Monday, January 27, 2014

The Red Tent

Did you know before it was a hit Broadway show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was first a book?  How they make a musical out of human traficking is beyond me but I once saw (*cough*--had to see) Lord of the Rings the Musical, so anything is possible.  Anyway, The Red Tent is about Joseph's only sister Dinah.  Told in her voice, this book has been around since the 90's, and while this is a very good book, I suspect it would appeal to women only.  I say this because the red tent is a place in the olden times to go when you are on your period.  I know, gross right?  Today it would be Tampax presents Kayne West's The Red Tent.  You would go in there and be bombarded with market specific messages.  I know I would be peddling tent-to-tent selling chocolate covered potato chips.  Wow, I'd be so rich. 

This book moves fast, as Dinah is our narrator, about living with four Moms "Caanite style."  The author does a good job depicting the ancient middle-east's polythistic view and how Jacob would have been a weirdo beliving in one god.  This is especially so since his god seems like a god version of The Godfather and after what happened to his grandfather and father. This is God from Genesis: "You wanna favor from me? Well, this is what you do, instead of sacrificing that stupid lamb, why don't you show me the proper respect by murdering your oldest son? I mean show some respect?  Wait, I was just kidding.  I wanted to see if you were loyal.  I tell you what, why don't you just give me all the newborn's foreskins ok?"

Dinah doesn't really care about that god, and this book isn't really about the men anyway.  Dinah is into girly stuff like midwifery.  Some really bad stuff happens to her because her brothers are idiots.  It happens. 

Drinks: There is a lot beer brewing and beer drinking in this book.  I found out that they didn't use hops back in ancient middle east brews but sometimes they added fruit and spices.  I found a beer that fits this description but I have not tried it. Ballast Point (they are in SoCal and I have tried the brand--delicious) has a dopplebock that has flavors of raisins and apricots which sounds middle eastern to me.  I love IPAs, but I suppose I should give other beers a chance.  If you make me.         

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Wind in the Willows

"Don't those animals die?"  My husband said to me again.  He thinks every children's story ends in a bloodbath.  None of the animals die in this, some of them get into trouble, one gets hurt with a billy club but he was some nasty weasel that deserved it.  When I reviewed Watership Down I mentioned that, for me, a sophisticated animal should wear a top hat.  Well, the animals in The Wind in the Willows would own a top hat, a bowler, a fedora and a driving cap.  And that is at the bare minimum.

Written over 100 years ago, The Wind in the Willows has super fancy anthropomorphic animals.  Think English gentlemen or gentleanimals, if you will.  Three of the characters live in burrows but still have chimneys, sideboards and they all own smoking jackets.  They even have a spare smoking jacket just in case a fellow fell in the river or something.  Mr. Toad drives a motorcar.  How does he reach the pedals?  Why doesn't Mr. Badger eat his little friends instead of smoked ham with mustard?  If those kinds of questions will bother you, then this is not the book for you. 

This is not the adventure story of Watership Down, its more like little related tales with four animal buddies.  I feel like Kenneth Grahame went to a fancy prep school and decided to write a story about his bros.  I suspect Grahame thinks he is most like the Water Rat, aka "Ratty" (he's fairly smart), and his buddy "Mr. Mole" (not as smart) used to go sculling and they had a ripping good time.  One lesson I learned is that a rich, well-heeled animal that gets into legal trouble will not get any real comeuppance, not really. And that is a valuable lesson and good for children to learn early.

Anyway, its a kind of cute story and very British. Its meant for children but I suspect this would be bizarre for a modern child. Is your child into Downton Abbey?  Maybe they will like it.  Also your child may be weird.  Its a classic bit of literature and I don't regret finally reading it, but are you missing something monumental if you never do?  No, Ratty, you are not. 

Why not drink with a Sidecar?  While it seems to be invented in France (makes sense with Cognac in it) the British adopted it quickly.  Also, I can see one of these animals driving a motorcycle with a sidecar wearing little goggles.  So, Sidecar:  One and half ounces of VSOP Cognac, Half an ounce Grand Marnier, One third ounce lemon juice.  Put all of the ingredients in a shaker with ice, strain into a chilled glass (a champagne coupe if you have one--you fancy gentleanimal, you).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tequila Mockingbird

You can make money publishing a book pairing cocktails and snarky book reviews?  What?  Ha! Well, the jokes on you Tim Federle, I do it for free.  Wait.... Tequila Mockingbird has the format and style of an old school cocktail book.   Every drink has its corresponding book and there is a never ending bombardment of puns.  I think puns should be used sparingly, like nutmeg. Maybe even less than nutmeg.  Like aspic. We should be given a finite amount of puns in a lifetime. Everyone knows someone who has used them all up.  Under that logic, its now TIME FOR THEM TO DIE.  Another word of warning, some of the drinks are clearly for joke purposes.  Now, I will say or do most anything for a good joke.  I will read a crappy book if it will make for some jokes (I will be honest with you about the book's crappiness).  But I will NOT give you a joke drink (unless its patently obvious--which I have totally done). 

For example, under Remembrance of Things Pabst (yes--all puns!) the recipe calls for 6 oz of iced tea (Earl Grey), 1 12 oz. can of beer, like Pabst, and a lemon wedge.  I think this will taste pretty nasty.  In the Postman Always Brings Ice it calls for 1 oz. ouzo (we're already in trouble) and 1 can of cola.  WTF?  No!  Are you trying to kill me?!  Here's the deal, alcohol is too expensive and has too many calories for these joke cocktails.  Some of the cocktails look ok, but he is crazy with the mixers.  For Infinite Zest, the book description has footnotes (which is pretty cute) but the recipe calls for 2 oz of vodka, 1 ounce lemoncello and 1/2 oz lemon juice.  Now, there is no doubt in my mind that this will taste fine.  However, you are killing the subtly of the lemoncello by pairing it with straight lemon juice.  Maybe someone who uses all of these puns has never heard of subtlety.   Almost all of the recipes have strong fruit juices and lots of soft drinks mixed in.  Maybe the author doesn't like the taste of alcohol?  He is a Broadway actor by trade, perhaps these are his pre-show "power" juices. 

The good news is that the book is pretty funny and some of the jokes look awfully familiar, which, in my humble opinion, is a fine thing.  Anyone that make a Virginia Woolf rock joke is ok by me.  So, if you like this blog, read the book, but drink at your own risk.

What to drink with this book?  Not all of the drinks look bad and this one looks promising:  A Cocktail of Two Cities:  1 sugar cube, 1 oz. gin, 1/2 ounce lemon juice (I'd probably put a splash in myself) and champagne.  Place the sugar cube in the flute, pour the gin and lemon juice in a shaker with ice and shake well.  Strain into the flute and fill to the top with Champagne. Hurrah!