There are many times when I sit at my keyboard and I have the entry du jour being juggled by all my synapses and neurons.
Today's entry is of this sort. It involves three of my passions: ardent spirits, brilliant writing and libraries. Four, if you count sleuthwork as one of my passions...which TFBIM does not; rather, she numbers it among my pathologies. But I digress.
You may recall that one of my favorite sorta-journalist/sorta-writers is a guy named David Wondrich. I first ran into his stuff in a now-emasculated* magazine called Drinks. Anyway, a short while back, I got a copy of his very excellent book Imbibe! which details the history of mixology, lingering cheerfully over the lives and careers of a Runyonesque slew of sports, swells, dandies, rogues, bon vivants and other lesser luminaries of the day. (It is VERY highly recommended, especially if you're up to here -- as I am -- with do-gooder, navel gazing "eat local" books.)
The interesting thing about this book is that it posits the rather curious notion that mixology was the first thing at which Americans took the lead, leading even the most Eurocentric scribes of teh day (the day being +/- 1840) to admit that, yes, Americans are a backwoodsian, backwaterish sort who gorge on salt pork and hominy without the slightest chemical trace of elegance, grace, refinement or dignity and whose daily lives are punctuated with the unappealing byproducts of chewing tobacco...but their bartending is peerless and leagues ahead of what may be had in Paris or London.
Of course, Wondrich's prose gives unmatched luster to the subject. His writing style is masculine, but without the stylistic tics of the postmoderns or the bellicosity or "sensitivity" of his priors. It's masculine in a scholarly-yet-boyish sort of way, acknowledging what is sacred and then, gleefully pointing out all those other things which are not sacred.
Even nicer is the array of recipes and their geneology.
So this is when I said to myself: "I really could use another bartending book."
Y'see, I have a few. These can be divvied up into those books which provide practical knowledge and those which are actually readable and nightstand fodder. Of the former, the Williams-Sonoma guide is unparalleled; of the latter any of the old Esquire books from the 1930s will suffice. The problem with these, however, is that many of the recipes are simply out of step with the current thinking in modern dipsomania. Keep in mind, these recipes are from a time when "Fix me a drink." meant, more often than not, "Take a large, tall glass and fill it 1/3 of the way up with rye whiskey and nothing else. Then hand it to me."
So a book with chapters on grogs, flips, punches is not all that practical however entertaining the reading. This led me to say "Oh, why not? I'll get the Esquire book. It's only $15."
Only it's not.
Sure, the price tag may have said $15, but good luck finding it for less than $40. This is where libraries come in. It seems all the people selling it are hawking ex-library copies. This means the book they are selling for $40+ cost them...what? $1?
As a full-on Adam Smith capitalist I applaud these sellers, but that applause fails to evolve into my showering them with lucre. Just because I don't begrudge the Greater Fool Law means I wish to be said greater fool. Here is where you (especially you library types...you know who you are) come in.
If you see this book at a library sale (what I half-expect Heaven to be like, only with beverages) please let me know.
My mental health thanks you in advance.
* Anything that I really, really like is in imminent peril of being cancelled, discontinued, altered for the worse, or otherwise ruined. Always.
Posted by Joke at 1:21 PM
blackbird posted at 3:41 PM, August 14, 2008
Easy enough -
blackbird posted at 3:42 PM, August 14, 2008
Oh, the OTHER one...
Joke posted at 4:30 PM, August 14, 2008
The, as you note, other one.
See my anguish?
h+b posted at 1:43 AM, August 16, 2008
Now you've made me think of it, and without any real knowledge or study ... i'd have to agree.
When I think mixed drink ( besides whiskey with water et al ), or I think of a *particular* mixed drink .. my mind wanders to America ( or places overrun with Americans - ie: places of war and the Mai Tai etc )
Gin Slings, Cosmopolitans, Mint Julep, Long Island Iced Tea .. Bloody Marys ...
Joke posted at 1:48 AM, August 16, 2008
It's the study that's lovely.
blackbird posted at 6:25 PM, August 16, 2008
$36.87 at Amazon. Which IS less than $40, but still.