Our recently-concluded The Hunt Club contest called upon Voracious readers to find 10 esoteric edibles somewhere in Seattle. This week, we'll look more closely at a few of the listed items - and tell you where our top scavenger hunter found them.
"Apart from cars, which is obviously what the city's most known for, we haven't had too many products that have stood the test the time," says John Carlisle, Metro Times columnist and author of the just-released 313: Life in the Motor City. "Because Detroit has fallen on such hard times, there's a certain pride in buying something so iconically Detroit. People who might not be inclined to buy pink-colored pop are buying Faygo."
Faygo was created in 1907 by a pair of Russian brothers who based their soda pop flavors on cake frostings they'd made as bakers in the old country. "Feigenson Brothers Bottling Works" was too lengthy to stick on a seven-ounce bottle, so the name was shortened to Faygo in 1921.
There are now 50 flavors of Faygo. "It used to take up a huge amount of space on the grocery shelf," Carlisle recalls. "Every kid has been into Faygo because those big colors pop."
When he was young, Carlisle liked Rock & Rye, a flavor that predated rock 'n' roll by decades. But the most-talked about flavor in the Faygo line-up is strawberry, officially rechristened Red Pop in the 1960s.
"It's known as a ghetto drink," Carlisle says. "If you're making fun of someone's car for being a beater, you say ' Are you going to get a Red Pop with that?' Fried chicken and Red Pop is kind of a joke, but it's a cultural truth."
According to soul food scholar Adrian Miller, red beverages have played an important role in black culture for centuries.
"What we now call "red drink," or "red drank" for hip-hop heads, is the delicious marriage of two old trends in African-American culture: sweetened water beverages and a deep appreciation for the color red," Miller wrote in Edible Memphis.
Miller traces the Kool-Aid, Big Red and Red Pop served at soul food joints and kept in the refrigerators of African-American households to West Africa, where water was treated with red kola nuts and dried hibiscus flowers. In the late 1800s, red lemonade became extraordinarily popular in the American South. Miller quotes from the account of a Columbus, Ga. camp meeting observer, who was struck by the rush on red lemonade stands: "One of the most persistent cries of the day was 'Red, red rose; red, red rose; red, red rose lemonade!' It assailed the Columbus train when it arrived, and it echoed after it when it departed."
Not a Detroiter, Miller considers Kool-Aid the apex of red and sugar water. "For people who often lived on the margins, as African-Americans tended to, Kool-Aid was the answer. All of its ingredients--sugar, water, and the magic powder--were cheap and it could be made to taste," he writes of the drink which made its national debut in the not-so-fortuitous year of 1929. To keep his powdered beverage on the grocery lists of families grappling with the Depression, inventor Edward Perkins was forced to slash Kool-Aid's package price from a dime to a nickel.
Faygo has a similar reputation for affordability.
"It's available to everyone," Carlisle says. "Whether you're rich or poor, you can get a Faygo."
As ex-Michiganders know, it's not always easy to find their favorite pop (never, ever soda) beyond the Great Lakes state. But Faygo's the red drink of choice at Ezell's Famous Chicken. And our scavenger hunt winner picked up a bottle at a Winco in Kent. Now, where's the Vernors?