Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cooking with Coke

So last year I read Ruth Ozeki's book My Year of Meats. It was a very entertaining book about a half Japanese woman who becomes the producer of a Japanese tv show in America which each episode features a different kind of meat recipe, mostly cooked by middle America soccer mom types. The meat lobby in Japan was trying to beef up (sorry, couldn't resist) its presence and selling power, so they wanted her to push beef (though she often found the pork recipes much more compelling). So she criss-crosses the continent, looking for camera-friendly American faces with good recipes behind them.

And one of the recipes was a meatloaf basted in Coca Cola. Yes, that's right, Coca Cola. Only in the book, they couldn't (for some reason I don't remember) get Coke, so they used Pepsi and it "just wasn't the same."

Apparently, this is fairly common. The Coke website lists a whole slew of recipes using their products, anything from ginger chicken wings to beef brisket, German sauerbraten to meat loaf, Cherry Coke lentils to Japanese pickled cauliflower. I've never tried it, I shouldn't pass judgement on it until I do.

But hell, I'm going to.

Maybe it's because I try to minimize the amount of chemicals I put in my food that this just seems wrong. And I fully admit to being a hypocrite, because I eat out with no problem, and eat packaged ice cream, and soda on occasion. But when I'm cooking, I try to cook with as natural ingredients as I can.

And there's just something about using Coke in recipes that just seems wrong to me. But having done my research, it seems that all the concerns about the acid (which can quite effectively clean off corrosive car batteries) are unfounded, since our stomach acids are much stronger and can neutralize the acids in the soda. More problematic is the fact that colas have been proven to leech calcium out of the bones and potentially lead to osteoporosis later in life, as well as contributing to ulcers (but only for those who drink lots of it).

But I'm thinking that cooking coke might be like cooking alcohol (and that supposition is entirely based on my own logic and is not based one iota in science or research) in that when you cook it, it neutralizes some of the bad stuff about it. Plus, there's a lot less exposure to it if you're using one can to cook a whole haunch of meat. And it apparently makes the meat much more tender and gives it a unique flavor (is unique good? Maybe I should try it now just to see).

But there are other legends/lore/rumors/theories about Coke. How's about we look into those?

Rumor: Coke is an effective spermicide, and that if you douche with it, it will prevent pregnancy. But, according to Snopes, this is like "attempting to close the barn door after the horse has gotten loose." It might kill some sperm, but most will be out of its reach already, and you could end up both pregnant and with a nasty yeast infection to boot (apologies to any guys reading this...)

Rumor: Coke will dissolve a tooth/nail/penny/piece of meat left in it overnight. Nope. That acid could eventually dissolve a tooth, if left for quite a while, but the same effect could be gotten from orange juice.

Rumor: Coke can clean out a car engine. I couldn't find anything on snopes about it (except that using Coke for car oil is not advise). But this message board basically debunks this myth. While coke is effective at cleaning batteries, using coke to clean out an engine would make things worse - the water in the soda would evaporate, leaving the gunky sticky corn syrup behind to gum up the works.

Other alternatives (to drinking) with Coke: (caveat: I have not tested most of these and some frankly seem rather suspect, but they're interesting nonetheless)

1. Add a can of coke to beans while they're cooking to reduce the ensuing gas-fest (I haven't tested the veracity of this, if you have, let me know if it works!)

2. Quiet an upset/hungover tummy

3. Boost the effectiveness of your laundry detergent by adding a can of coke to the wash. Apparently, the carbonation is supposed to help get stains out. Again, haven't tried it, and wouldn't want to add something with that much corn syrup to my laundry, but if you've tried it and it works, throw your two cents in here

4. Use coke to scrub rust off, the acid will do the trick

5. Pour a can of coke in the toilet and let sit for an hour. The acid will help clean the stains off the porcelain.

6. Relieve jelly fish stings. Hell, this is much better than other, less appealing options.

7. Mix one can of coke, one cup of ammonia and 1/4 cup of dish soap and spray on your lawn once a month for greener grass. Something about this one seems fishy to me. Ammonia and coca cola? Hmm...

8. Bring a pot of coke to boil with some fresh ginger and drink as a cold remedy.

9. Shake and spray over the windshield to clean off crusted bugs. (Wouldn't the corn syrup put a sticky film?)

10. Here's where you put another use for Coke!

Given my previous rant about the fact that some people refuse to try new things, now I feel like I should try this. Once my insane fall cooking is over and done with, I just might...


Merry said...

My brother-in-law tried to convince me that cooking with coke was the way to go... I found the very idea horrifying somehow.

My uncle once bought some canned soups that were on sale -- fruit soups like blueberry or peach. Just the idea of opening the can and heating those soups up Seemed Wrong.

Weird how we all get set in our ways.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

fruit soup? Seriously? You're not pulling my chain? Wow. I can't quite wrap my head around that one.

Braeg Heneffe said...

I love cooking different kinds of foods and have been looking around different blogs for interesting recipes, i've seen cooking with coke before but never tried it. Don't think i will but i'm interested to see what you think of it when you get round to it.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Another use for Coke in our house growing up was as currency. I think we got a couple of sixpacks a week to split among 3 kids. We all loved the stuff so much we'd trade our cans for chores, allowance money, etc.

I didn't give it up entirely until I was in my thirties--and if I were diagnosed with a fatal disease someday I'd probably start drinking it again. Weirdly addictive, and Diet just isn't the same to me.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

I'll definitely put a post up once I do try this out, just to let everyone know what it's like!

Crabby, that's awesome! Coke as currency. That's like cookies at school (because when you're in fourth grade you don't want the fruit and granola, you want cookies!). And I agree, diet just isn't the same. I wish they'd make caffeine free Coke that tasted the same as regular, but it seems that just isn't in the cards either.

JavaChick said...

All of that seems like a waste of perfectly good Coca-Cola to me...Much rather just drink it.