deviating with a touch of alchemy and a creative past…

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw


(step 1 to clarified milk punch / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.

Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.

I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.

Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?

Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.

And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.

Today is Oct. 22nd.

That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
you choose.
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.

Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.

We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”

As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
since May.

Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.

“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.

And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
aka Summer,
my thoughts are turning to Fall.

As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.

Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!

My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.

So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.

Enter the clarified milk punch.


(Gastro Obscura)

A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.

One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.

The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.

My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.

I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.

And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.

The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.

I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.

I asked about his drink that was no longer available.

Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.

He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.

As in all good things…right?

He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.

Alas.

He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.

I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.

He made good on his word…

My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.

I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.

My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
He smiled.

(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)

And so in turn, I have researched.

History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.

Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.

But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.

Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.

There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.

But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.

A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
delightfully lingering.

The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.

After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.


(NY Times)

The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.

Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.

I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.

My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.

No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.

Stay tuned…

snowflakes

“The paradoxes of today are the prejudices of tomorrow,
since the most benighted and the most deplorable prejudices
have had their moment of novelty when fashion lent them its fragile grace.”

Marcel Proust

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(image courtesy Favim.com)

There’s a lot of talk currently in my neck of the woods about snow.
In fact the “talk” is more like a warning of an impending National disaster.

Yesterday while driving into Atlanta to Dad’s…those matrix boards above the interstates
alerting drivers to accidents, etc. were all running the same ominous and foreboding message…
Winter Storm Warning

For much of this hearty country of ours, such approaching weather systems
are no big deal…
it’s just more of the same ol typical winter weather…
but in this tender southern state, those signs might as well have read:
THE END IS NEAR AND WE ARE ALL DOOMED!!!

So this morning, with all the local news forecasting the Apocolypse,
I figured that maybe I should run out to the store to grab another half gallon of milk…
Lord knows I’d hate to be iced in, snowed in or both,
without ample milk for my coffee or any sort
cake or recipe that I may want to whip up while being stranded and cut off
from all civilization…

The shopping center looked like it did a couple of weeks ago during the
Christmas shopping frenzy.
I had passed school buses running basically backwards…
as in they had just taken the kids to school
and now they were bringing them all back home due to the early dismals
in observance of the impending disaster.

While I was making my way through the maze of shopping carts frantically filling up
with survival foods such as chips and sodas…
I debated about picking up something different for supper.

The chicken section was almost empty with only a few errant packs of thigh / leg combos.
When did chicken make the list of the typical disaster foods besides bread and milk?
Of which I am happy to report that the milk section was fully stocked…
or should I make that restocked…

Next stop, the bank.

Fridays are never a good day to go to the bank as everyone is getting paid and
in turn, heading to the nearest bank.
Add impending doom…
and shades of 1929 come racing to mind.

While standing at my teller’s counter there was a couple in their mid 20’s at the teller next to me.
They were loudly lamenting to the gal behind the counter,
and everyone else in line, that they were “tired of being adults.”

Really? ( thought in a monotone of sarcasam)

I chuckled and turned to look at this forlorn lamenting duo.

They continued on about how they were ready to trade in their “adult cards” wanting,
I suppose, to return to the Land of Nod and innocence.
“How,” had they known, “that if life would be like this,”
whatever “this” may have been,
“would have squandered more of their money while trying to “enjoy life” …

I kid you not.

I offered, rather bemusedly, that it doesn’t get any easier…
which certainly didn’t offer any comfort to their sense of gloom and doom…
but then again I am a realist and one who is a believer in the phrase
“aging is not for sissies”

Later back home,
I stumbled upon the reference of snowflake being used with regard to this
same mid 20’s aged group, twice!

Once on a news program discussing the impending inauguration being akin to another
type of apocalypse to many, and that colleges are providing their tender charges
places of calm and comfort, in hopes of soothing their mounting fears.

Another reference came while I was reading the blog of a Scottish pastor waxing on
about today’s colleges which are providing warnings (trigger statements)
to students that biblical studies will have graphic imagery regarding the crucifixion and
veterinary studies will have to discuss such topics as dead animals,
while the forensic students will be seeing, wait for it, dead bodies.
Obviously things all too gory and disturbing for these tender “snowflake’s” sensitive likings.

They are a most fragile lot are they not?
And will certainly melt at the drop of a hat…

Or so it seems as many adults, especially those in higher institutions of learning,
fear as they race to coddle their youthful charges.
And so it is as I am now hearing it first hand with my own ears, while at the bank…
That many of these snowflakes are actually already tired of the real world and
simply want to go back to being “irresponsible kids”….

Hummmmm….

This coming on the heels of the news of that now infamous and most heinous viral Facebook
story coming out of Chicago…
the story about those 4 young people who were arrested for kidnapping, beating and torturing
a mentally handicapped young man.
Ranting on and on at him about F’ing Trump and F’ing white people while cursing him,
cutting him, taunting him as he was tied up and had his mouth duct taped shut….
They filmed their antics while boasting that they wanted this recording to go viral…
they wanted the world to see what they were doing while laughing all the while doing it.

Chicago’s police chief said that these sorts of horrendous incidents from young thugs would,
in the future, only escalate.

Here we have not so much snowflakes, but rather icicles…
cold and dangerous youth living without
regard for the sanctity of human life.

So maybe those interstate signs should read:
“Warning and Shame”
“We’ve let our youth run amuck and now we are left trying to pick up the pieces”

As our same Scottish pastor laments that the Church herself is as much to blame as anyone for
the wailing of these youthful generations as she has dumbed down Christianity into
a Disneyesque sort of happy fun thought…
where things like sin and death…that whole ransoming of our sins with payment coming
in the form of death on a cross,
being just all too much for this up and coming youthful generation
who are either too sensitive or too callous for the reality of life, death and faith.

Shame indeed.

Here’s to the impending snow storm…
may we have enough milk, bread and now chicken, to survive….

Snowflake Theologians Given Trigger Warning about the Crucifixion

Don’t ask

The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life. . . . The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds — how many human aspirations are realised in their free, holiday-lives — and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song!
John Burroughs, Birds and Poets, 1887

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(mourning doves / Julie Cook / 2015)

Just as with some people we see, the advice holds true with certain animals and birds. . .
sometimes it’s better not to ask but to merely go on about one’s business. . .shaking a head as you go is certainly permissible.

Luckily however these two mourning doves weren’t up to any funny business, I just happened to snap the camera in mid ruffling of feather and wing.

I do so greatly enjoy watching these birds, along with the bevy of fellow winged creatures who call my yard home. There’s just something blissfuly cathartic about spending time, merely observing the fastidious behavior of these feathery neighbors. Whereas the doves are not prone to fly up to the feeders as the other birds, rather preferring to graze about the ground underneath the feeders gobbling up any seed or corn that is carelessly dropped, their waddling and jutting of their heads is often a comical sight.

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I was not aware of the rather peculiar phenomenon of doves, as well as pigeons, of actually producing their own milk. It is a milk of sorts produced in their crops known simply as crop milk. Just prior to the laying of eggs, the female dove stops eating, setting into motion a chain of physiological events trigged by the body reacting to the panic of starvation. This being the time when the body produces the milk, which in turn is what the mother dove feeds her new hatchlings.

It is because of this peculiar maternal sacrifice which has forever linked the dove as being a symbol of motherhood and all to that which is maternal.
Who knew!!??

And as to our Mourning doves earning their rather sombre and reverent name,
we may merely look to the Roman poet Virgil.
Taken from one of his early eclogues and quoted here from wikipedia, we have one of the earliest references to the humble dove and to its most mournful sound.

“Its plaintive woo-OO-oo-oo-oo call gives the bird its name, possibly taken from Virgil’s First Eclogue, (lines 57-59 translated from the Latin as follows):

“Yonder, beneath the high rock, the pruner shall sing to the breezes,
Nor meanwhile shall thy heart’s delight, the hoarse wood-pigeons,
Nor the turtle-dove cease to mourn from aerial elm trees (nec gemere aeria cessabit turtur ab ulmo)
Here the Latin verb gemo, gemere, gemui, gemitum signifies “to sigh, groan; to coo; to sigh or groan over, lament, bemoan”

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