Everyone I know has been talking about LaCroix. The hipster sparkling water has been everywhere lately, from tech startups, to the millennial female-oriented newsletter I subscribe to to pretend I’m still in my 20s and see what all the kids are up to these days.
Recently, I decided to try it and see if I could indeed ascend to a higher spiritual plane while drinking it. I went specifically to my local Whole Foods, where they are super-heavy on selling the stuff recently, picked out a six-pack, and brought it home.
Did it taste like VC funding, being 25 and having an Instagram, or, even avocados? Well…no. Imagine my surprise when I decided to try LaCroix and found that it tasted just like being five years old.
When I first came to this country as a preschooler, one phenomenon that was common in the Russian immigrant community was gathering around the table during the holidays. Everyone was poor as hell, but everyone still bought a salad, some pickled tomatoes, some chicken, and soon enough, there would be an entire meal cobbled together from what seemed like absolutely nothing.
One key element gracing these early nineties immigration tables was a bottle of blue Vintage Seltzer water, purchased at the local Acme for under a dollar a bottle . This was absolutely one of the lamest things on a table already laden with mayonnaise monstrosities.
No one really knows how or why “Zyeltser” became popular among the Russian immigrants. Perhaps it was a nostalgic fondness for газированая вода, carbonated water that would be available mostly at sanatorium resorts and at a searing five kopeks per glass that would set you back a good deal out of the 120 rubles of your monthly salary in 1988. Perhaps it was a desire to be American by drinking Coca Cola without actually purchasing Coca Cola, which was exorbitantly priced at over $1 per bottle.
Either way, seltzer water was the drink of my poor immigrant childhood, one that faded away the further we got from being beginner immigrants, soon to be replaced by lemonade, orange juice, and ten years after we left Russia, real Coca-Cola, right there on the table, sitting nonchalantly next to the Lay’s Potato Chips.
It amazed me how taking a sip of a drink now sold upmarket at Whole Foods made me feel like I was, again, wearing pigtails and tights, and sitting at the family table, everyone around me passing the blue and white bottle of seltzer like there was no tomorrow.
It didn’t taste like pamplemousse. It tasted like being made fun of for years because my parents couldn’t afford brand-name clothes, like the feeling of being an outsider, starting from scratch, of waiting for the chicken at Acme to go on super-sale. It tasted like my childhood.
I gently put the rest of the six-pack I’d gotten to sample back under my counter and let out a small laugh, one that may or may not have been caused by the carbonated bubbles.