Have you ever had a cocktail? I remember when I was younger being curious about the mystery of mixing drinks, and watching and learning from my father. Cocktails were these magic elixirs, complex, mysterious, alluring. Cooking held little interest for me, but making the right twist of lemon was an art I delighted in learning.
My father enjoyed a martini and took pleasure in the details. The right glass, the balance of tastes, the brand, crushing the ice in his hand with a spoon to get the right size slivers, the perfect chill, the right additions. Everything had impact. Everything mattered. And when I would taste the drink, I had to acknowledge that indeed, it did.
As I recall, we were a lemon twist family. I don’t think I learned of olives or onions until some much later date, though limes and even an occasional mint sprig would find its way into a seasonal libation.
But the lemon twist was what made the average drink exceptional.
It started with finding a firm, fresh lemon, with unblemished substantial skin. Not for us those thin-skinned lime-look-alikes. A small, sharp knife was needed and a lengthwise strip would be cut from stem to stern. A bit of white was acceptable, but you were looking to get a nice 1/4 inch (finger wide) ribbon of the yellow top coat, covered with tiny pores.
You’d take that ribbon and squeeze it over the surface of your completed cocktail, white inside toward you, the outer skin facing the drink likeâ€”my father would gleefully explainâ€”you were squeezing blackheads. And oil did indeed emerge from the peel squeezing, creating a film of lemon essence, an oil slick on the surface of the drink.
You would then gently sweep the perimeter of the glass with the outside of the peel and drop it into the drink (twisting the peel would deliver similar oil-inducing pressure, but is less thorough, in my opinion). As my father noted, one didn’t really taste much after the first sip of a drink. The chill, the alcohol, would often take over, so the fact the oil essence didn’t last much beyond that initial sip didn’t matter. What mattered was that first sip was exquisite, sparkling, aromatic, heady.
However my experience with almost all ordered cocktails is dreadfully disappointing in this area. Most bartenders take the words “with a twist” at face value, and some variety of a curlicue of lemon appears, extracted by an assortment of designer bar implements and it sits decoratively on the edge of your drink. Useless as teats on a bull.
The whole point of a twist of lemon is to add a touch of fresh lemon oil to your drink, for reasons of taste. Not solely to stick a piece of lemon rind in your drink! But almost everyone misses the point. They make a living doing this, and they still don’t have their eye on the donut, the key deliverable, the “beef” and not the bun.
Missingâ€”or just not understandingâ€”the point is not a new issue. It can be a problem for aspiring writers too, who may dutifully following the letter Vs the spirit of instructions. Doing something without really understanding why it needs to be done, what value it offers, can lead you astray. It’s often why editorial instructions, tip sheets, etc. can sometimes be non-existent, minimalist or vagueâ€”because the requesters know that some information can mislead instead of inform.
In fact, information can distract you from focusing on the point. As an adviser, you really want the creator to understand that it’s all about achieving the goal: creating the feeling, having the impact, making the experience happen for the recipient. Not (necessarily) about taking each step correctly, following rules, or delivering on the surface requirements, but not the substance. Instructions or information can be helpful, but when it comes down to it, the question will always be: is it delicious? Do I want to keep drinking (or reading, or whatever).
So if you’re having trouble making your text behave, now at least now you’ll know what to add to that beverage you’re going to be fixing yourself!
Do it with a twist.
Suddenly, after complaining about others, she realized she’d been just as guilty. She wondered if the statute of limitations had expired, but in my opinion thanks have no expiration date. You can send a thank you years later, and it will still be freshâ€”and possibly even more appreciated. Go for it. And she did.
A visit by an avid tea drinker gave me the excuse to expound on my fondness for my Alfi. In assessing my tea drinking habits, I realized there were many similarities with my romance reading habits! Like many romance readers (and tea drinkers), I have specific tastes, likes and dislikes. Some I can be quite intransigent about, others more open-minded.
As a romance reader, I connected, then expanded my reading in the genre in a similarly tentative manner–first Austen, then Regencies, then a fearful exploration into historicals and contemporaries when demand far exceeded supply.
Thinking about the visceral and physical aspects of tea helped me understand my (and perhaps other reader’s) reading process. Sometimes trying a new tea opens a whole new world–but if you’re conservative, it takes being forced to try something new in order to get you off the tried and true. For me with tea, it was being served a delicious new type at a restaurant. With reading, my reading world has been expanded by gift books, a friend’s vociferous recommendation, or a desperation buy when travelling….
A new format–tea bags, a thermal pot–opens up a new drinking experience and new opportunities. I think of audio books, eBooks, mobile and eReaders in that vein. And sometimes the issue is expectations: if I don’t think of this drink as tea, but open my mind and consider it just as a hot beverage–does it taste good? So for me, I’ve been able to explore Chai (a bit). And to connect the tea/reading experience, to enjoy urban fantasy and other relationship novels that include romance, but are not Romances.
What–and how–have your horizons been expanded?
I was listening to my itunes podcast from The New Yorker…
(Side note: many free podcasts can be downloaded and enjoyed @ iTunes. I just add it to my iPod, but if you have a smartphone with MP3 player, think you can download them there. All kinds of free content–learn about music, cooking, manners, philosophy, comedy, news, whatever).
…and one of the stories was about this out-of-work kid who told everyone that he was reading great books over the summer & was delighted to find everyone was very impressed. No, he wasn’t actually reading any, but I decided this was a worthy goal and I should start filling in the chinks and read stuff I had never gotten around to reading.
I thought I’d start with one classic, one recent literary type bestseller. My first toe in the water: PORTRAIT OF A LADY/Henry James & A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS/Dave Eggers.
My rules are that you can have an opinion about a book you’ve read, but can’t have an opinion about the author unless you’ve read at least 3 of their books. It seems fair.
So I found AHWOSG a bit tedious–perhaps colored by having seen Eggers on panels at conferences. And Henry James, who I had never read (yes, watched Wings of the Dove, though my enjoyment was colored by the uncanny resemblance of Daniel Day Lewis in that role to my older brother). Portrait seemed a good start–one of his more well known novels, and the heroine’s name was Isabel. Can’t get more relevant than that!
OMG. It was a fairly hard slog. Then I realized I couldn’t complain about Henry James because I hadn’t read my requisite 3 books. Back to the Library. Wings of the Dove was just too long, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to sit through that story again. So I went with Washington Square–short, but as the introduction notes, not one of his more popular stories. And for good reason. I was one book away from an opinion. Luckily, there was Turn of the Screw–famous (I’d even seen the opera) and a novella! They even had to toss in a couple of short stories to fill the book out.
I was off an running. Well, if you’ve ever read James (I can now say that) “running” is not a word one would associate with his prose!
Despite some very active ghosts, TOTS (cute, eh?) was fairly tough going. But I needed to be able to have an author opinion! I even read the short stories. Also a good bit of the various scholarly preambles. Holy Toledo, if they don’t turn you off reading the book, nothing will. In fairness, I actually really like getting a sense of context, a quick cliff notes on the writer, the history, the critical thought. But obviously, there’s a similarity between the writer’s style and his or her academic fans, so prefaces were a bit of a slog too.
OK, here’s my assessment. After really not getting it for 3 novels (what is the big deal with this guy, etc.), the penny finally dropped thanks to the very last short story I read, “The Jolly Corner.” Whew! I could have an opinion that wasn’t just HUH?
So what’s the big deal? I haven’t done research beyond the above fairly pathetic efforts, but here are my insights.
First, he seems to be one of the first writers to deeply explore a sense of the character’s conscious, their emotional makeup and the psychological causes behind their actions. Freud was born 13 year after James & lived over 20 years longer, but there’s a strong connection with the birth of psychology. That seems pretty big as a new writing vision.
He also straddled the 19th and 20th centuries and offers a well rendered vision of the sense of past graciousness, limitations and social norms and proprieties that were being broken down, but still were powerful forces in an aristocratic or wealthy life. “The Jolly Corner” really presents a vivid metaphor of a man caught between two worlds, trying to find himself. Finishing it, I actually felt warmly towards James, though he definitely read as being a bit mysongenistic, which can be irritating.
So now that I’ve explained James, what’s on your summer reading list?
You may, perhaps, be wondering just what the Hyperbolic Coral Reef is?
So glad you asked!
It’s a project started in Australia by two crocheting sisters seeking to call attention to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.
Interestingly, there’s a mathematical angle to all this. I will likely not get this entirely right, but basically for some time mathematicians denied there was a hyperbolic function until Mr Vincenzo Riccati and Johann Heinrich Lambert came up with it in 1760. This despite the fact that many coral grow hyperbolically, so there were examples right under their nose (or toes).
And you can crochet a hyperbolic function by simply creating a chain and doubling it for every stitch–example below:
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