While cola wars are about money and marketing, pop (the drink as well as the music) has helped win real wars, influence political elections, and bring down the Iron Curtain. The science and technology of carbonating water has uncovered new natural laws and driven core technological innovations that changed the landscape. The business of bottling and selling pop created the franchising model that changed the landscape of American business--and the American landscape.
Donovan surveys the surface of all this territory at a fast clip, so don't expect depth, in a book with just over 200 pages. While Donovan cites an extensive bibliography, it feels like most of the book is based on just a few secondary sources. It is pop history for a fast food world--yeah, the low price and high profit margins of colas, along with the franchising model, enabled the rapid growth of that industry, too.
When I saw this book on my library's new-arrivals shelf near the book on the history of candy that I just reviewed, it was a foregone conclusion that I had to read the two together. Samira Kawash's candy history was more satisfying because it has more depth, but each achieves its purpose and delivers fun fast reading. The two stories really intertwine in the most recent decades as nutrition and health concerns have forced each industry to retrench and innovate into new product areas, and as each industry has had to reconsider its roots after decades of massive growth and profits. What are candy and pop after all but food fantasies, edible escapism driven by billion-dollar companies and global influence? Sure we all love to indulge in their products but perhaps it is time to place them in the proper perspective.
Now if you'll excuse me, it is Oscar night, so I have an ice cold diet Mountain Dew and lots of snacks including candy waiting to fuel my night of celebration of the escapism of Hollywood. See, it's all a matter of perspective.
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