Friday, February 20, 2009

Jarritos Tamarind | Tiny Jars of Euphoria

On a train ride through the Yucatán peninsula this spring, a team of scientists and I found a mysterious straw bag hiding in a storage compartment. We opened it to find not potatoes, but dozens upon dozens of ripe tamarinds. Having gone through weeks of voluntary starvation, we proceeded to eat the contents in a matter of minutes. When Lairy tossed the empty sack out the window, my environmental convictions went aflutter. Also, was it me, or were we hearing the sound of glass breaking? I adjusted my "'nocs," and peeked out the window. There it was. A bottle of Jarritos Tamarindo: Refresco Sabor Natural laying on the track. Helpless, shattered and fizzing. Surely it would be a few hours before our next bathroom break, and I could only hope to find another one then. I sunk into my seat, tearfully remembering the delightful taste from years ago. Oh, how it felt "my first time"! ...
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Tamarinds are tropical trees native to Africa, and now, thanks to their seeds being scattered throughout the world, they've gained popularity in various regions in Mexico and India. The pulp is valued for its sour and acidic—and at the right stage sweet—flavor**. The soda peeps have mimicked it pretty well, as far as I can tell. The aftertaste, however, reminds me more of the favorite lip balm worn by my first wife. It's a memory only enveloping me in yet more sadness.
Mexico's first national soft drink brand has been goin' strong, as they say, for nearly 60 years
now. The great Don Francisco Hill (a.k.a. “El Güero”†) named the drink as a nod to the clay pottery jugs, called jarritos, that helped keep coffee and other drinks fresh. I was lucky enough to be one of Don's original test subjects, back before I earned my fortune. During these humble times I had vowed to never again find myself a participant in the illegal arms trade, but still needed easy money to get me a ticket back to the States after my banishment (some involvement in a barfight preluded this, where I seriously injured a team of five or six Hell's Angels.. we won't go into it here).
You can find individual bottles of Jarritos at Latin Merchant.
*Note: It should not be confused with Barrilitos, also from Mexico, which is waiting in the fridge for future review.
**Speaking of flavors, look at
all these! How will I ever get to them all?
†Not a joke.