September 8, 2006

Ever drink out of a plastic bag?

Drinking out of a plastic bag was a new one on me. The first time El Jefe stopped at a pulpería to get me a soft drink and returned with a coke in a plastic bag, I asked him, confundida (confused), "What am I supposed to do with this?"

It turns out that it's very common to serve soft drinks or juice in flimsy plastic bags. Purified water is prepackaged in half liter and liter bags as well as plastic bottles. A corner is ripped off (usually with your teeth) and the water is sort of poured or sucked out of the hole in the bag.

I had a really hard time getting the hang of this and had to get El Jefe to demonstrate more than once. Another problem is that you have to finish the drink immediately, you can't set it down because the bag will flop over and spill the contents.

Juices and soft drinks are usually served with the bag tied around a small straw. Those are a little easier to handle but I worry about whether these bags are food-safe. Not all plastic is food-safe and many bags have a strong chemical odor.

Why, you ask, are drinks served in plastic bags? Good question. I suppose that the profit margin on these types of things in Honduras is so low that they wouldn't make a profit if they had to provide cups, too. El Jefe says that most people would walk the extra block to go to a pulpería that sold the juice 50 centavos cheaper (2 1/2 cents U.S.). Not me. I'll drive another mile to find a drink in a plastic bottle.

I suppose that the water is packaged in bags for storage considerations − cold storage areas are limited in pulperías and small restaurants. It could also be an effort to limit the amount of basura (trash) but I don't think that is working because these little bags line the streets, sidewalks, and highways everywhere. At least plastic bottles sometimes get recycled.

Pulperías and small restaurant owners will let you drink out of the glass bottles unless you want to take it with you. In that case they put it in a plastic bag. I've asked to buy a cup or to pay for the deposit of the bottle, but no! It's plastic bag or nothing. Why some won't sell a cup or let the customer pay for the bottle, I don't know. Why? − this is Honduras.

(Thanks to Connie and Jill for suggesting this article.)
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