Happy New Year

Hi all and Happy New Year:

Before I launch into a few drinks for The Gastronomical Me, I want to let you know about a change or two and a resolution on our end.  From February on, Little Sister will be making the book suggestions and Big Sister will be contributing the cocktail (or two) based on the book.  Both of those two blogs will be posted at the beginning of the month.  And our resolution: We will be open for real life, rather than virtual, business in this year.  It WILL happen, and when it does the Books and Booze Club will be able to meet once a month to enjoy discussion and drinks together.  Until then, we will continue in our on-line forum.

Now for the cocktails:

The Gastronomical Me, by M.F.K. Fisher

I do not want to be heavy handed in the discussion of our books.  But I would be remiss if I did not begin the conversation somewhere.  For no reason other than habit, I will begin at the beginning, with Fisher’s defense of the genre of food writing.  When asked why, given her experiences on the Continent before and during World War II, she would choose to write about food, rather than war, politics, an examination of moral norms or an exposition into German activities, Fisher replies that to write about food is to write about love, the longing for it, the absence of it, and how one feeds the multitude of one’s hungers.  Where there is love, it can be seen through the lens of a drink or a dish.  The same can be said of hate.  By narrowly focusing her lens, Fisher brings the world beyond her dinner table into focus with a intense clarity otherwise unavailable.

Two such cocktails highlight this parallel structure beautifully.  The first cocktail is a sweet drink, and very strong.  It personifies the grotesque and the voyeuristic, which is just how Fisher saw those who enjoyed it.  The Ohio was apparently the favorite among German military and naval men aboard the ship that Fisher took with her husband in 1943.  The description of the evening parties aboard this ship brings to mind the scene in the film Cabaret featuring the musical number “Life is a Cabaret”: sexualized, garish, and horrifying, these scenes of obscene consumption and the subsequent celebration of all that is violently brutal is personified in this cocktail.  The one enjoyed by the German officers and their companions featured cherries, brandy, cordials and champagne.  I have modified that recipe slightly, so that this drink merely hints at the garish without being an unpleasant nip:

Over ice, stir together
¾ oz blended whiskey (though rye would also work well)
¾ oz sweet vermouth
½ tsp orange liquior (I prefer one not too sweet, like Gran Gala)
Two hearty dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Place two brandied cherries at the bottom of a champagne glass (preferably one with a capacity no more than 6 oz), strain and top off with bubbly. 

The Cabaret-esque scene is one of the most disturbing in her entire body of work.  One of the most beautiful appears in this same text.  Fisher is once again making her sojourn across the Atlantic with her love.  He is very close to death and they are savoring every moment together, deeply content in their knowledge of and conversation with each other; both aware that time is short and that they want to say everything: a lifetime of deep conversations, passing jokes and idle chatter in one ocean passage.   Personified in the sipping of a single Pernod, they savor each other, deeply, richly, slowly, and with an intense clarity of purpose. 

Please share your thoughts on Pernod, The Ohio, and Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

~Big Sister