Friday, February 1, 2013

Weird, Wonderful Orange Fanta


I cannot explain it.  When I am in Kenya, I crave Orange Fanta.  I had it today with my lunch. Paid about 30 KSh (which brought the total for my lunch of ndengu, mashed potatoes and kale to about $1).  But put me in another country and my Fanta cravings drain away.

Some interesting facts about Fanta.  It was concocted in Germany during WWII.  The German Coca Cola Company found it impossible to import Coca Cola syrup from the US due to the trade embargo against Nazi Germany.  The company head, a man named Max Keith, decided to come up with his own formula made out of materials they had on hand in Germany.  (The sources are quick to mention that none of the German Coca Cola leadership were members of the Nazi party.)  Having created a new soft drink, they needed to come up with a name.  When Keith urged his colleagues to 'use their imagination' to come up with something (the word for imagination he used was 'Fantasie', one of his colleagues called out 'Fanta', and it stuck.  After the war, Fanta reverted to Coca Cola, which can spot profit potential from a mile away.

I was introduced to Orange Fanta in 1980 when I traveled to Kenya for the first time.  Prior to that, all I knew of was Nehi Grape Soda from my childhood in South Carolina, which bore a striking resemblance to cough syrup.  When I came to Kenya, I was living with a Kikuyu family and was regularly invited to church events and family suppers where the hosts had gone to the expense of providing sodas for people to drink.  The choices were always Coke or Fanta and rarely Sprite.  Having grown tired of Coke, I tried Fanta and liked it.  And several times when we traveled by matatu to different remote parts of Kenya, after a fraught, bumpy, crowded and dusty ride, a shade-cooled Fanta became an anticipated treat, a kind of self-reward for making it this far.  A missionary friend observed that if the Coca Cola Company could find a way to get its soft drinks to the most remote parts of the earth, surely we Christians could do a better job with our Good News!

But when I went back home to the US, I forgot Fanta...  Until I returned to Kenya again.  Which in the 1980s was another 6 or 7 times.  Ahhh, Fanta.

A 'case' of Fanta worship?
In the 1990s, I was busy being a pastor, and then working on my PhD.  And for most of the 2000s, I was in Ethiopia.  And strangely, though Fanta was available in Addis Ababa, I never had any in the nearly 8 years we were there.  But when we moved to Kenya in 2008,  Fanta and me, we got immediately reacquainted.  Go figure.

Now just to clarify, its Orange Fanta that my Kenyan persona must have.  Not the horrid pineapple Fanta, or the absolutely evil black currant Fanta.  Orange for me, please.  I don't know why.

It makes no sense.  This liquid comes in a shade of orange that may not actually exist anywhere else.  And it has a sugar content that is high enough to trigger diabetes by mere proximity among the unsuspecting.  And unlike diet versions of Coke, which are now available in Kenya and which enable one to avoid the calories that pile on from nowhere, no such version of Fanta exists, in this country at least.  Here in Kenya, we must drink our Fanta straight and loaded.

So, any insight about my Fanta cravings?  Are you similarly afflicted, conflicted?  Your soft drink of choice?  All I can think of right now is just how grateful I am that Krispy Kreme has not opened shop in Nairobi.  The combination with readily available Orange Fanta would be lethal, maybe even illegal under some controlled substance act.  It would be self-inflicted death by sugar.  The fact I am presently salivating is an indication of the trouble I am in.  So I best stop now before I go out and buy the rights for the franchise...

At least I know it's not just me.  From a wedding in Rwanda.  With wine glasses filled with  Fanta!
For the full description, go to this blog.