I've gone on the record about my resistance to most kitchen gadgets. I'm a "single knife and one good pan" kind of girl. But I have spent a year getting to know one trendy gadget, and I'll share my experience for those considering Christmas gifts.
Last year, I was casting around for a gift for my husband, otherwise known as The World's Toughest Giftee. The man is even more basic in his needs than I am. This would be endearing if every year didn't include at least two gift-giving occasions.
When I saw the new Soda Stream at Sur La Table, for one giddy moment, I thought I'd found an instant winner. Then he opened it on Christmas and gave me one of those sideways looks that says your husband thinks you have the brains of a Kardashian with less fashion sense.
Still, he's a good sport. We found a spot in the kitchen for the Soda Stream, slid in the carbonation canister . . . and proceeded to fall in love with the darn thing.
It's easy to use: You fill one of the special heavy-plastic bottles with water, screw it in and press the button several times until it makes a load noise that drives the dog crazy (bonus!). When you unscrew it, it makes a "pfssst!" like when they opened Ripley's pod in the second "Aliens" (2nd bonus!). And then you have all the fizzy, bubbly water you want.
There were a few learning curves. First, while the instructions are easy, never add syrup before you fizz up the water. I learned that in a terrible few seconds right after we came home from a New Year's Eve party. I welcomed 2011 while scrubbing down every lemon-lime speckled surface in my kitchen.
Next, the flavor syrups that come with the thing are awful. Truly. They're too expensive and even the non-diet ones taste like fake sugar. The best syrups are Torani. After a brief but pricey fling with ordering them online, we discovered the best source is Cost Plus World Market.
Finally, no cola syrup actually tastes like Coca-Cola. If your soda be-all and end-all is Coke, stick with actual Coke. But if you're willing to like fruit flavors, you can have fun. Our house favorite is a hint of Torani Cherry Mint. Better yet, if you like just plain ol' fizzy water over ice, you always have something fresh and bubbly.
There are environmental advantages: The gas cartridges usually last for several months, and you get a price break when you turn them in at several stores for recharging. And since you have to use the hard plastic bottles (get an extra), you cut down on the plastic in your recycling bin. Finally, if you pay attention to the syrups, you can cut a lot of high-fructose corn syrup out of your life.
So: is a $100 soda maker something you need? Up to you. But our fling has lasted longer than a Kardashian marriage.