So this month I finished the book proposal and we have begun to shop it around. Last week I was excited to get my first book rejection. Why was I excited? Because after more than 5 years of thinking about and writing the book, a reject somehow makes it feel all more real. And I know there will be many rejections before the book finds it home, so this first rejection means we are on out way!
So why was it rejected? The editor felt like the book has a limited audience with readers mainly in NY, FL, CA and Pittsburgh. You can imagine what I think about that…
William B. Keller, the focus of one chapter in my book, single handedly organized the fledgling bottling industry, which included seltzer bottlers, over 130 years ago. That’s him in the upper left. To MY right is his great-great-granddaughter, who just HAPPENED to be meeting her early-morning biking group right outside my hotel I was attending in Berkeley for business this morning. She was invaluable a year ago when I was writing about her family and it was so exciting to get to meet living history in person.
What do Jedis and seltzer delivery men have in common? Find out in my latest piece, and VIDEO, for the Forward:
Seltzer delivery is a dying art. Once, hundreds of “seltzer men,” as they liked to be called, drove the city and walked the streets of New York, carting cases of pressured siphons through rain and snow. Now, less than a dozen remain and, like Jedis with their arcane knowledge and mystical allusions to better days since passed, they move amongst us, largely invisible to the untrained eye.
Eli Miller is 78 years old, easily the oldest of the remaining seltzer men. In research for my upcoming book on seltzer, “Give Me Seltzer”, I contacted Eli for an interview. To my delight, he invited me to follow him along his route, if I could keep up. What follows is a brief collection of images and sounds from that day.
I just posted, for one week only, an except from the draft of my forthcoming book on seltzer. Please check it out before its gone, leave your constructive feedback, join the “fan” page, and tell your friends!
And here is the video of my life reading, which will also come down in a week as well:
Sarah Elton’s lovely post today makes me want to see Seltzer Works, the documentary she mentions about one of Brooklyn’s last seltzer men, Kenny Gomberg—and wish we had a seltzer delivery service in Jamaica Plain. I can’t find one, but I do find Give Me Seltzer, a blog I’ll start reading, by one Barry Joseph, who’s at work on a history of seltzer he intends to make definitive. He’s got seemingly everything about current brands, and also equipment and its history.
The writer goes on to recount his conversion by his stepdaughter from tap to seltzer water when he received a Sodastream machine.
Notch another one up on the side of seltzer!
This morning I almost skipped my subway stop on the way to work, three days in a row, engrossed as I was writing away, but today I managed to notice it in time and get off at my station. Phew!
I mentioned in a recent post that my recent ability to refocus on this project was seeing seltzer everywhere. Specifically, I’ve seen it in three unexpected places that suggest that, damn, if only I’d had the book done by now I’d be moving them like latkes during a Chanukah bash!
First, there was a recent article in the journal Science, of which I am NOT a reader, documenting a study analyzing the “taste of carbonated water.” Absolutely fascinating. I only learned of it through hearing it on my NPR Podcast.
The best image from the study, as it is so bizarre: what a rat’s tongue looks like tasting seltzer! Specifically, sour-sensing cells and the enzyme lighting up a mouse tongue:
You can almost see the ads now – “This is rat’s tongue. This is a rat’s tongue on seltzer.”
The second November appearance, which surprised me the most, was in Entertainment Weekly magazine, my source for all things movie, television and music. It lets me know what I need to consume to be cool. Well, according to their latest What’s In and What’s our report, I can now add seltzer to the list!
Believe me when I tell you, I can’t imagine a more unexpected place to see seltzer come up and I sure wish I could find out why now, of all times, they choose to give their nod to the fizzy fun.
Finally, and this one is only a little more gross than a rat’s tongue:
“Are you pouring on the pounds?” this NYC Subway ad asks, in both English here, and, elsewhere in Spanish. “Don’t drink yourself fat.” Instead, drink water, seltzer or low-fat milk.
It’s hardly a surprise to see the health benefits of seltzer touted – that’s one of it’s most common cultural narratives. But it was still a surprise to see drinking it encouraged in a public health campaign, picture underneath a photo realistic image of… what IS that, anyway? I’m sticking with seltzer.
I have been so excited about this project over the past few weeks. Three excellent articles have been written about seltzer (using me as a reference), I’ve been offered two speaking opportunities, been contacted by a resident of Niederselters sharing tales of live in the town of seltzer, and seen seltzer in the most unexpected of places (more on that later).
All of this lead me to add what I think has been the final ingredient missing in the structure of the book. And after months of preperations, I have started writing the book, from scratch. (more on that later as well).
As a result I have missed my subway stop not once but twice this week, as I was so engrossed writing away on my Pre. And have I been DEEP into it. For a taste, pun intended, take a look at the response I received from a noted scientist on his recent research study on the taste of carbonation. Hi Barry,
The CO2 that is in the seltzer is a substrate for carbonic anhydrase: the enzyme takes the CO2 plus a water molecule and converts them into bicarbonate plus a proton (H+). This proton is the acid signal that activates the acid (sour) taste receptor. So, as you correctly pointed out, no need to invoke any free oxygen, radicals, etc. , just the CO2 and the action of carbonic anhydrase
Eep! I am having fun figuring this all out and turning it into a readable, engaging page turned. Wish me luck!
There is an excellently researched overview of seltzer history in the new issue of Moment magazine, and I don’t just say that because I am the resident “expert” she quotes. Jewish Fizz: Seltzer, Egg Creams & Cel-Ray
“Carbonated water, the primary ingredient of these three Jewish champagnes, appeared first in European spas as a medicinal drink. Natural sparkling mineral water from the springs of a German village, Nieder-Selters—the linguistic origin for seltzer—was bottled and sold as early as 1728 in earthenware jugs, according to Barry Joseph, founder of Givemeseltzer.com and author of a forthcoming book on seltzer’s history. Said to cure all sorts of diseases, from the common cold to tuberculosis, seltzer was touted in an 1835 New York Times ad for ‘travelers…as the only sure preventative against the influence of a hostile climate.'”