When I first arrived at MIT last year, the International Student Office gave a presentation about adjusting to life in the alien environment that was the United States. As a chronically online Gen Z-er, I’d already consumed so much American media that I felt more than ready for this transition. However, nothing could have truly prepared me for the absolute travesty that is… American cream soda.
Cream soda was one of my favourite drinks back home in South Africa; naturally, I was excited to learn that it also existed in the US. None of the MIT dining halls has the drink, though, so I lived in blissful ignorance about the atrocity of the American version for about a month.
That all changed one fateful night during a Phineas and Ferb marathon.
What exactly is cream soda anyway?
Cream soda (sometimes spelt “creme soda”) is traditionally an ice-cream-flavoured soda (hence the name). The specific taste varies across different countries, but it’s almost always vanilla flavoured. For example, South Africa’s version is less creamy with a light, rosy/floral taste, while the Japanese make theirs from melon soda and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I actually didn’t know that the base flavour was vanilla until a few years ago! That’s partially due to how prevalent creme soda is as a flavour in South Africa. I grew up eating cream-soda-flavoured candies, drinking cream-soda-flavoured milk, and (only once because it was kinda gross) eating cream-soda-flavoured cereal.
Back to Phineas and Ferb
In the episode “Phineas and Ferb: Summer Belongs To You!”, the gang visits Baljeet’s uncle Sabu who owns a rubber factory in the Himalayas. Sabu proceeds to burst into a song about how he manufactures nothing but rubber bands and rubber balls.
It was all well and good until he started listing things that the factory doesn’t produce. Suddenly, an image of “cream soda” appeared for just a second; just a second was enough for all the world’s evils to escape Pandora’s box. I paused the video and stared at the screen in disbelief.
Notice anything wrong in this frame?
Probably not if you’re an American reader, but ask any South African, and they’ll tell you the cream soda in that drawing…
Is not green.
Green cream soda
I couldn’t believe my eyes – surely it was just some animation error? No, it couldn’t be – a big animation studio like Disney wouldn’t make such a blatant mistake. What if it’s nothing but an indication that the show takes place in a fictional universe? Maybe if I could get a second opinion from my friends…
To my horror, none of them saw the glaring mistake staring them in the face. Some didn’t even know what cream soda was! To my friends’ horror, I showed them a photo of the emerald-green drink I knew and loved.
“Why would it ever be that colour?”
“Neither vanilla nor cream is green, though.”
“Are you sure that’s safe to drink? It looks radioactive.”
I’d heard horror stories from my international friends (Italians in particular) about American versions of their food back home, but I never imagined it would happen to me too. Here were my friends, 18 years old and still thinking that cream soda is brown! I knew I needed to show them the truth, but unfortunately, I had no correctly-coloured cream soda on hand.
Luckily, one of my friends has Pakistani parents who visited MIT around then. I explained my plight to them, and they were kind enough to send over a can of Pakola (Pakistani cream soda) for us to try. Everyone agreed that it was delicious, but alas, many of them remain non-believers.
Hopefully, the proceeding list will change that:
Top 10 (totally legit) reasons why cream soda should be green
- Green is a fun colour and adds a splash of life to any meal.
- Green also makes it seem exotic; almost healthy, even.
- It’s also good for your eyes, and a 2016 study found that exposure to the colour helps you live longer.
- The drink tastes so different from vanilla ice cream that they don’t need to share colours.
- The colour also adds mystique to the drink’s flavour, and I think discovering the base flavours of cream soda should be a major milestone in everyone’s life.
- The ice cream soda’s inventor is none other than Robert M. Green. Coincidence? I think not.
- Green makes the drink unmistakable; brown and beige are bland, generic and overused.
- It’s already green in so many other countries, so the US may as well follow suit.
- Sparletta cream soda (the biggest cream soda brand in South Africa) has smiley faces on its bottles. American cream soda has nothing but sadness.
- There is simply no other colour that cream soda should be.
Moral of the story
This post was just meant to be a tongue-in-cheek rant about a drink that many of you probably have never heard of before, but most other blogs seem to involve some character development too. I suppose I learned that you never really know what will be different at college (or in any new environment). Sometimes only minor things change, but the small things often make the biggest difference.
I actually found a bottle of American cream soda recently in La Verdes! I bought it and had a cream soda tasting party with my friends, and it tasted… not the best.
I guess the true moral of the story is to eat your greens, kids (and by “greens”, I mean correctly-coloured cream soda).