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Dear Drink: Lady From Shanghai

An open letter to the Lady From Shanghai at The Mark

LADY FROM SHANGHAI: She's coconutty

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Dear Lady From Shanghai,

My midwest raised grandmother refused to believe it. Gilligan, Skipper, the millionaire and his wife certainly didn't give a minnow's ass about the health reports over the transistor radio. You see, Lady From Shanghai, one day Americans were told that coconut oil was the devil in liquid form, with more poisonous artery-clogging, cholesterol-raising, heart-attack-causing saturated fat than butter, lard, beef tallow or maple doughnuts with bacon on top. Scientists in lab coats rained on our Sara Lee coconut cream pie parades. Mounds candy bars were shunned. Hawaiian Tropic sun tan oil was frowned upon. Sorority girls could no longer wear half-coconut shells to frat luau parties. It was, in a word, disquieting. And horribly depressing.

Before I heard the reports, I thought I had it all together in high school. I thought I was doing the right thing, sprinkling coconut shavings on my morning oatmeal, half-awake, staring at the wall. Then, I was forced to go the raisin route. It didn't taste as good. I skipped breakfast. My test scores dropped. I ended up writing this column. 

Yes, yes, I'm getting to you, Lady From Shanghai.

Heads were turned after the news that most of the studies involving coconut oil were done with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which lab coats used because they needed to raise the cholesterol levels of their rabbits in order to collect certain data. I know, shocking.

Coconut momentun gained as vegans began using solidified coconut oil to create flaky piecrusts, crumbly scones and fluffy cupcake icings, all without butter. Holy Burt's Bees Balm!

But the big turn in coconut conscious happened last year when celebrities and athletes claimed coconut water could be a potassium-rich sugar-free substitute for sports drinks. It has a lot of electrolytes. It is beneficial due to the high levels of potassium and magnesium. Nutrition experts call the status change of foods the "health halo." Some of the foods - wild salmon, blueberries, flax seeds - deserve it. But others gain status for no apparent reason. Acai berry, Lady From Shanghai?

Today, everyone is on the coconut water "health halo" bandwagon, including The Mark restaurant in downtown Olympia - where you call home Lady of Shanghai. Dubbed "certified organic" by the department of Agriculture, this sleek, hip rustic Italian restaurant incorporates organic oils into dishes and organic herbs into its craft cocktails. Last week at The Mark, I had the most orgasmic organic raspberry puree fettuccini topped with thyme. That same night I met you, Lady From Shanghai, you coconut delight. You are coconut through and through - coconut rum, "coconut water full of electrolytes and potassium" as the menu states, and poured over ice.

Honestly, I have to raise an eyebrow or three when it comes your health fix. It's beyond my pay grade.

What I do know, Lady From Shanghai, is you're tropical, refreshing, don't taste like alcohol and, apparently due to the coconut water, have a hydrating element that helps prevent hangovers.

But, like I say, your coconut water mixes well with your rum. You're tasty. And I didn't have a hangover ... but that could be because I danced my ass off at Jake's on 4th.

Are prune-tinis right around the corner? Will the glasses be rimmed with wheat germ? All in good time; for now, I bow to you Lady From Shanghai. I hope you bring me longevity, energy and an exceptional buzz.


Ron Swarner

THE MARK, 407 COLUMBIA ST., OLYMPIA, 360.754.4414

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