Sunday, November 14, 2004

Xtreme Gulp

My mom and I were pulling into our driveway and I saw a strange girl in our garage stirring a bucket of paint.

"Mommy, who is that girl and why is she stirring paint in our garage?"

Once we pulled in, my mom identified her as a friend of my brother's. And I saw for myself that she hadn't been stirring a bucket of paint, but rather a Slurpee in a drink container the size of my torso with the words "Xtreme Gulp" emblazoned across it. Such a small girl with such a Big Gulp. Then I saw her brother, who also toted an X-treme Gulp. He told me you could get refills for only 96 cents.

I talked with them for a while about the extremity of their gulps. I am not here to judge. I do not frown on the Big Gulp. I don't want to say anything here about our fixation with size and quantity, with extremity. You've all heard that before, and there must be some expat in Japan who can play that fiddle much better than I.

No. Rather I want to say that I love the Big Gulp, and its water-reservoir proportioned-scions. It's just so us. Even the gradual upping of the ante is so American: from Big Gulp to Bigger Gulp to Super Big Gulp to Xtreme Gulp.

Though I can't help thinking of words from the Dalai Lama:

Fulfilled desire may provide a sense of temporary satisfaction; however, the pleasure we experience upon acquiring a new car or home, for example, is usually short-lived. When we indulge our desires, they tend to increase in intensity and multiply in number. We become more demanding and less content, finding it more difficult to satisfy our needs.

Ok. Yes, Your Holiness. That's certainly the case, and a good analysis of American consumption. But the Gulps don't offend in the manner of SUVs or McMansions. They're good fun. I embrace them. Though my arms can just barely contain their girth.


At 9:05 PM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

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At 9:10 PM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

Wow! Things have changed a lot since I left. In the old days (late 80's) it used to be called small, medium, large, and sometimes extra large. Now there's supersizing and xtreme.

I must admit I miss large (mega-monster-size?) drinks and had to buy drink cups while on stateside vacation, because the European cups are so tiny.

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Irma Vep said...

I miss the days of small, medium, and large! Honest those words are, you knew what you were getting. Choosing which size didn't entail an existential crisis. ie. "Am I myself merely super or X-treme?" I admire Creativity in all its forms, even in marketing, but I find it very embarrassing and completely unneccessary to have to employ a different vocabulary, when the immediacy and clarity of S,M,L is readily available.

Tall, Grande, and Venti. Of course these are the worst offenders. Diabolical violators of logic. “Tall,” any pre-schooler knows, is an adjective indicating abundance. But in the perverse, pretentious Starbucks world it somehow signifies their smallest size. As if to say, even with the smallest Starbucks you’ve coffee a-plenty. And then “Grande,” which they use to mean “medium.” Why Italian? I love Italian, but ma donna, please tell me why? Starbucks is a company from Seattle—if they needed to be cute, why not use some fishermen phrasing or some Native American words? That would be honest. And “Grande” again means large, goddamnit. Finally, there is the odious “Venti.” More absurd pseudo-italianizing. And “venti” means “twenty!” Makes no fucking sense. I will choose to assume that by “twenty,” they must mean twenty times the coffee that even the most gluttonous Italian would drink at any setting.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

I wonder if the coffee there is as strong as German coffee. If it is, Venti is probably enough to burn you out like a shooting star. Maybe Venti means it makes your heart beat 20 times faster than normal?

At 9:28 PM, Blogger happyweasel said...

i don't know about starbucks, only go there when given a gift card from work, but all coffee shops in seattle use such sizings. to clarify, though, a "short" is a true small, "tall" med, "grande" large. i don't buy coffee out very often; at home i've perfected the amazing, beautiful, and vital Press Pot coffee (roast my own beans in an adhok manner, as well). i'd refused for a few years to acknowledge the oddball names, small or medium for me, damnit, i'm from ohio.

1. Double Short Latte: this drink converted me into saying "short". crisper string of words than using "small"(contrary to what i said above, small is often confused with "tall")

2. Double Espresso: oh so good... at the right place
Those are my dear coffee shop friends. I meet them only once or twice a month, but they speak very nicely.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

At home we have an espresso machine and make large size espressos with foaming milk and cinnamon. Every day as often as we like.

I'm from Ohio, too!

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

The definitive word on portion sizes might be at's featured site of the day:

"Anyone eating on the run or at restaurants has probably noticed that food portions have gotten larger. Some portions are called "super size," while others have simply grown in size and provide enough food for at least two people. With this growth have come increases in waistlines and body weight. To see if you know how today's portions compare to the portions available 20 years ago, quiz yourself on Portion Distortion I (2003) and Portion Distortion II (2004). You will also learn about the amount of physical activity required to burn off the extra calories provided by today's portions. Site is provided by the National Institutes of Health."


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