When I was a child growing up, there were frequent visits to my grandparents apartment in the Bronx, New York, for dozens of memorable holiday meals. And while the drinks on the table at our yom tov gatherings in suburban Long Island were soda in all kinds of 1960’s pop-art colors (think lime green, razzy purple and cherry red), the tablescape at my grandma’s house was noticeably different. For one thing, there were lacy tablecloths, dainty silver spoons, tea cups made of glass, china plates with gold rims (no plastic or paper here!) lots of sugar cubes - and not a soda bottle to be seen. The choice of drink was seltzer, an unflavored, bubbly fizzy thing that the adults guzzled and the kids avoided at all costs. We did try doctoring it up with lots of sugar cubes and sliced up oranges but we never managed to make it palatable. We would eventually become cranky enough so that our good-natured Grandpa would take us downstairs to the corner grocery and let us pick out a few bottles of soda (this was way before Snapple, Vitamin Water and organic Pomegranate juice hit the market).
Fast forward a generation and we find ourselves around the holiday table, with our octagenarian-parents, a tableful of children and bottles of...seltzer. If you are like me, in pursuit of healthful, kosher products, you are probably looking for natural products that eschew artificial dyes, too much sugar and ingredients that you would need a freshman chemistry textbook to pronounce. And, somehow it just didn’t seem right to eat Jamie’s delicious Brisket in Wine Sauce and wash it down with Coke!
After many years, my husband and I eventually got our kids (and our guests!) to develop a taste for seltzer, but neither one of us relished hauling seltzer bottles home, and then, even more time-consuming, running them to the local recycling center. No small feat considering that, on a typical yom tov or shabbat with dozens of guests, we go through cases of the stuff.
Imagine my surprise, then, as I was running through the well-stocked kitchen gadget department of my local big-box retailer, and glimpsed a slim, modern gadget called SodaStream. After many years of cooking, there are few gadgets left to tempt me, but this one required a closer look. It promised that I could simply fill up the super-sturdy seltzer bottles with water (bottled or tap), screw the bottle into the gadget, push down on the button, and with four light touches release carbonation into my water. Voila! Seltzer! Instantly! It gets better. The “starter” package comes with two bottles, and an entire array of tester-size flavors that can be added to your water in the event that the plain stuff is not quite enough, and implausibly enough, they are all kosher, certified by the Orthodox Union. And of course, the Earth is now grateful since I am no longer disposing of thousands of plastic bottles a year.
So there you have it. The old stuff is new again. And, a shout out to my grandparents, who always knew a good thing when they tasted it!