|Below you will find blog entries about the development of the book itself, as a book, as opposed to research discoveries. For example, I'll talk here about the process of developing a book proposal, shopping it around, etc.|
August 30, 2011
First book rejection
So this month I finished the book proposal and we have begun to shop it around. Last week I was excited to get my first book rejection. Why was I excited? Because after more than 5 years of thinking about and writing the book, a reject somehow makes it feel all more real. And I know there will be many rejections before the book finds it home, so this first rejection means we are on out way!
So why was it rejected? The editor felt like the book has a limited audience with readers mainly in NY, FL, CA and Pittsburgh. You can imagine what I think about that...
June 03, 2011
Meeting a link with selter history
William B. Keller, the focus of one chapter in my book, single handedly organized the fledgling bottling industry, which included seltzer bottlers, over 130 years ago. That's him in the upper left. To MY right is his great-great-granddaughter, who just HAPPENED to be meeting her early-morning biking group right outside my hotel I was attending in Berkeley for business this morning. She was invaluable a year ago when I was writing about her family and it was so exciting to get to meet living history in person.
November 01, 2010
What do Jedis and seltzer delivery men have in common?
What do Jedis and seltzer delivery men have in common? Find out in my latest piece, and VIDEO, for the Forward:
Seltzer delivery is a dying art. Once, hundreds of “seltzer men,” as they liked to be called, drove the city and walked the streets of New York, carting cases of pressured siphons through rain and snow. Now, less than a dozen remain and, like Jedis with their arcane knowledge and mystical allusions to better days since passed, they move amongst us, largely invisible to the untrained eye.
Eli Miller is 78 years old, easily the oldest of the remaining seltzer men. In research for my upcoming book on seltzer, “Give Me Seltzer”, I contacted Eli for an interview. To my delight, he invited me to follow him along his route, if I could keep up. What follows is a brief collection of images and sounds from that day.
October 14, 2010
Read (and watch) an excerpt from Give Me Seltzer
I just posted, for one week only, an except from the draft of my forthcoming book on seltzer. Please check it out before its gone, leave your constructive feedback, join the "fan" page, and tell your friends!
And here is the video of my life reading, which will also come down in a week as well:
June 28, 2010
Atlantic Monthly Sends Give Me Seltzer a Shout Out
A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly called My Seltzer Conversion gives a lovely shout out to my project.
Sarah Elton's lovely post today makes me want to see Seltzer Works, the documentary she mentions about one of Brooklyn's last seltzer men, Kenny Gomberg—and wish we had a seltzer delivery service in Jamaica Plain. I can't find one, but I do find Give Me Seltzer, a blog I'll start reading, by one Barry Joseph, who's at work on a history of seltzer he intends to make definitive. He's got seemingly everything about current brands, and also equipment and its history.
The writer goes on to recount his conversion by his stepdaughter from tap to seltzer water when he received a Sodastream machine.
Notch another one up on the side of seltzer!
June 17, 2010
My upcoming speaking engagement in the Berkshires
My first talk on seltzer in more years than I can remember - my first talk since I restarted work on my book - will be held in the bucolic Berkshires this August.
For more information, download their PDF file.
I can't wait. I know this is going to be a real blast!
December 22, 2009
We've Been Tweeted!
Welcome Soda Stream tweeter readers who are visiting this site for the first time, having received the following tweet:
And thank you Soda Stream for the kind words! As the book will reveal, this project of mine would NEVER have gotten off the ground without you!
December 07, 2009
Seltzer seltzer everywhere
This morning I almost skipped my subway stop on the way to work, three days in a row, engrossed as I was writing away, but today I managed to notice it in time and get off at my station. Phew!
I mentioned in a recent post that my recent ability to refocus on this project was seeing seltzer everywhere. Specifically, I've seen it in three unexpected places that suggest that, damn, if only I'd had the book done by now I'd be moving them like latkes during a Chanukah bash!
First, there was a recent article in the journal Science, of which I am NOT a reader, documenting a study analyzing the "taste of carbonated water." Absolutely fascinating. I only learned of it through hearing it on my NPR Podcast.
The best image from the study, as it is so bizarre: what a rat's tongue looks like tasting seltzer! Specifically, sour-sensing cells and the enzyme lighting up a mouse tongue:
You can almost see the ads now - "This is rat's tongue. This is a rat's tongue on seltzer."
The second November appearance, which surprised me the most, was in Entertainment Weekly magazine, my source for all things movie, television and music. It lets me know what I need to consume to be cool. Well, according to their latest What's In and What's our report, I can now add seltzer to the list!
Believe me when I tell you, I can't imagine a more unexpected place to see seltzer come up and I sure wish I could find out why now, of all times, they choose to give their nod to the fizzy fun.
Finally, and this one is only a little more gross than a rat's tongue:
"Are you pouring on the pounds?" this NYC Subway ad asks, in both English here, and, elsewhere in Spanish. "Don't drink yourself fat." Instead, drink water, seltzer or low-fat milk.
It's hardly a surprise to see the health benefits of seltzer touted - that's one of it's most common cultural narratives. But it was still a surprise to see drinking it encouraged in a public health campaign, picture underneath a photo realistic image of... what IS that, anyway? I'm sticking with seltzer.
December 04, 2009
I am DEEP into it
I have been so excited about this project over the past few weeks. Three excellent articles have been written about seltzer (using me as a reference), I've been offered two speaking opportunities, been contacted by a resident of Niederselters sharing tales of live in the town of seltzer, and seen seltzer in the most unexpected of places (more on that later).
All of this lead me to add what I think has been the final ingredient missing in the structure of the book. And after months of preperations, I have started writing the book, from scratch. (more on that later as well).
As a result I have missed my subway stop not once but twice this week, as I was so engrossed writing away on my Pre. And have I been DEEP into it. For a taste, pun intended, take a look at the response I received from a noted scientist on his recent research study on the taste of carbonation.
The CO2 that is in the seltzer is a substrate for carbonic anhydrase: the enzyme takes the CO2 plus a water molecule and converts them into bicarbonate plus a proton (H+). This proton is the acid signal that activates the acid (sour) taste receptor. So, as you correctly pointed out, no need to invoke any free oxygen, radicals, etc. , just the CO2 and the action of carbonic anhydrase
Eep! I am having fun figuring this all out and turning it into a readable, engaging page turned. Wish me luck!
July 08, 2009
Moment interviews me for column on seltzer
There is an excellently researched overview of seltzer history in the new issue of Moment magazine, and I don't just say that because I am the resident "expert" she quotes.
Jewish Fizz: Seltzer, Egg Creams & Cel-Ray
"Carbonated water, the primary ingredient of these three Jewish champagnes, appeared first in European spas as a medicinal drink. Natural sparkling mineral water from the springs of a German village, Nieder-Selters—the linguistic origin for seltzer—was bottled and sold as early as 1728 in earthenware jugs, according to Barry Joseph, founder of Givemeseltzer.com and author of a forthcoming book on seltzer’s history. Said to cure all sorts of diseases, from the common cold to tuberculosis, seltzer was touted in an 1835 New York Times ad for 'travelers…as the only sure preventative against the influence of a hostile climate.'"
Full link here.
March 03, 2009
A sample from the book
The following is a draft of the opening of the book. Comments appreciated:
In 1728, near the mountainous Teunus region north east of Frankfurt, Johann Adam Bullmann became mayor of Niederselters. It is impossible to know what this little German town of barely one hundred families expected from their new leader, at the young age of only 24. But neither they nor their new mayor could have predicted the challenges to be faced in his first year of office nor that, in overcoming them together, they would make their mark on history, its ripples still affecting us nearly three centuries later.
December 17, 2007
Brandweek Magazine Quotes Me For Seltzer Article
I don't know if I agree with the core premise of the article - seltzer is on the rise - but I did enjoy speaking with the reporter. He did a nice job reworking the history I shared into his article.
Seltzer: The Next Big Soft Drink? December 17, 2007
By any other name, seltzer could become the next big thing in soft drinks. It's carbonated, has no calories, often has no sodium and tastes good, at least to some people. Sounds like a dream product for the cola giants, doesn't it?
But seltzer has been an also-ran for decades. Adorning the bottom shelves of supermarkets, seltzer is often purchased to mix with alcohol or not at all.
The truth is, many consumers, raised on sugary sodas, looked at seltzer and its twin, club soda, as a sub-standard soft drink belonging to another time.
"It is just water and air. It's so elemental it just drifts into the background," said Barry Joseph, a self-styled seltzer historian and founder of GiveMeSeltzer.com. But seltzer may be ready for its close-up. Most of the best-selling soft drinks like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and others have been in decline for years. Meanwhile, bottled water sales have gushed. That's because of what water doesn't have: preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and caffeine.
This affords the same opportunity for seltzer. "It works because you don't have to miss the experience of soda," said Joseph. "Seltzer cleanses the palette and eases digestion. Water can't do that—seltzer can."
Unlike the latest energy drink, seltzer also has a glorious history to draw upon, starting in 1772 when British inventor and philosopher Joseph Priestley published a paper documenting how to impregnate water with carbon dioxide. Priestley also posited that immersion in the new product could stop corpses from decomposing. Later on, the British added seltzer machines to their navy vessels because they thought it cured scurvy.
The name seltzer was borrowed from the town Nieder-Selters, Germany, where natural carbonated spring water was bottled. Prior to its mass production, kings and queens would come to Nieder-Selters to sample the drink in the early 18th century. According to Joseph, this made the "keeper of the spring" position the most sought after in all the land. Applicants were said to have sometimes fought and/or murdered one another for the privilege.
Today, no one is killing anyone to get a seltzer. The mixer category (including ginger ale) accounts for 2.5% of carbonated beverages, per Beverage Digest, Bedford Hills, N.Y. Sprite alone sells more than twice that. Why?
"The concept of no calories and artificial sweetener is appealing, however the taste can be a turnoff," said one consumer.
This consumer tried the drink because a good friend who was staying with her quit drinking diet cola. "She insisted on drinking seltzer to promote her healthier lifestyle."
Admittedly, the consumer only tried one store brand. Three-quarters of mixer category sales are dominated by no-name, private label brands. The other quarter is a mix of Canada Dry, Schweppes, Seagram and Vintage. So there is no one premier seltzer brand that focuses on great taste. But taste isn't seltzer's only selling point. It's also pretty cheap and inarguably healthy.
"It is well positioned in regards to health and wellness, but that has not translated into a sales increase," said Gary Hemphill, managing director of Beverage Marketing, New York. "It has been overshadowed by other segments in terms of marketing dollars and exposure."
A case however could be made that if seltzer were a brand new product it would thrive. But old associations may limit its appeal. The name, for instance, still reeks of New York's Lower East Side, where it was embraced (along with deli meats) by a predominantly Jewish population.
In the '30s, marketers addressed the issue by renaming seltzer club soda, which had more of a WASPy feel. "Club soda has no working class associations," said Joseph. "Seltzer is a culturally defined word." Like vaudeville, seltzer did not fare well in the modern age. In the '60s, the younger Jewish generation "saw it as something for the previous generation. They were embarrassed by it," Joseph said. But now the pendulum may finally be swinging back.
Still, Beverage Digest editor John Sicher has doubts about potential growth. "People are gravitating heavily towards water, sports drinks and enhanced waters," he said.
But those so-called functional drinks may be edging out the only truly functional one on the shelf. In addition to being a refreshing drink, seltzer can help lift stains out of fabrics.
You can't get more functional than that.
View the original
December 11, 2007
Barry will be speaking in Jan, 2007
I have barely touched this blog, podcast, nor my book since my precious son, Akiva, was born on May 5, 2007.
Yet today I was contacted by a magazine for "a seltzer quote," received a lovely email (below) from a self-defined seltzerman and, to my amazement, am giving the following talk on Long Island next month at North Shore Synagogue:
Wednesday, January 9 -
Barry Joseph set out on a search for the details of the history of seltzer some five years ago. The Jewish Forward published his initial article on seltzer and he was heard at the Limmud Conference at Kutshers three years ago. The guy is a delight, and he has an uncanny resemblance to one of the chairs of the Committee for Lifelong Learning.
What's amazing to me is that this is the synagogue where I grew up. I will be speaking in the very room where I was Bar Mitzvahed.
Perhaps it should not be TOO surprising - my dad runs the program! - but still...
Should be fun. I will try to record it and post it as a podcast.
July 14, 2006
Seltzercast 13: Heard at Limmud, Seltzer Bat Mitzvah, a Book Update and moreLearn about Ruth Messinger on Egg Creams, a Seltzer Bat Mitzvah, Heard at Limmud and an update of the first book about Seltzer.
January 16, 2006
First Public Speaking: LimmudNY
I just got back from my first public appearance sharing material from both my book and the associated podcast. What a blast it was! And the location could not be beat - Kutsher's Country Club, in the heart of the borsht belt.
December 30, 2005
Seltzercast 12: Overseas Seltzer, Allan Sherman, and a Book UpdateLearn about seltzer around the world, the famous Allan Sherman seltzer parody, and the latest on the writing of the book.
September 30, 2005
Seltzercast 10: Agua Con Gas, Tony Kushner, and Water from Outer SpaceOh, there is MUCH to catch up on: An Apology, Spain, Up From Seltzer, a Slakethirst.com review, Extraterrestrial water, finewaters.com, Joseph Priestly, a History of the World in Six Glasses, and Tony Kushner. Phew!
August 14, 2005
Seltzercast 09: Patron Lunch & A Japanese ToiletI lunch with my seltzer patron! Find out what happens! Also, learn about my encounter with a Japanese toilet, and other Give Me Seltzer promotions...
August 04, 2005
Seltzercast 07: Mail Bag & Patron PrepWhat's in my mail bag? Find out this serving. And learn the latest on the developments of my book as I prepare to lunch with my seltzer patron...
July 15, 2005
Seltzercast 04: A German Lumberjack Sent Me a PackageA German lumberjack sent me a package. What's in it? What does a German lumberjack have to do with seltzer. Listen to the fouth podcast and find out.
July 13, 2005
I Finally Shared Some of My Book
I finally shared a section of my book with someone.
Seltzercast 01: And So It Begins
This episode features a fabulous Heard on the Street segment and a Book Update.
The first podcast gets off the ground. Yahoo!
June 21, 2005
What exactly is the book all about?
This is the first entry on this blog about the book itself. Why a book about seltzer? What does it take to create such a think? Couldn't I have taken up yoga instead? All that and more to follow.