Sunday, April 20, 2014
Come On Berbie, Let's Go Party
So you get a bonus poem, two cocktail recipes, and a lecture.
Wormwood wants earth that's drained to nearly dry.
The roots are a monster. They'll try to break
Clay pots; they won't be enclosed. In spring,
It is everything you don't want to see--grey,
Kinked, stiff and gnarled, brittle branches
Clutching at any detritus of seasons past
That it can hoard. It has a tremor. Nubs
Of green force their way out of the ugly wood,
And this may be the source of the stories:
They say there is a spirit trapped inside,
A dragon, a hunter, a beauty, its name
A star that falls and turns the river bitter--
Taste what I am made of, it demands.
Various apocrypha attribute the invention of the Earthquake cocktail to Henry (his preferred spelling) de Toulouse-Lautrec. There are several recipes floating around the Internets, but the one that for me combines authenticity and palatability is this: One part cognac, one part absinthe, splash of red wine.
There are know-it-all foodies and … drinkies? What do you call an expert on spirits? -- who will argue this shit to the death, usually in loud voices after they're half in the bag, and tell you a lot about thujones and all, but here's the reality: there's nothing particularly different about absinthe. The ritual and mythology just primes you to think so. Artemesias are medicinal in different ways; medicine is bitter; you get the medicinal properties out of any herb by processing it with alcohol. You use different artemesias in different ways in cooking, drinking, and medicine to get different effects. Way back, people used to make their own absinthes, vermouths, aperitifs and digestifs to their own recipes, handed down and tweaked, so to speak, over the years, and many still do. The traditional use of artemesias was to get rid of worms. I mean stomach worms, not earthworms. Every herb has a tendency to produce a particular effect, but any herb can also produce a particular effect in a a particular person, ranging from puking to falling asleep to hallucination. Medicine is tricky and herbalism trickier, because it's harder to standardize the dose. If you soak lawn clippings in alcohol and drink enough of it, it's going to kill you. You should work with a personal root doctor or similar, and be patient and careful. Southern wormwood, or Sweet Annie, grows wild all over the southeast U.S. If you choose to work with it, you should work with a good traditional Chinese Medicine expert, because they're very familiar with it. All of this is to say that I get annoyed when people talk about hallucinating from absinthe or that it's particularly dangerous. You might as well say the same of Aperol, which I prefer.
It is also to say that Toulouse-Lautrec wasn't killed by the absinthe. He was killed by his father, just like any other normal, decent artist.
Last night I had a very sweet drink of a spoonful of Few rye (I can't drink very much alcohol; i just fall asleep), pomegranate juice, homemade limoncello, an orange slice, and a grind of a spice mix I make with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice. How fucking precious is that! But tasty.
Here's a bitter poem by Anne Bronte. I'm like, yeah baby.
O GOD! if this indeed be all
That Life can show to me;
If on my aching brow may fall
No freshening dew from Thee;
If with no brighter light than this
The lamp of hope may glow,
And I may only dream of bliss,
And wake to weary woe;
If friendship’s solace must decay,
When other joys are gone,
And love must keep so far away,
While I go wandering on,—
Wandering and toiling without gain,
The slave of others’ will,
With constant care and frequent pain,
Despised, forgotten still;
Grieving to look on vice and sin,
Yet powerless to quell
The silent current from within,
The outward torrent’s swell;
While all the good I would impart,
The feelings I would share,
Are driven backward to my heart,
And turned to wormwood there;
If clouds must ever keep from sight
The glories of the Sun,
And I must suffer Winter’s blight,
Ere Summer is begun:
If Life must be so full of care—
Then call me soon to Thee;
Or give me strength enough to bear
My load of misery!
Image: What was the bishop's fortress in Albi was transformed into the Museum of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.