The Kickapoos (Kickapoo: Kiikaapoa or Kiikaapoi) are one of the Algonquian speaking Native American tribes. According to the Anishinaabeg, the name "Kickapoo" (Giiwigaabaw in the Anishinaabe language and its Kickapoo cognate Kiwikapawa) means "Stands Here and there" and refers to the tribes migratory patterns. This interpretation is contested and generally believed to be a folk etymology.
There are three recognized Kickapoo tribes remaining in the United States: the Kickapoo of Kansas, the Kickapoo of Oklahoma, and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. There is another band in the Mexican state of Coahuila. There is also a large group in Arizona. Thus far the former two groups have been politically lumped with the Texas band. Additionally, Kickapoos live in small groups throughout the western United States. Around 3,000 people claim to be tribal members.
As we settled in for another Malaysian style Lunar New Year Feed, I looked at the word Kickapoo on the menu at Lim's Nonya Hut in Syndal and wondered WTF? My dear friend Y2 told me it was a drink like Sprite so I ordered one and hung onto the can for this blog post. Although not very cold, it was refreshing, but not overly sweet or too fizzy.
The Chinese characters and 'Product of Singapore' on the can made me think that it was a kooky Asian product, but as it turns out its origins lie in Columbus, Georgia, USA. It is a product of the Monarch Beverage Company which was started by an Advertising man, Frank Armstrong, in 1965.
Their website claims the following:
"Armstrong’s experience opened his eyes to an untapped market of smaller, regional soft drink brands, each of which had a distinct personality and a loyal following. He envisioned a beverage company that would capitalize on this market – and The Monarch Beverage Company was born.
The company’s first soft drink offering was Kickapoo Joy Juice®, a citrus-flavored soda inspired by the tonic of the same name in Al Capp’s comic strip “Li’l Abner,” which appeared in newspapers from 1934 to 1977.
The next year, Monarch acquired Moxie®, a cola with a loyal New England customer base, from German beverage giant Eckes. Introduced in Maine in 1884, Moxie was the first soft drink in the United States, and still boasts an army of devotees who celebrate the drink at an annual “Moxie Festival” in Lisbon, Maine. Moxie’s rich history and almost cult following, combined with the personality of Kickapoo, set the tone for Monarch’s expanding portfolio."
Apparently it is pronounced kick-a-poe aand is now only distributed in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Bangladesh. Other Monarch products are available in fifty three countries including the developing economies of South Africa, Guinea, Nigeria, Angola, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal, Mexico, Brazil, France and China.
But what of the crazy illustration on the can? It looks like a Cave Man and an Native American Indian roasting their butts over a barrel. But apparently they are also from Lil' Abner, the characters on the label are "Hairless Joe"(the hairy one) and "Lonesome Polecat" the Indian, rising stiff from a barrel of moonshine. I read that this was the reference for the picture: "A liquor of such stupefying potency that the hardiest citizens of Dogpatch, after the first burning sip, rose into the air, stiff as frozen codfish."
Well, I didn't end up stiff as a codfish. No, I was warmed. I think I can attribute that to the milder version of the Nonya chilly fish(sic) and Balanchan Kankung served at Lim's than we had previously at Jade Kingdom - rather than the drink. Just like the Algonquian Indians we had wandered here and there, traversing great distances across Melbourne to eat the same thing - made by different hands - but to also discover the pleasure of Kickapoo.