I never tasted Coke much as a teenager. It was kind of exotic. The first place I ever tasted it was at an American Naval Base in Spain. The navy invited a party of us to spend an evening with them. We saw a movie, then we were invited to the Officer’s mess. American marines get very good food – slabs of ham, steak, ice cream – and Coca-cola in huge 2 litre cans. I was given one of these by a young marine who liked me. I was suitably impressed.
But a glass of Coke with ice doesn’t remind me of that. There was no ice in the can. I know some people say it’s rubbish, but Coke really does taste different out of a glass with ice in it. It’s fresher, sharper, it stays in the palate of the mind.
The glasses on board the cruise ship that was bringing me to Australia were very tall and thick, like milkshake glasses. The ice came up halfway and the Coke poured over it in a dark, glistening stream. It stung the mouth, it shocked the tongue, it tasted of hot sunny days and nights when you could smell the ocean and walk the deck under a black sky coated with stars.
Being on board ship, with nothing outside but sky and ocean, was a liberating experience for me. Here there were no borders,. No landlocked miles between me and the sea –[ on land there is always land, even on the edge of the sea, but on board a ship there is always sea. It is ever present, visible from every porthole. There are no roads, no buildings, no cars – you live every moment with what is at hand.
Funny how a simple glass of Coke with ice can bring all that back.