretty much punch you in the face with overpowering orangeness. (I’ve always thought they gave Orange Crush that name for a very good reason.) The Polar orange option has a much subtler, less cloying, more refreshing approach. We’ve been shamelessly guzzling it during our stay this year.
But that raises a problem: diet Polar Orange Dry isn’t sold in Columbus. We’re either going to have to wean ourselves off this stuff, or stock the car with cases of it for the drive home.
I have a pretty good idea of which option we’ll be going with.