Cucumbers are not for drinking. And yet they keep turning up in liquid form.
Imagine going out to a nice restaurant with your family. Maybe Dad got a promotion, or your brother’s team won state.
You sit down to a table set with napkins folded into roses and peonies unfolding in a vase in the center. There’s bread and butter — fancy butter, with herbs and garlic in it — and there’s water.
You meet the waitress. You butter some bread. You take a sip of water.
And your mouth tastes of cucumbers. You realize too late that it’s cucumber water — water “infused” with flavor by soaking cucumber slices in it — and your face turns red as you try not to spit it out all over the china.
Sadly, this is a true story.
I can’t be the only one who doesn’t like cucumbers. Maybe I’m just picky, or maybe they are truly disgusting; while my head knows that this is a matter of opinion, my heart just can’t understand why anyone would love them. One thing I do know for sure is that cucumbers don’t belong in drinks.
There are two problems with the scenario at the restaurant.
First, the cucumber water was impersonating plain old water. If you’re going to serve cucumber water, for goodness’s sake, let there be cucumbers in it! Let them be visible to serve as a warning, to make sure that everyone knows exactly what they’re getting into when they take a sip. No one should ever find herself with salad water in her mouth without knowing that it was coming.
The second problem was the whole process of requesting “normal water.” Water has a name. It’s water. If the word “water” was communicative enough for Helen Keller to understand it as her very first word, I ought to be able to use it to communicate with a waitress.
But no. Because the cucumber water was pretending to be water, I was forced to modify that most basic term, and ask sheepishly, “Can I have a glass of… regular water?” By serving cucumber water as if it were essentially equivalent to the old stand-by, only fancier, the restaurant made me feel like a plebian-of-unrefined-taste, rather than a patron-of-our-restaurant-who-happens-to-hate-cucumbers-especially-in-her-water.
Now, theoretically, vegetable-infused water is fine. I guess. Maybe it caters to those self-punishing vegetarians who would prefer to ingest veggies whenever they ingest anything. In that case, it is strange that cucumber water appears to be the only genus of the species “veggie water.” Where is the broccoli water, the zucchini water, the mushroom water? Maybe I’m not going to fancy enough restaurants.
This whole conversation begs the question, what about other kinds of infused waters? Do you have a problem with lemon water, Ellen? What about water with oranges, raspberries, strawberries?
Here’s the thing: Fruit has always been preferable to vegetables. As any five-year-old knows, fruit just makes more sense as a drink. We drink lemonade, strawberry lemonade, cherry soda, orange juice, apple juice, and mango margaritas. The same principles apply to infused water, even with fruit: If you’re going to modify water, make it obvious and make it optional. No poor soul should find herself with a mouthful of not-water that she didn’t expect, or feel inferior for preferring water to whatever fancier iteration is available.
I hope you never have to suffer what I did at that restaurant. But you never know. Cucumbers are insidious, and cucumber water is always lurking. It’s somewhere in the shadows of a candlelit dinner, in the embrace of a sparkling crystal glass, in the carafe that someone fills your cup with while you’re busy chatting. In the words of my roommate, “Cucumber water is a cruel joke.”
She wrong. It’s not a joke. But it certainly is cruel.