Guest post by Michael Lober:
If you're going to hang around with Lauren Walles, you have to be prepared to enter every bodega on every block. What's worse, you have to be prepared to not buy anything in these bodegas. I never feel bad when I walk out of a 7-11 empty-handed; the chain is doing just fine, and most of the time the hired help doesn't notice. But walking out of a narrow NYC bodega empty-handed is awkward and semi-shameful. The owner always asks if he can help us find whatever we're looking for, and it's best not to say anything than to say that we were actually hoping that he carried imported bottles of soda that are most likely terrible.
We've learned to spot a good bodega (meaning a bodega that carries imported bottled sodas). First, if the bodega claims a nationality -- the Mexican mini-market, or the Brazilian bodega -- then you can expect bottles caps. Second, if the bodega is one of those fancily lit health food markets, then you might happen upon some sort of bottled green tea ginger ale thingie, or any other sort of designer soda. Finally, if you're in Williamsburg or pretty much any neighborhood in the western portion of Brooklyn, expect a few bottle caps. It's easier to find a microbrewed root beer from Oregon than a Coca Cola in some of the bodegas there.
Anyway, this is all to say that there's a Brazilian mini-market near Lauren's apartment, and we came across a bottled guarana soda there. Guarana, apparently, is a type of Amazonian tree that produces a small fruit that's high in caffeine. It tasted kind of like apple to me, not terrible or overly sweet, but unmemorable nonetheless. The soda is the color of that tan M&M that has since been discontinued, although the bottle boasts that it's caramel tinted. Nope, tan M&M, that's what color it is.