A Cherry Coke Zero and a cigarette is the holiest breakfast, apparently

By Matthew Kassel
Updated February 13, 2018
EC: How the Young Pope Does Breakfast
Credit: Image courtesy HBO

In the highly anticipated first episode of The Young Pope, now available to stream on HBO Go, the newly elected young pope (played, as you may have heard, by Jude Law), walks into a stately dining room in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace for what is presumably one of his first breakfasts as the leader of the Catholic Church. He eyes a sumptuous smorgasbord of raspberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, eggs, almonds, walnuts, chocolates, doughnuts, toast, coffee, and other treats. His minders have, of course, overestimated in the service of finding something their young pope might like, since they don’t yet know the young pope’s tastes. Which, it turns out, are fittingly juvenile.

“Didn’t anyone tell you I don’t eat much?” the pope tells his solemn majordomo, Domen. “Hardly anything, in fact. All I have in the morning is a Cherry Coke Zero.” He takes a seat at the dining room table as a servant is dispatched to fetch the unexpected order.

“In the meantime,” the majordomo says, “would your holiness care for regular Diet Coke?”

“Whoooo, let’s not utter heresies, Domen,” the pope replies. “It’s death to settle for things in life.”

Given the pope’s outsized ambitions, then, it’s surprising he’s settled for just a Cherry Coke Zero at breakfast time. According to a Coca-Cola product facts site, Cherry Coke Zero contains: carbonated water, caramel color, phosphoric acid, aspartame, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, acesulfame potassium, potassium citrate and caffeine (34 milligrams!). There’s also 40 milligrams of sodium. A note below the nutrition facts states of Cherry Coke: “Not a significant source of fat cal., sat. fat, trans fat, cholest., fiber, sugars, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.”

I’m no doctor—in fact, I’ve spoken highly of the unhealthy pleasures of a coffee and cigarette breakfast—but the young pope would be doing himself a favor if he at least ate a few real cherries with his carbonated beverage of nothing. What’s more, an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine, way more than a can of Cherry Coke Zero. Perhaps that’s why, later in the day, the young pope orders Cardinal Voiello, who looks like he’s headed for trouble in future episodes, to bring him a cup of American coffee.