Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A whole lot of fizz and pop!

During the road trip, I went with my niece to check out her new place of work.  Typical of the youngish tech work environments, hers too had cafeterias and snacks and coffee and sodas and even alcohol. It was like I had entered an alternate reality.

The alternate reality is not what this post is about.  It is about something far less significant, bordering on the trivial.

I found a "goli-soda" on the refrigerated shelves in one of those common areas.  Non-Indian readers need an explanation, right?

Back in the old country, as a kid, when Coca-Cola was expensive (before it was booted out) an inexpensive carbonated drink that I loved to drink after which I waited for that awesome burp was a "goli-soda."  Carbonated water in a glass bottle, with a marble as the stopper that locked in the fizz.  "Goli" refers to the marble.  Thus, goli-soda is marble-soda.  During one of my recent trips to India, I had this, which was simply refreshing, though I missed the old goli-soda bottle.

Now, back to the story.

I got excited about the soda, which was from Japan. "They have goli-soda in those countries?"  Stupid me, you think.  But, hey, I am a man of limited intelligence and knowledge.  Up until that day, I had no reason to doubt that goli-soda was uniquely Indian.  I grabbed one.

And then came an interesting learning experience of how to use the cap to get the marble out of the way.  I followed the instructions.  Bingo!

The soda tasted great.  It was awesome.

The nerd in me could not wait to get back to the laptop and figure out more about this marble-soda.  It was not Indian, after all?  Or is it? Who invented it?  How do they get the marble in?  Not a day passes without me asking questions and then telling myself, "shut the hell up!" ;)
Ramune is widely known for the distinctive design of its bottle, often called Codd-neck bottles after the inventor, Hiram Codd. They are made of glass and sealed with a marble; the codd head is held in place by the pressure of the carbonation in the drink. To open the bottle, a device to push the marble inward is provided. The marble is pushed inside the neck of the bottle where it rattles around while drinking. Therefore, the drinks are sometimes called "marble soda" outside of Japan
Hiram Codd is no Japanese name.  So, there had to be a lot more about the crazy marble in a soda bottle, right?
The original carbonated soft drinks were created on the spot at soda fountains where carbonated water was mixed with syrups and flavorings. If the customer wished to enjoy the drink later, he or she was out of luck.  But at some point in the mid 1800s, some manufacturers began bottling their ginger ales and fruit drinks in ceramic jugs or glass bottles, using a cork for a stopper tied down with wire like a champagne cork to hold in the carbonation. This worked well enough, unless the cork dried out and lost its seal. Some early bottlers such as Schweppes made their bottles with round bottoms, so that they must be stored on their sides, keeping the cork moist. This is the origin of the classic bowling pin shaped bottle as still used by San Pellegrino.
Aha. So, if the cork drying up was a problem, then?
In 1873 British inventor Hiram Codd came up with this unusual bottle design seen at left. A glass marble is placed inside the bottle when it is cast. The soda is bottled upside down, so that the marble falls against an india rubber O-ring (missing from this bottle) in the neck of the bottle, where the pressure of the carbonated gas inside holds the marble in place. When the consumer wishes to drink, he or she presses down on the marble with a wooden plunger, releasing the pressure with a pronounced POP! When the bottle is tipped, the marble rolls into a narrow trough out of the way so that the liquid can pour out.  These bottles were intended to be returned to the factory to be used again, but no doubt many were broken by children to retrieve the colorful marble inside. With so many contours and narrow corners, this bottle seems as if it would been difficult to wash and re-use.
Apparently, most other countries have moved on to other technologies.
In Japan and India however, these Codd stopper bottles are still used today for cheap local fruit-flavored soft drinks. In Japan they are called ramune, while in India they are known as bante wali botal, or "bottle with a marble".
Aha, the goli-soda lives on!


Ramesh said...

Oh Yes, Goli soda, Kali Mark no less. I remember the times when even one bottle of that was too expensive and two of us would share "half half" ! Especially after a hard day's cricket.

By the way there is a chic restaurant in Delhi, quixotically named SodaBottleOpenerWallah :)

Sriram Khé said...

Oh yeah, the half-half, by so many names, was common with many things, right? Even with tea and coffee at the stalls. "One by two" was also a usage, right? Ah, those days of tight, tight, tight budgets and a life of thrift! ;)

Triggered by your comment, I checked out the website (olivebarandkitchen.com) ... ;)

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