The very first thing you learn in India, is to drink fresh lime soda. If it isn’t the first thing you learn, it should be the very second. In A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, it is dubbed, “The supreme quencher of Colonial thirst.” A hit of sugar, which anyone will tell you is the breath of life in your 4:00 pm tea or coffee, just the boost you need to get you through the last hours of the day and well into the steamy and electrifying South India night. A dash of salt, to replace precious electrolytes you lost in your daily work or wandering, and the effervescence of club soda.
You can order one in any restaurant and in any neighborhood and almost on any street from a specialty street vendor with piles of little “lemons” like these. The drink is made to order, to your desired taste, “sweet” or “sweet and salty” (my personal favorite) and is never served with ice. I speak from experience in saying, it can bring you back from the brink of heat exhaustion and give you the refreshment and the energy to walk another six miles, to discover 14 more temples, to shoot 15 more rolls or to simply recuperate from a lengthy morning of market hopping. As with any tea stall in Chennai, you are expected to enjoy your drink first and pay after. A gesture in a casual shop or kiosk that I truly miss.
With just one week left of summer vacation, after endless days of heat, play, piles of discarded watermelon rinds and juicy faces, this is the best way to use up the last slices of watermelon and to rehydrate from the final sweltering days of August