Paris Goodnight: Spreading the Cheer

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 21, 2023

As the Cheerwine Festival draws in fans from all over in praise of the bubbly Salisbury drink, I’m reminded of how some things just go together, while some things you have to see to believe.

Cheerwine and barbecue are two things that seem meant for each other. I can’t imagine how many times over the years I’ve ordered both in a stop at one of our local eateries. We had an era here at the Post where every Thursday was the Barbecue Tour day and off we headed to try a different place in the county, or just beyond its borders, to feast on the local favorite delicacy and rank it against all others. Five pigs was the highest in our sliding scale, and it was definitely personal preference more than anything, with criteria being something like an extra pig if the waitress touched your shoulder while asking if you’d like a refill.

If I remember correctly, only two of our restaurants achieved the coveted five pig rating on my chart, but since we never published the findings of our adventure, I’m not inclined to release them now. Both eating establishments are still in business and everyone who went on the Tour certainly had their own favorite for various reasons.

I’ve also been known to order tea while eating out, but I have switched from the pure sweetened variety that I used to love to a more refined half sweet, half unsweet. Plenty of people can take either at full octane, but my tastes have just changed over the years. My in-laws favor the half tea, half lemonade treat known in some circles as an Arnold Palmer. But I’ll leave my tea alone in one cup and save the lemonade for another time, though I do like both about the same.

I’ve never been much of a fan of the taste of diet drinks. And I had an engineer once say he didn’t know how they took caffeine out of coffee, so his suggestion was drink the regular variety, which I generally stick to also.

But some health advocates have suggested doing away with sugary drinks, and places like New York City have had the audacity to try to ban things like the biggie size cups some choose to guzzle from.

I’m more likely to side with the serious cyclist who was sponsored by Diet Cheerwine and was speaking to a gathering of students years ago when I got to tag along. Her take on such diet restrictions went something like this: she ate whatever she wanted and drank what she liked, but she didn’t just sit around guzzling but worked it all off. If that meant cycling 100 miles, to her it was worth it.

That sounded like good enough advice for me. And it was like my dad who was well into his 80s when a doctor suggested he go on the Mediterranean diet. His response awhile later was, “I looked  at it.” And he continued to eat barbecue when he wanted and drink coffee or a soft drink occasionally but never went overboard on anything. Some of the happiest times I ever remember seeing him late in life was before or after a trip to the VA, when we would get a Hap’s burger and a Cheerwine in the glass bottle and sit behind the Rowan Museum to enjoy our feast. We might get ice cream at Spanky’s afterwards and you would never know we hadn’t just eaten  something from the finest restaurants in the world.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy Cheerwine used to be the ice cold slushies, but maybe that will be for later in the summer. I haven’t actually tried one of those lately, but I do remember they caused quite the brain freeze if you slurped them down too fast, which I always seemed to do.

One thing I may skip next time around is the Cheerwine shrimp taco I tried this past week. That one was just a little too much.

As for the things you have to see, I once went on a road trip to the big city of Charlotte with seasoned reporter Mark Wineka to witness some taste testing of our hometown beverage. Our experiment involved having people who weren’t from around here try the drink in a container when they couldn’t see its color. People from Chicago or New York might say it tasted like Dr Pepper or any number of other drink varieties they had tried, but when they could actually see the cherry colored bubbles fizzing, it made all the difference.

And while leaving tea and lemonade separate, there are other drink combinations that I give exactly the same treatment, all except for one that involves Cheerwine and another mixer. But I’ll save that combo for the beach and that tale for another sunny day.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.