Carnies Totally Punk'd America

Unprofessional Cookery

Happy Fourth of July!  Bring on the pyrotechnics!

Granted, this has no meaning to you (outside of it being the fourth day of the month) if you don’t live in the United States.  A minor technicality if you will.  But whatever.  I’m just going to pretend that you’re just as excited as I am to get a day off where you get to try to maximize your firework viewing standpoint.

Anyways, the Fourth.

When I think of our most patriotic holiday, I’m reminded of one of my favorite childhood book series: the Little House On The Prairie series.  Man, I loved those books.  I read all nine of them twice over a couple of years, plus the six additional books that Laura Ingalls Wilder had written (or had written about her).  From grades three to five I so yearned to be in the nineteenth century midwest that I could practically taste it, much like the sour, cool and unsanitary treat that was served up in my favorite book, Little Town On The Prairie.

That’s all well and good, lemonade and my own childhood musings.  But have you ever wondered where pink lemonade came from?

You’re probably well aware that there are actual pink lemons out there, which up until today I thought were the producers of pink lemonade.   Yet they are not, in fact, responsible for creating the cheery pink drink.  Pink lemons, which are technically known as variegated pink flesh Eureka lemons, produce a clear and distinctly tart juice.  So where exactly did pink lemonade come from?

The pink lemonade that you and I love as much as Laura Ingalls Wilder may have come from much more sinister and unsanitary sources of the 19th century.  Its true.  Pink lemonade is kind of disgusting when you find out its origins.  For pink lemonade came from midway carnies who couldn’t waste a drop of water no matter what the cost.

Depending on who you cite, the invention of pink lemonade is “minorly icky” to flat out disgusting.  The gentler of the two sources that I found suggested that carnival employee Henry E. Allott created pink lemonade by a sweet accident.  At the tender age of 15 Mr. Allott, who also went by the nicknames “Sanchez” and “Bunk Allen”, accidentally had a few cinnamon imperials drop into his vat of regular yellow lemonade.  Horrors!  These candies turned his pristine beverage into an excitingly exotic pink delicacy.  Rather than fish out the offending candies quickly before they had a chance to dissolve, Mr. Allott went about his business of..  well, business, and sold the lemonade as is.  People went nuts over it, so it became a hallmark of the American midway experience.

Jesus.  If this is the case, I really don’t want to know how “blue razzberry” anything might have come to be.

The more sordid of the two tales of Pink Lemonade origin comes from historian Joe Nickell and his book Secrets of the Sideshows.  Mr. Nickell credits carnival midway worker Pete Conklin for creating the most disgusting drink possible.  As the story goes, Mr. Conklin was making his daily batch of lemonade one searingly hot day in 1857 when he encountered a dilemma: no water.  Lemons were expensive, he couldn’t just serve straight sweet lemon juice shots.  Being a man of creative employment means, Mr. Conklin had his Mentos moment.  Mr. Conklin noted that the bareback horseriders in the circus shows had just washed out their signature red tights made thrifty use of that residual pinklaundry water that day.  He made use of it by using it as a lemonade base and serving it to the masses.

Yes.  The origins of pink lemonade may have come from crotch sweat/horse back/trace levels of hay and manure dirty clothes.  People drank that.  I wonder if this man truly hated his job, for I cannot see why in any circumstances that the idea of serving paying customers contaminated water might be a good idea.

So now you know.  It also might make you thank the lord for the FDA.

Fortunately today we don’t contaminate batches of juice with candy or feety laundry.  Most lemonade today is colored with a variety of syrups or flavorings ranging from grenadine syrup to fruit juices.

Well, anyways, now if you’re not from America you can just point your finger and laugh at us. ( Besides, we drink all our lemonade flat and boring.)