Monday, September 30, 2019

My Family and Other Animals

Just when you've found paradise there is always a catch.  You have to put your number two toilet paper in a bucket because the pipes are too small in Greece. It makes you really appreciate the blessing of the American sewer system. I'm pretty sure it answers to prayer.....please God go down and other such pleas.

The toilet bucket was a deal breaker for the Durrell family in Gerald Durrell's "memoir" of his spending a good part of his childhood in Greece. They immediately had to find a house that did not require the poop bucket. It sets a tone. We are in Greece but we are still British and will not conform to your poop-bucket arrangement. 

Written as a trilogy to fund his own zoo, (he was a lifelong animal enthusiast and possibly unemployable) you actually only need to read the first book. That book is called My Family and Other Animals and the whole trilogy is called The Corfu Trilogy. I think my father-in-law went to Corfu for one of his honeymoons. Yeah, I used the plural. Don't read the last book (or stop before the last two chapters) as it starts to get a little racist at the end. It's always a risk reading a book that is older. I'm pretty sure the BBC special doesn't include that part.

Setting that aside, it's full of humor, fantastic descriptions of Greece, especially the natural surroundings, in an era just before WWII. It is wonderfully idyllic and even though he spent some formative years in Greece, it is also quintessentially British. The mom makes scones in Greece. There are a lot of animals, including a pet owl. Who has a pet owl? Anyway, he takes some artistic licence of his memories and includes only the good things and possibly embarrassing but funny stuff. His oldest brother, who became a professional writer, is a good comedic foil but in real life he was a jerk of the highest order. I will say the taxi driver who becomes the family friend has the best lines. I did some laughing out loud, which is pretty unusual for me. So this book is good for if every day feels like Monday. (Um, again don't read that last chapter of the last book).

I'm going to spare you an ouzo based cocktail and give you a sangria recipe. The family drinks copious amounts of wine anyway. Add 1/2 apple and 1/2 orange chopped with 3 tablespoons brown sugar to 3/4 cups orange juice to 1/3 cup brandy to a large pitcher and muddle. Add one bottle of dry red wine (maybe it's Greek?) and stir.  Add a little ice to chill. Taste and adjust if needed and chill. This makes 4 cups. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Darker Shade of Magic trilogy

Like a craft project I wasn't sure I wanted to finish, I reviewed the first book a couple of years ago. This series set the tone for the latest batch of fantasy novels (series) in the last few years. Not all of them are this good but they feature ladies that kick butt (and kill), at least one gay character, tons of action and minimal snacking. I heartily disapprove of the minimal snacking. They are frankly too busy killing and scheming to snack. I mean, is this world full of magic power bars? I don't think it is. What a cruel world that is full of magic but yet, no snacks.

The premise of the books is that there are four Londons one superimposed on each other kind of magical string theory of multiple dimensions. Only the "special magicians" can travel to other worlds. Grey London, which is our Regency London, has almost no magic. Even if it's dangerous to go back and forth to the various worlds I think they do go for the snacks. Grey London has the good scones and White London has the good pasta, I think. Black London is the most dangerous of all but has all the chocolate and coffee so....I mean, you're going to go. Ok, I'm making this part up.  It's a very fast paced pirates and magicians crazy adventure.  I will warn you that book two has a stupid magical Olympics. I wish I was making that part up. 

If you can find the right version of the audio books those are excellent. Book one has this British actor that made the whole thing awesome...and then they decided to get different narrators for books two and three for an American audience and I want to kick someone.

This cocktail seems right for no matter which London you happen to reside: Bourbon Harvest Sour: 5 dark cherries (I would think frozen would work fine), 1.5 good bourbon, 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth, 3/4 cinnamon infused simple syrup and 2 dashes of Aromatic bitters. Muddle the cherries and add the rest of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker  Shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass.     

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

From Here to Eternity

Cool, casual book about death rituals around the world. No biggie. Your funeral doesn't have to be normal. Maybe you want a hipster funeral and artisan made casket from Etsy and a wake with craft cocktails? Maybe you want to be shot into space hugging Elon Musk? Maybe he's not even dead yet. I don't know what your funeral fantasies are. Maybe you want your body to be stuffed with bamboo and then dropped into a panda preserve? They might eat it. I don't know.  The lady at the zoo said they sometimes eat meat and an overly confident duck met her early demise at the enclosure at The San Diego zoo. I say it was duck bet gone bad. One of those "Hold my snail." kind of things.

The author is a funeral director talks about funerals around the world and frankly, we are kind of lame.  She slipped in a casual breezy quote from my former thesis adviser and that was surprising but cool. I get made fun of at work if I mention anything resembling the words "thesis adviser" because I work with a bunch of cretins. They would never want a bamboo/panda funeral.  No creativity and no "vision" really.

This is worth reading if you are curious about death rituals around the world or would like kind of an in-depth Atlas Obscura kind of thing. This is not heavy-duty and not an in-depth study into the various belief systems around the world. Breezy. A very breezy death book. 

Celebrate life and the end of summer with this intriguing cocktail--I mean, you only live once. Giro d' Italia:  2 ounces of good bourbon, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, 3/4 agave nectar and 2 cherry tomatoes and a few basil leaves. Muddle the cherry tomatoes and 4 basil leaves in glass and then pour into a cocktail shaker.  Add the other ingredients and shake over ice.  Strain into an old fashioned glass with a little ice. Garnish with a sprig of basil.