This week brought news of the impending death of Tab. If you have never enjoyed a Tab it is hard to explain the cold, bubbly taste, at once both sweet and acrid. Imagine a Coke, with a tablespoon of vinegar thrown in. Take a pink packet of Sweet & Low, mix it with some actual sugar. That is the taste of my childhood.
Today’s “diet” and “lite” drinks all put the sweetness up front. If there is any bitterness it’s in the aftertaste. There was no aftertaste with Tab, the aftertaste WAS the taste. You could sense the saccharine from the first satisfying pop of the pull tab. The appeal wasn’t in the taste, the appeal was that when you drank Tab, you knew you were having an adult drink, and you knew you looked beautiful drinking it.
Tab enjoyed a rare place of honor in my house. My mother did not generally allow junk food. We were a house with carob chips and peanut butter from the “Health Food” store, long before Whole Foods was a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye. At the “Health Food” store you could buy peanut butter ground while you waited, yogurt (still a novelty in 1970s Kentucky), granola, sugarless raisin cookies, and those little Chinese candies wrapped in rice paper that you can also eat. I’m not sure why my mother allowed these candies, my guess is because they were Chinese they counted as a cultural exchange. It’s also possible she believed the rice paper counted as fiber. You could probably also buy some other “herbs” at the “health food” store, but I’m not sure.
As health conscious as she was, my mother was always just a little more weight conscious. Believe me when I tell you that at 80 years old, she has a better figure than you. Hence, the incongruous appearance of those pink cans of Tab under the counter in our kitchen.
Today, I’m not much of a soda drinker. Occasionally on a road trip I’ll have a Diet Dr. Pepper. At Passover I like a Dr. Brown’s Diet Cream Soda. It’s been hard to find Tab in the stores for years and I can’t honestly say I miss drinking it. But somehow, I still miss the idea of it being around. Rest in peace Tab