Friday, March 28, 2014

Pemberton, Pasta, and a Diet Coke

 I just returned from lunch at the local pizza shop. I did not eat pizza.

My story begins early this morning with a quick breakfast consumed about 8:00 a.m., an English muffin. Then I headed to the gym for an exuberant exercise class. Returning home, I engaged in an activity usually ignored, an activity extremely low on my priority list, an activity I escape at all costs – cleaning.

But house cleaning was not to be avoided today. Construction work carried out over the past few weeks is almost complete. We are updating two bathrooms and the layers of dust were so thick they could be measured.

The dirty work complete, it was time to reclaim my domain.

I diligently cleaned and cleaned for what seemed an eternity. It was not close to an eternity, but feels that way when involved in endeavors not exactly enjoyed. I should have paused for lunch, but was so busy cleaning (sounds good!) the time flew by.

Actually, the real reason lunch was postponed was a lack of food in the house. We have been eating down inventory, reluctant to bring in new, clean, fresh food only to soon be covered with grime.

No amount of covers prevented sprinkles of dust from oozing everywhere.

I arranged with hub to meet at the local pizza joint for lunch. It was 2:00 p.m. and I was starved by the time we rendezvoused.

I decided I wanted more than a calorie-laden piece of pizza. I wanted a calorie-laden bowl of meatballs and spaghetti.

With a healthy salad and low-cal dressing.

And a diet coke.

Which finally brings me to the point of this meandering story. Tomorrow – March 29 – is an auspicious anniversary in the life of my diet coke and everyone else’s much-loved can (or bottle) of coke.

On March 29, 1886 – 128 years ago – a pharmacist by the name of John Pemberton brewed the initial batch of Coca Cola in Atlanta, Georgia in a kettle in his back yard.

Among the ingredients was cocaine.

Do not worry – cocaine has not been an ingredient in Coca Cola since 1905 (or so the company says).

Pemberton knew exactly what he was doing. Wounded during the Civil War, he became addicted to morphine taken to alleviate his pain. He experimented with various drug mixes, hoping to find a cure for his addiction, eventually inventing a wine and cocaine-based concoction that was successfully advertised and sold.

Meanwhile the temperance crusaders of the era succeeded in getting Fulton county, Georgia, dry. This was the center of Pemberton’s business.

Pemberton again began experimenting, this time attempting to develop a non-alcoholic variant of his drink.

Eventually a carbonated version of Pemberton’s product tasted so good he decided to market it as a fountain beverage and not a medicine. The first glass, sold at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta on May 8, 1886, costfive cents.

A Pemberton employee, Frank Mason Robinson, originated the name Coca Cola and designed its script appearance.

A couple of years later businessman Asa Griggs Candler bought the business from Pemberton and his business partners. There was much behind-the-scenes intrigue and still unresolved controversy over the terms of the sale, who owned rights to the formula, and who owned rights to the Coca Cola name.

But the Coca Cola Company we all know and may – or may not love – was born.

Pemberton died in 1888 poor and still addicted.

Certain people today prefer Pepsi, but Coke rules.

So the next time you imbibe a Coke, Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Coca Cola Zero, Coca Cola Black Cherry Zero, Coca Cola Black Cherry Vanilla, Diet Coke with Lime, Diet Coke with Splenda, Vanilla Coke, Vanilla Coke Zero, or a caffeine-free variant of one of the above,

Raise your glass or can or plastic cup high to “Pemberton!”

And now the inevitable can no longer be delayed. I have more cleaning to do…


  1. It still seems pretty addicting to those I know who cannot abide a day without it. I don't particularly like carbonated beverages, and I gave up sugar and artificial sweeteners awhile back, so I don't indulge any more. But I can relate! Interesting to realize that wine was an original ingredient. I sure haven't given THAT up. :-)

  2. My husband gave up all beverages made with high fructose corn syrup over a year ago, and I followed suit. But I break my own rules once or twice a year with a Cherry Coke. There's just something about it....

  3. I knew about the cocaine in coke. I think coke contained coke until prohibition, so I discount the 1905 date. But that's me.

  4. It's not exactly a part of a wholesome, healthy diet, but I like my Diet Coke ... only one can every two or three days. And while I do not mean to start an argument, it's much better than Diet Pepsi!

  5. When I'm out for lunch, once in a while I'll order a Diet Coke in sheer abandon. I love the stuff, but grew tired of hearing the damage it can do, so it's only a once in a while treat now.