Yes, there's the music and the parade and the barely there costumes and the throbbing sea of humanity clogging downtown for three days straight, but for me, nothing says Caribana quite like Ting.
The carbonated grapefruit drink with the green-and-yellow label is the unofficial national soft drink of Jamaica. It is, quite simply and with all apologies to aranciatta, the greatest non-alcoholic summer beverage, full stop.
I have never been to Jamaica, and I normally try to keep my fantasies beyond the exotic, but I still imagine a tree in Spanish Town with the stuff flowing freely out of a tap.
The drink is unstoppable on ice. It goes nice with the hard stuff, too --the Universal Grill's deadly Ting-tini will set your teeth chattering.
Even if you've never tasted the stuff, then, you can imagine the horror of Ting addicts everywhere when, last summer, a Ting shortage developed.
It was a bad scene. A case would appear at the grocery store and be gone in 20 minutes. Friendly neighbourhood roti dealers would shake their heads sympathetically when you asked if they had Ting. Even the usually unflappable folks at Albert's Real Jamaican Food couldn't get their hands on the stuff.
Sure, there are cheap imitations, but they are just that. The mysterious Mr. Gouda fooled many with his harsh green sugar water. No thanks.
More recently, the Grace company came closer to the mark with its Ting knockoff, even duplicating the original bottle-cap logo with a look-alike crown of its own.
For all their good intentions, none of these is up to scratch. There is no Ting.com to go to online, and although a friend did direct me to a Caribbean mail-order depot, it turned out that they don't deliver to Canada.
By this summer, it was questionable whether we'd ever see Ting in Toronto again, and with Caribana around the corner, the hunt got even more desperate.
Mid-parade salt fish and corn from a curbside oil drum just wouldn't be the same without a cold chaser.
Even a pal in Brooklyn confirmed that there was no Ting in his heavily Jamaican district.
Grim news. Yet with Caribana just a few weeks away and hope rapidly fading, a breakthrough. Picking up a roti close to work, I looked up and saw a Ting bottle on the shelf. The waitress had no idea where the restaurant got it, but at $2.50 each, they clearly knew what it was worth. I immediately took two, and went back the next day for more.
Within a few days, friends started reporting Ting sightings all across town. Even Albert's had some.
Shortage over? Officially, yes.
According to a spokesperson at Montego Imports, Ting's Toronto distributor, there was a genuine Ting shortage caused when Pepsi took over the Jamaican bottling firm. A shortfall of stumpy green bottles followed, but in the last few weeks that has apparently been rectified.
Then came words we've all been waiting to hear. "The shortage is over. Soon, there will be plenty of Ting for everyone."
Jump an' wave an' shout!
email@example.comI want my Ting