Anthony Bourdain and Suicides

So, this past Monday night the missus and I went to bed kind of early. After getting the bed and getting all comfy, we started watching No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. This was a new episode, based in Chicago.

As it often happens on Bourdain’s show, he was paired up with a neighborhood foodie to visit some local institution. In this case, it was a “Chicago food historian” who took him to a local dive to experience the “mother in law“: a beef tamale served in a hot dog bun with chili poured on top.

When it came time to place their orders, the food historian suggested that they get “suicides” to drink. Bourdain looked confused, and asked what that was. The historian said that it was “when they go down the line of drinks and put a random amount of each drink in the cup. That way it’s different every time”. Bourdain still looked confused, but as he always does, he just shrugged his shoulders and went along with it. Eventually the food was brought out, and when Bourdain took a sip of the drink he said something along the lines of “it’s like every childhood nightmare I ever had in one glass”.

Lisa and I were shocked that Bourdain had never heard of a “suicide” before. After all, he’s 52 and I’m 38 – it’s not like there’s a giant age gap between us. Hell, we even mostly like the same bands, although I was rockin’ kindergarten when Bourdain was seeing The Ramones live at CBGB. Still, there’s not that much of an age difference.

I have vivid memories of drinking suicides as a kid. It wasn’t often that you could get one: most fast-food places still had the drink machines behind the counter in those days, so every chance you had with a “self serve” drink machine, you made a suicide. My local Little League organization had a “free drink for every player after the game” rule, and one of my favorite memories was running down to the concession stand after the game and ordering a suicide from one of the always-patient “team mothers”. Bless them. The poor women had to deal with 20 young boys all squealing for suicides! Ordering a plain Coke or Sprite would have almost gotten you kicked off the team – everyone ordered a suicide. After every game. Win or lose. It was a ritual of my Little League growing up.

So I guess I’d like to ask the readers the following:

1) Did you have such a concept as a kid?

2) Around how old are you, and what part of the country are you from?

3) Did you have them, but under some other name?

And lastly… a philosophical question, if I might: is a suicide always a random mix of flavors? Can you have 2 “main flavors”, with various random “accents” and still have a drink that would be called a “suicide”? I ask because one of my favorite drinks was about 60% Coke, 30% Sunkist Orange, and a few random flavors thrown in (I found out later that Coke sells what amounts to this as “Mezzo Mix” in Germany). My friends and I once got into a huge playground argument over whether my drink was actually a “suicide” or not.

Also, at the time, many drink machines had only Tab as a sugar-free option. Eventually – by my teenage years – many fountains had Diet Coke and usually something else, like Diet Sprite. Can a mixture of only 2 drinks create a “sugar-free suicide”? Wouldn’t the flavor mixture get awfully repetitious?


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