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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Junk Food Edition

Odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass…

Pizza in the Crosshairs

If you’re a foodie you like wine.  If you’re a wine enthusiast you appreciate good food.  Regardless of which side you lean, you appreciate the other side.  And, in my estimation, the common ground for wine enthusiasts and foodies is pizza. 

I’ve never met a single person who couldn’t wax philosophic about their favorite pie.  From New York thin crust to Chicago deep-dish to California-style gourmet pies, everybody loves pizza.  And, pizza, in a foodie society that rightfully denounces our Fast Food Nation, generally gets a hall pass.  It’s like M&M’s.  The locavore/whole foods/white table cloth person who swears to never eat junk food will bottom out a bowl of M&M’s, right?  The same thing happens with the foodie and their favorite pie.


Yet, despite the wino/foodie familial alignment, a distressful situation happened a couple of weeks ago:  On January 31, the USDA released the 2010, “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”  In typical, “Good enough for government” fashion, the 2010 guidelines were released in 2011, and noted in not so subtle terms that pizza is public enemy #1 in battling the near epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes in the US.

Ahem.  I liked it better when the devil’s spawn was McDonald’s and not the staff of life … a slice of ‘za.

Aside from the truly scary fact that pizza is the number two source of calories for kids aged 2-18 (link initiates download of the entire report), it seems that pizza has everything that is bad for us – saturated and solid fats, sodium, added sugar and refined grains.

All I can say is I’m glad I’m on the wine side of the foodie/wino equation because Resveratrol, the little wine miracle compound, has been shown to have great potential in reducing obesity and diabetes.  So, to the USDA and Obama’s Victory Garden I say, “I’m in your corner more often than not, but don’t demonize pizza, my man.  All things in moderation, and paired with a nice red.”

You can read the Dietary Guidelines at this link.  Mark Bittman and his book Food Matters is the antidote (if you’re interested) and Resveratrol research is as prevalent as pizza joints in the suburbs.

Speaking of Junk Food

Palate training for a wine enthusiast is a process that is fraught with challenge.  No two people are necessarily going to get the same secondary or third-level notes on the same glass of wine so training is often a singular pursuit measured by much trial and error – bottle after bottle of wine, an aroma list by varietal and many tasting notes cross-referenced against a wine critic whose palate you respect. 


But, what if you trained your palate not with wine, but with a soda and what if you knew the list of ingredients so you could test your palate in a quantifiable manner?

I saw an NPR news report earlier this week that noted the proprietary recipe for Coca-Cola was revealed in a 1979 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article.  With the republished recipe, the NPR report isn’t so much news as it is a consumer interest piece – secret recipes the likes of the Colonel’s 11 secret spices or the 23 flavors in a Dr. Pepper always garnering attention.

The recipe itself is a bit of an aha moment for those that grew up in a Coke household, as I did – allowed one glass of Coke a day.  Containing a number of essential oils, a glass of Coke and a review against the alleged recipe allows for a simple palate test, as I did yesterday.

Give it a try.  I wouldn’t use a fountain Coke, but any old bottle from the convenience store will do, probably better if you go to a Mexican grocery store to get the version with pure cane sugar for purity of flavors.

I picked up the lime juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and Neroli which is similar to orange peel, offering an orange-tinged bitter note in my own palate exercise.  The lemon oil presented itself on the latter portion of the mid-palate.  Though, coriander and vanilla eluded me.  How will you do?

The alleged original Coke recipe (from NPR at this link):

Fluid extract of Coca 3 drams USP
Citric acid 3 oz
Caffeine 1 oz
Sugar 30 (qty. unclear)
Water 2.5 gal
Lime juice 2 pints
Vanilla 1 oz
Caramel 1.5 oz or more to colour
7X flavour (use 2 oz of flavour to 5 gals syrup):
Alcohol 8 oz
Orange oil 20 drops
Lemon oil 30 drops
Nutmeg oil 10 drops
Coriander 5 drops
Neroli 10 drops
Cinnamon 10 drops


Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (6) |


On 02/16, Renee wrote:

Love the commentary!  Pizza should not be on the enemy list, who can live without pizza! It’s like living without wine. Another great post.

On 02/17, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

I love the recipe list.

When I was a child, an older brother had a job at the local Coca Cola bottling plant. He used to bring home Coke syrup and we’d make our own with an addition of seltzer. Much easier than following the recipe.

Re, pizza: the trouble with that item is that in most of the U.S., it isn’t pizza at all—it’s a gloppy, salt delivery system.

On 02/17, Jeff wrote:


Yes, I think the USDA thinks pizza is exactly that—a saturated fat (cheese) sodium delivery system.

Crazy when you look at the recommended daily allowance of salt and then you look at nutrition information.  Most people are getting 3 and 4X what they should in salt because of processed food.

Alas, this isn’t a food blog, so I’m hanging my hat on Resveratrol as Mother’s little helper.

On 02/18, WineDineDivas wrote:

Thanks for the great article! In Europe the Coca Cola ( and the Champagne) taste not as sweet as in the US.

On 02/18, Ken wrote:

When I saw your post about pizza and wine I couldn’t help but stop and read it.  I love pizza and I love wine.  The only thing that can make them any better is when they are enjoyed together.  I had the opportunity to work at a pizza parlor in my younger years.  Who would have known that working there would have me working side by side with Tony Gemignani who has since become one of the premier pizzaiolos in the world.  I’m going to have to overlook those government reports that pizza is bad for me.  I am already addicted.  A little homemade pizza and a nice Livermore Valley Merlot sounds wonderful for dinner tomorrow night.

On 08/23, Pies wrote:

A bottle of coke is a good match for pies and other healthy food.


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