The Scent of Dirt, the Taste of Sweat

That’s Seahawks all-pro tackle Walter Jones selling it
Perspiration Soda
I loved the inevitability of puns and wordplay when I was a kid, and so I thought the title of the oh-so-’60s musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd was an absolute laff riot.
Still, though I could imagine what a crowd smelled like, I had never actually sniffed one. And greasepaint? I hardly knew what it was, no less could recognize its scent. (My first real musical was A Funny Thing Happened… with Zero Mostel, who was greasepaint, and grease, personified. I also played Petruchio in high school, to much predictable laughter, but that’s another story.)
Many decades later, I found a dried-out tube of greasepaint in a junk shop, made in Philadelphia and dated 1908. Dead silent. So, of course, I lifted it to my nose….
Flavor of the Moment
It still goes without saying that capitalism, in order to bully and thrive, must generate a steady, voracious appetite for change. Yet late in the last century, a corresponding cultural hunger for what some wish to believe is authentic, basic, and pure entered the popular marketplace-imagination as well. Sure, it’s easy to see all the organic, handmade, fair-trade stuffs on the shelves simply as another of a long line of product lines. But there’s a tonic resistance to the “new model” pitch built into the very idea of the unadulterated and authentic, whatever its momentary form or price.
Keyword: Football
I boarded this train of thought after clicking on an online offer I couldn’t refuse: a Seahawks Collector Pack from Seattle-based Jones Soda Co., five “limited edition flavors” for $19.95, plus S&H. The Seahawks, by the way, are not an Errol Flynn drag troupe; they’re Seattle’s pro football team.
And those pigskin flavors? Sweet Victory, Natural Field Turf, Sports Cream (yup, really) and the two that made my heart leap, Perspiration and Dirt.
You may have seen Jones’s expensive retro glass bottles or affordable 12-pack cans in your market. The company has an “alternative” strategy, “interacting” with customers via make-your-own labels and cool placement in “skate, surf and snowboarding shops, tattoo and piercing parlors” as well as marginal destinations like Target, Starbucks and that ever-edgy 7-Eleven. Jones sodas abjure the cheaper HFCS, high-fructose corn syrup, as sweetener, opting instead for what eons ago used to be the bad-for-you norm: cane sugar. Pure cane sugar.
Bravo. Seriously. Cane sugar does impart a pleasing mouth-feel and is a “catalyst” flavor: it changes the way ingredients around it taste. Just try a Coke on some hot, faraway island, a Coca-Cola still made with sugar — and fulfill another “authentic” fantasy, the one called “the way food used to taste.”
Taste Test
So let’s pry open the four most interesting of these sports sodas (leaving one for you to try yourself). I’ll begin with Color and follow with Nose, then Taste:
Sweet Victory
C: Cloudy yet fluorescent baby-blue, the hue of a wished-for boyfriend’s eyes
N: Strong bubble-gum vanilla
T: Thick, saccharine vanilla, with Dubble Bubble notes. This is the only one of the four that’s sweetened. Delightful when chilled, although, unlike in life, one Victory is more than enough.
Natural Field Turf
C: Astroturf green
N: Faint lawn-dog, watermelon rind, with sharp metal-shop undertone
T: Like sun-tea, but with grass. Something of a missed opportunity, if you know how heavenly a just-mowed yard smells. Maybe they should match this one with a Seattle seawater soda: Turf ‘n’ Surf.
C: Clear as Perrier
N: We have just walked into the cinderblock men’s room of an almost deserted amusement park.
T: Voila! Exactly like licking armpits. Equally nasty, and sexy, warm or cold. I am trying to picture the gathering I could serve this to, and what the rest of the menu would be.
C: Truly repellent diluted puddle. You have seen this brown before.
N: Almost no aroma, nothing like freshly plowed anything
T: Understated vegetal taint, as if you not only neglected to peel the carrots, but forgot to wash them. Yet there’s a grainy aftertaste, really a texture, that successfully evokes what eating dirt five minutes ago would have tasted like. For a reason I can’t explain, the movie Brokeback Mountain comes to mind.
If you move fast, Jones has Turkey & Gravy and Latke sodas for holiday sale, too.
L’eau d’Gym
Would it surprise the masculine footballers in the audience to know that women have been onto these supposedly butch smells for years? “Dirt” is the unquestionably femme Demeter company’s “most emblematic fragrance” … “made to smell exactly like the dirt from the fields around the Pennsylvania family farm belonging to our founding perfumer.” You can purchase Dirt Cologne Spray, Bath & Body Oil, Calming Lotion, and even Dirt Room Spray, to use just before, or after, company comes.
And then there’s the scientific impulse. A worthy website unhappily called The Scented Salamander has a post from last year about French designer Philippe Di Méo, who’s created perfumes based on three bodily excretions: sweat, tears, and saliva. He was, he said, growing weary of the “tabooization” of these “most emotional” of our fluids. Apparently, his simulacra have been constructed, and you can purchase and employ them at certain unnamed French spas.
I know that tears are salty as potato chips, but as close as they have come to me, I’ve never thought to smell them.
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