The Fizzy History of National Beverage Day

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iStock

Saturday, May 6 marks National Beverage Day, yet another obscure entry on the calendar that seems to be only slightly more respectable than, say, National Weatherperson’s Day (February 5).

It’s typically beverage manufacturers that make the most of these occasions, and you’re likely to come across invitations on social media from carbonated or flavored drink makers to “celebrate” by buying lots of sugar water. That was more or less the motive in 1921, when one of the earliest recorded mentions of a National Beverage Day—then called Bottled Carbonated Beverage Day—can be spotted. An unnamed contributor to The Re-Ly-On Bottler, a trade magazine dedicated to educating beverage producers, urged regional bottlers to utilize as many radio and newspaper resources as they could to promote their carbonated community.

“Give the public a new slant on the subject of drinking,” read the fizzy propaganda. “Let them know that carbonated beverages properly made and bottled are held in the highest regard by pure food authorities.”

Assuring consumers that bottled soda was free from impurities was a high priority. Inconsistent and nonexistent government oversight had plagued the food industry at the turn of the century, with inaccurate labels and suspect ingredients. The U.S. government even set up a “poison squad” in 1902 to see how adulterants like borax would be tolerated in volunteers. With consumers becoming more educated about what they were putting on their tables and into their bodies, bottlers wanted to soothe worries over contamination. In organizing a day devoted to the cause, the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages could marshal their ad efforts to promote carbonation as a kind of homogenization process—and even something downright healthy.

“Carbonic Gas is an enemy of the bacteria which menace us in food and drink,” read a 1925 ad in the Hartford Courant. “This is the gas which puts the bubbles in bottled carbonated beverages. It is pure of itself and it promotes purity in the beverages of which it is a part ... The thoughtful housewife will always have a case … in her home.”

Soda, the ad insisted, “contains more energy-forming material than many foods.” A graph showing that 16 ounces of soda contained 157 calories proved the point: that was far more than cabbages or turnips.

An ad in The Monroe News-Star that same year was more direct. “In days gone by, consumers … were very skeptical, for the reason they believed soda water was injurious to health, thinking it was made out of harmful ingredients and in an unsanitary plant, and right they were.”

Thanks to more restrictive state sanitary laws, the ad continued, that was no longer a concern. Soda was “pure” and “wholesome.” The notice was posted by Grapico Bottling, which assured readers they could “drink freely” and still “need no doctor.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Bottled Carbonated Beverage Day permanently became the less specific National Beverage Day, as ads throughout the 1920s alternately referred to it as National Carbonated Beverage Day or simply Beverage Day, among others. But in 1925, bottlers decreed it an annual event to be held the first Wednesday of each May. As time went on, there became less of a need to reassure soda enthusiasts that bottlers had eliminated “every vestige of germs.” They also may have had increasing trouble propagating the notion of soda as “healthful.” We don’t think National Eat Your Vegetables Day ever had this problem.

The Disputed Origins of Publix’s Chicken Tender Subs

Josh Hallett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Josh Hallett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

After Popeyes released its new chicken sandwich last week, a heated battle broke out on Twitter over which fast food chain offers the best one. Favorites included Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, and KFC, but the Publix chicken tender sub was mostly absent from the dialogue. Maybe it’s because Publix is a supermarket rather than a fast food restaurant, or maybe the southern chain is too specific to Florida and its neighboring states to warrant a national ranking.

Either way, the chicken tender sub is a cult culinary classic among Publix customers—there’s even an independently run website devoted to announcing when the subs are on sale (they aren’t right now), and affiliated Facebook and Twitter accounts with tens of thousands of followers. So whom do sub devotees have to thank for inventing the Publix food mashup from heaven? A Facebook user named Dave Charls says, “Me!,” but Publix begs to differ.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that in May of this year, a man named Dave Charls posted a message on the “Are Publix Chicken Tender Subs On Sale?” Facebook page recounting his origin story for the menu item, which allegedly took place in 1997 or 1998. At Charls explains it, he and his co-worker Kevin convinced their friend Philip, a deli worker at the Fleming Island Publix location, to assemble a sub with chicken tenders and ring it up as one item—something that deli workers had refused to do for Dave and Kevin in the past. According to Dave, Philip then convinced his manager to make it a special, publicized it via chalkboard sign, and the idea spread like hot sauce.

“You’re welcome,” Charls said. “It was actually Kevin’s idea and Philip brought it to life.”

Publix, however, told the Tampa Bay Times that its recorded documentation for a chicken tender sub recipe and procedure goes all the way back to 1992 or 1993. Based on that information, Publix spokesperson Brian West confirmed that Charls's heroic account of the origin is more fairytale than fact (though West, unfortunately, doesn’t have an equally thrilling origin story—or any story at all—with which to replace it).

Charls didn’t respond to a request from the Tampa Bay Times for comment, so we may never know how much of his claim is actually true. It’s possible, of course, that Publix’s 1992 (or 1993) chicken tender sub recipe hadn’t gained momentum by the time Kevin’s moment of culinary genius struck in 1997 (or 1998), and the lack of date specificity suggests that neither party knows exactly how it went down. What is incontrovertible, however, is the deliciousness of Publix's beloved sub sandwich.

"I'm just happy to live in the same timeline as this beautiful sandwich," says die-hard Pub Sub fan (and Mental Floss video producer/editor) Justin Dodd. “Copyright claims aside, it's truly a wonderful thing."

This London Pub Might Be the Most Ethical Bar in the World

Ridofranz/Getty Images
Ridofranz/Getty Images

Pub owner Randy Rampersad is doing his part for sustainability. In June, he opened the Green Vic—a play on the fictional Queen Vic pub in the soap opera EastEnders—in the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch. The Telegraph reports it’s aiming to be the world’s most ethical pub: Rampersad eschews plastic and paper straws and opts for gluten-free wheat “straws.” He sources the bar's 100 percent recycled toilet paper from green-minded company Who Gives a Crap, and the communal wooden tables are upcycled.

“I wanted to make the world a better place and run my own business, but I was waiting for that eureka moment,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. He discovered no one had done anything like this before.

There’s no meat on the menu—the food is totally vegan, healthy-ish pub grub. You can add CBD oil to the “chkn" bites appetizer, and the burgers are made from ingredients like soy, seaweed, and sweet potato. The beers are produced by ethical brewers, too: Toast Ale uses unsold loaves and crusts of bread; Good Things Brewing crafts its beer from 100 percent renewable energy; South Africa’s Afro Vegan Cider donates money to an organization that funds equal pay for female farmers; and Brewgooder donates to water projects.

In fact, everything the Green Vic does has charity in mind. “We don't care about the money, I’m planet first and profit after,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. Up to 80 percent of its profits will go to charitable causes, including local food banks. As for the staff, one in four are from marginalized groups. The Green Vic plans to operate as a three-month pop-up pub while scouting for longer term investment.

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