Domo did not get access to the Escutia Farms kitchen until after he had worked there for two weeks.
Business had been very brisk as the demand for Escutia Farms Oral Rehydration Solution came out of nowhere.
Some of it should not have been a surprise. The miraculous recoveries of Cali soldiers who were on death’s door from the plague had been livestreamed across the world. Everybody who got the Johnny Trots was certain that they had the plague and they all clamored for that miraculous, Escutia Farms ORS.
What the viewers could not know was that a quarter of the soldiers were faking illness as they did not relish the probability that their officers would command them to shoot their friends, family and neighbors.
The rest of the soldiers were in the prime of their lives. The only complication to the plague was chronic malnutrition. Take a dehydrated, undernurished eighteen-year-old, pump him/her full of sugar water and give them a wholesome place to sleep and exercise and the results are guaranteed to look like a miracle.
The customer base that could not have been anticipated was the soldiers who had mustered out. They had acquired a taste for the sweet, salty fruit juice. It is said that hunger is the best sauce. And, by God, they had been hungry. To a person, the survivors remembered the first liter of ORS they drank as the most delicious thing that had ever crossed their lips. To them, it was ambrosia, the nectar of the Gods.
Where ever they went, they demanded Escutia ORS. Merchants often tried to foist some competing products on them but the new civilians would have none of the fakes. They wanted the real stuff.
To those who had not been in the POW camps, they would take a swig and were mystified by the appeal. Some drank it because it was cool but most of the others tried it once and that was enough.
Domo was given four hours and whatever odds-and-ends he could scrounge up. He had an eighth of a tote of ORS, spices, flavors as well as some more exotic ingredients.
After he had fiddled around for a few hours he called Harley, his supervisor. “Mr Mason, can you taste these samples? I need a reality check.”
Domo had three, unmarked samples that were visually identical except the middle sample was cloudy.
Harley obliged taking a sip of the first. It was very clearly the regular ORS even though Domo had chilled it down.
The second one, the one that was slightly cloudy was almost the same thing. Harley could tell that it had started out as ORS but it was much richer and more satisfying.
The third sample was even better. Harley could barely tell it had started out as ORS.
“OK, young man. Tell me what you did to the second and third samples.” Harley said. “They are good. Hell, they are really good.”
“I thought the ORS could use a better mouth feel. I remember having something called a rootbeer float when I was ten. I think it was my birthday. That rootbeer was like syrup! That was what I was trying to make.” Domo shared.
“The second sample has pureed banana pulp in it to thicken it up.” Domo said.
Harley shook his head. Even though the drink was delicious it was a commercial non-starter. Banana pulp browns and even if it didn’t, Sedelia produced almost no bananas so it would be very expensive, given the unfavorable exchange rates.
“Tell me about the third sample.” Harley said. Frankly, he had very low expectations. Anybody can make something that tastes good if they can throw enough money at it. He was sure that the third drink would be even more expensive and less practical than the second.
“Oh, that one. I kind of like it. It is the basic ORS that I added pectin to. I wanted to get the same mouth feel as the rootbeer float and the banana drink and I know that banana is awful expensive. I also wanted to mask the salty taste because I know that bothers some people.” Domo said.
“Did you know we have awesome internet here?” Domo said. He could be a bit ADHD when he was excited.
“I was on the internet and learned that bitter and salty hide each other. Chocolate is bitter and candy makers add salt to hide the bitter. You can’t taste either.” Domo said.
“That is when I knew I had to add tannin to the mix. I asked around and grape tannin is dirt cheap so that is what I used.” Domo said.
“Is there anything else in that? I know I can taste some other things but I just can’t figure out what they are.” Harley said.
“Well, I added some ginger because I thought it tasted a little bit flat. Then I added some vanilla because it seemed, I don’t know, one-dimensional.” Domo said. “I know that ginger is expensive but I only used a little bit of it and Sedelia is growing it in the Imperial valley.”
“Sounds like you were thinking about costs.” Harley mused. “I don’t suppose you have any idea how much more it costs to gussy the ORS up like you did, do you?”
“I figured about three cents a liter but I wasn’t shopping real hard for the best prices.” Domo said. He had no idea whether that was considered a lot of money or not.
“How much of this did you mix up?” Harley asked, pointing at the third sample.
“I mixed up about five gallons. Why? Do you want to take some with you?” Domo asked.
“No.” Harley said.
Harley pulled the mike of his two-way off his shirt collar and punched in some numbers. “Hey Mick. Are you busy? This is Harley down in the mixing shed.”
“Whatchya got?” Mick asked.
“I think you ought to grab the secretaries and meet me over in the kitchen by the mixing shed. Tell them I am buying drinks tonight. I got something you guys gotta try.” Harley said with a big wink to Domo. “I don’t know if you have any vanilla icecream hidden in your freezer, but you might bring that too. I know a young man who will appreciate it.”