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).

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