When my parents took me to eat at Canter's delicatessen, I invariably ordered a Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic; it was the only soft drink my mother sanctioned, believing that its trace of vegetable matter (extract of celery seed was a mere footnote in the long list of ingredients) would fortify a growing boy. Medicinal or not, I loved the exhilarating sting of carbonation, the delicate hint of vanilla and the icy, mouth-dousing sweetness.
The label gave no clue as to the identity of Dr. Brown, and yet I pictured him as a kindly, white-coated man not unlike my dentist. In a pristine laboratory filled with bubbling test tubes and beakers, Dr. Brown concocted the amber elixir that washed away the saltiness of corned beef, cut the peppery after-burn of pastrami or kept me from choking on a throatful of brisket. When I took a swig of Cel-Ray Tonic, I never thought about anything as mundane as a stalk of celery -- instead, I saw cells dividing and recombining, ray guns shooting beams of light. Every gulp was a toast to the future, each bottle a triumph of science.
Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Soda