Testing Slurpees to find truth
February 7, 2011 —
Sometimes I wonder what my purpose in life is. More often than not, though, I wonder what combination of Slurpee would produce the best flavor. I feel that thinking about the second thought has a higher possibility of being answered. Perhaps the answer to the second will bring light to the first thought, too.
There are many elements to a Slurpee that could affect flavor in a solution, but there is simply not enough space to cover all of them. I will thus spend my allotted space focusing on the Slurpee “Big Three”: color, individual flavor and texture.
Color is important because the drinker is going to have to look at it before even taking the first sip. Unnatural food colors give a person negative feelings toward that food. Case in point: Heinz purple and green ketchup. If you were one of the three people in the world that liked that, then stop reading this part of the column because food color has no effect on your taste buds. Congratulations, Heinz, for learning how to use food coloring. Next time, reserve it for the Christmas cookies and Easter eggs.
Think back to the first time you enjoyed that sweet-flavored ice. While standing at the gas station Slurpee smorgasbord, chances are you based your choice on your favorite color and didn’t bother reading the flavor names. This is similar to finding a mate in college. You probably saw someone, enjoyed their outward appearance and pursued to find out more about their personality. Even if you discovered their personality wasn’t all that good, it wasn’t a fruitless venture because you were able to look at something you found aesthetically pleasing. Most of our decisions are based initially on appearances.
Color becomes more confusing when you start to mix flavors. Most of the time, mixing of any kind will lead to a brown or dark purple liquid in the bottom of your cup. Knowing which color will be pooled at the bottom of your mixed Slurpee is based entirely on experience. To avoid having to deal with a color I don’t want in my Slurpee cup, I use an opaque container, such as a styrofoam cup at Speedway and a paper cup at 7-Eleven. Before topping the Slurpee parfait, I cover it with my favorite color Slurpee so I can see that one color through the transparent lid and not the unpleasing colors mixing beneath.
Flavor starts with color, but your eyes can only deceive your taste buds for so long. When you begin basing your Slurpee choice on flavor instead of color, you have reached an important step in your relationship with Slurpees. Having a good grasp on individual flavors is the key to understanding good Slurpee mixtures. It’s a common misconception that Slurpees with similar names have a similar flavor. Blue raspberry at Speedway is not the same as blue raspberry at 7-Eleven.
To become a mixing master, one has to understand the distinction not only between the flavors at different gas stations but between bold and neutral flavors too. In my Slurpee experience, I have discovered that Speedway’s Mountain Dew is a neutral flavor. It can be mixed with any other flavor and produce something worth drinking. I have also found that any Crystal Light flavor offered at 7-Eleven is bold and cannot be mixed with anything; it’s a drink to be enjoyed alone. Obviously, personal preferences are involved, but these are the two cardinal rules that should be followed.
Texture is the hardest element to describe. It is important because it affects the melted residue at the bottom of a Slurpee and how the Slurpees initially mix. Speedway Slurpees have a soda-like fizzy quality and smooth ice. 7-Eleven Slurpees are more coarse and do not have the tingle of a Speedway Slurpee. The small ice shavings of a Speedway Slurpee cause a crater-like effect when mixed. If a second layer of a new flavor is dropped directly on top of a first layer, the second will form a hole in the middle of the Slurpee and push the first layer to the outside. To get the parfait style layering action, you have to tip the cup to the side and let the second layer slide slowly down the side of the cup and land gently on the layer before it.
The bigger chunks of a 7-Eleven Slurpee cause a second layer of flavor to sink to the bottom of the cup when dispensed directly on top of the first layer. Unless you are looking for a multilayer Slurpee, mixing a 7-Eleven Slurpee is much less intricate than Speedway Slurpee mixing.
Sometimes I feel I will never understand what Slurpees mean. How can something as simple as flavored ice be so perplexing? I hope this column will inspire experimentation and lead to beautiful concoctions that will help answer some of life’s questions.