—William Shakespeare, Hamlet
No doubt, the list of homo sapiens' virtues is a long one. But those virtues, manifold though they are, leave unmolested that irreducible question: What is it, precisely, that differentiates our species from the rest of the animal kingdom?
Is it, as Pope John Paul II once said, the presence of the "breath of life" — a soul — that distinguishes man from beast? Or is it, as the Buddhists would have it, merely a temporary distinction on the karmic continuum? Is it our highly developed brains? Our capacity for abstract reasoning? Our push toward faith? Maybe it's our ability — unique among beasts, so far as I can tell — to seriously consider the ravings of the Rev. Al Sharpton.
All reasonable answers, I suppose. But I think there's another, more quantifiable measure of our singularity in the biological world: We alone, when given the choice, will defecate in the same space that we eat.
Think about it: A caged lion will poop in his cage, but does he really have a choice? Same goes for horses, bears, weasels and muskrats. Now, name me a fellow who doesn't think it the most fundamental of creature comforts to have a crapper in the house.
What's more, this is the only ontology that even motions toward explaining a recent discharge from the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis: the Chelada. Now for those of you unfamiliar with the Chelada, it is a blend of that spineless, beer-like substance commonly known as Bud Light, and Clamato, one of those only-in-America drinks made by blending tomato juice with clam juice.
Oh! The humanity!
The resulting beverage looks something like a bowl of watery blood. Or rather, the resulting beverage looks something like a bowl of watery blood — effervescent watery blood. But no matter how bad it looks, nothing can prepare you for morning-after-a-kegger-sour-beer flavor that accompanies this crimson beverage. It's at once watery, like Bud Light, yet thick, like partially coagulated plasma.
The Chelada is A-B's take on the Michelada, a drink made by adding Tabasco, salt and lime to a beer. But while the Chelada is clearly geared toward the country's Chicano population — the 24-ounce tallboy is in both English and Spanish — the drink's competing tastes of tomato and clam juice make it a fluid worthy of the assassins, tyrants and warmongers who reside in Dante's seventh circle of Hell.
But for all of the Chelada's flaws, by my measure, it remains all too human a drink.
After all, if A-B calls the marketplace home, it's certainly shitting where it makes its bread.
Seen a foodstuff you're too timid to try? Malcolm will eat it! E-mail particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org