Tuesday, June 20, 2017
[Today's] Favorite Cocktail
Zahava and I are not big drinkers. But we do enjoy a glass of wine with meals, as well as the occasional postprandial cocktail.
Our taste in wines and mixed drinks is both transient and eclectic, which makes us susceptible to picking up new 'favorites' from friends and relatives... as well as from the random tipples we encounter in our travels.
I have a long relationship with Bourbon Manhattans that has withstood the test of time. The preference for Bourbon over Rye I got from my dad, who has always been a Bourbon man. But other than that, I haven't been too picky about what goes into this basic and nearly fool-proof cocktail.
That is, until the recent one-two combination of a trip to Italy followed by a visit to my sister Elizabeth, opened my eyes to the possibilities.
First the Italy trip.
Zahava and I were enjoying one of several meals we ate in the Roman Ghetto last summer. After dinner we asked the waiter to recommend a digestif to go with the desert we were going to share (we were both stuffed!). He offered us a choice of grappa (which Zahava doesn't love), and Luxardo Maraschino (a clear Italian liquor distilled from sour Marasca cherries). We had never had the latter so we opted for that.
Heaven! When we got back to Israel I tracked down a store that carried it and have endeavored to keep a bottle on hand.
As to my sister... each time I have visited her in recent years, I've been floored by how much better her Manhattans are than the ones I mix up at home. Okay, to be fair, I've been floored by the alcohol content of the multiple Manhattans I usually have when visiting her... but they really do always taste better than mine.
It turns out there are a few reasons Liz's are better than mine.
First, she uses Rye instead of Bourbon. There is a difference!
And second, she doesn't use those bright red Shirley Temple-style cherries for the garnish. Instead, she buys the original deep red Maraschino Marasca cherries from the Luxardo company in Italy (yes, the same one that makes the liquor I mentioned above). She also adds a teaspoon or two of the Marasca cherry syrup from the jar to the cocktail.
Recently, I've been trying to think of anything that could possibly improve on Liz's Rye Manhattan, and it occurred to me that a splash of the Maraschino liquor would be a nice touch. It is.
And in addition to a dash or two of the Angostura Bitters which the standard drink recipe calls for, I thought maybe a dash or two of orange bitters would go nicely. It does.
The following, ladies and gentlemen, is my latest take on the venerable Manhattan cocktail (makes two generous servings):
Maraschino Lover's Perfect Rye Manhattan
- 4 oz. Rye whiskey
2 oz. sweet vermouth (I use the kosher Martini Rossa found here in Israel)
1 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
4 dashes Angostura Bitters
4 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
2 tsp. Luxardo Maraschino Cherry juice
Shake well in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice and serve in chilled glasses with a garnish of orange slices and Maraschino Cherries.
[Depending on the feedback, I may do a semi-regular cocktail/wine post here on treppenwitz]
Thursday, June 15, 2017
If You Didn't See This Coming...
... you weren't looking very hard!
Heck, if anyone is honestly surprised by yesterday's shooting in Alexandria, VA., they had their head in the sand.
Let's forget that the shooter happened to be a far left wing 'moonbat'. He could just as easily have been a 'wingnut' from the fringes of the political right. The extremists are always the vanguard of any conflict... but when push comes to shove, they inevitably have the mainstream firmly at their back.
My point is that political discourse in the US has become so toxic and disconnected from reality that it has, for all intents and purposes, ceased to be discourse. Instead of an earnest discussion or debate of the issues of the day, it has become an aggressive, belligerent game of dogma-tennis played with political mortars and grenades lobbed over the partisan battlements.
In warfare, one of the challenges facing the military establishment, and society as a whole, is to justify setting aside the tenet of 'Thou Shalt Not Kill'. This is accomplished by an organized campaign of vilification of the enemy... to such an extreme extent that they can be viewed as something less than human. After all, the prohibition is only against killing one's fellow man; so those monsters over there must be fair game!
If you look at some of the propaganda films put out during WWII, you can clearly see the Nazis (always Nazis... never just Germans, because that would allow one to think in terms of civilians), as cruel, unfeeling monsters. And the Japanese were portrayed as reptilian automatons! Then, and only then, could the allied countries get behind sending our wholesome boys out to mow them down like weeds and burn entire cities like garbage heaps.
Such is the nature of warfare. To set aside the rules of civilization, the enemy must be seen to be well outside civilized norms. Think about that the next time you hear someone called a 'Nazi' or ''Fascist' over their political beliefs.
Unfortunately, such is now the nature of political discourse in the US.
Nobody is actually talking anymore. They are broadcasting a one-way stream of invective and venom. Ideas and philosophies are no longer debated on campus or in the halls of government. Instead, each side has drawn its battle lines, and everyone on the other side of those lines is held up as the most extreme, crazy, dangerous transgressor of dearly held political orthodoxy.
The language and venom used by both sides is indistinguishable from heresy accusations between competing religious sects. For the reactions they garnered, each party's platforms during the presidential election might as well have been the 95 Theses nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church!
If you ask historians what the 100 Years War was about, they will tell you it was "a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the House of Valois, rulers of the Kingdom of France, over the succession of the French throne".[source]
But if pressed, as to why the warfare in that conflict was particularly savage, most will be forced to admit that the English and French setting aside the religious rules of warfare had a great deal to do with it. After all, both sides had invoked religious justification for their cause (read up on the 'Great Schism of 1378'). So even though the rules of chivalry and warfare among Christians demanded humane treatment of captives and allowed for negotiation and compromise where possible, the moment the other side was deemed to be heretics... all rules went out the window.
One of the more famous battles of the 100 Years War took place at Agincourt in 1415. The French King flew the Oriflamme (from Latin aurea flamma, "golden flame"); the battle standard which indicated that no quarter would be granted to captured or surrendering enemy forces. The battle is also notable for the use of the English Long Bow which allowed large scale killing from a remote position... another departure from the accepted rules of chivalry.
All this was made possible - inevitable, actually - by the battle lines being drawn along 'all or nothing' zero sum terms. A respected adversary had to be treated chivalrously. A heretical enemy could be slaughtered without remorse.
Rory William St Clere Cox, a lecturer at The University of St. Andrews put it quite succinctly when discussing the increasingly religious nature of the rift between the English and the French: "The interaction between war and religion helped to create increasingly xenophobic and jingoistic societies, so that a conflict which began as a dynastic or feudal struggle increasingly came to be understood in terms of a national crusade". [source]
Sound familiar? It ought to.
On his way to the the baseball field yesterday, the shooter - James T. Hodgkinson - is reported to have stopped a departing player (Rep. DeSantis), to ask who was on the field, Democrats or Republicans? Even from the dugout it wasn't immediately apparent who was who. They all looked like a bunch of middle aged men in baseball uniforms engaged in the national pastime.
But once they were identified as Republicans, their attire became enemy uniforms, and in his mind they became legitimate targets.
I have no idea how we got to this present state of partisan warfare in the US, or how we might extricate ourselves from the trenches long enough to be able to see the 'soldiers' on the other side as people just like us.
But so long as we continue to hold up our political views as sacrosanct doctrine instead of simple political constructs, we will increasingly be drawn into religious wars from which there can be no chance of compromise or quarter. And the bodies will continue to pile up on the battlefield... even if it looks just like a ball-field.
Friday, June 09, 2017
Let's be honest...
Memo to Lebanon (and Jordan, and much or the Muslim world) on banning the screening of the new Wonder Woman movie starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot.
You claim the motivation is that she used to do this:
Meanwhile, shame on the world for their silence in the face of any sort of boycott based on the nationality and/or religion of a movie's star.
I wonder what the New York Times headlines would look like if Israel ever banned the screening of a film because the star came from a culture or country the government found offensive or distasteful. I imagine the object of such an Israeli boycott would be an automatic winner at the various film festivals around the world.
Monday, June 05, 2017
What's In Your Coffee Kit?
Since moving to Israel 14 years ago, I have been commuting about an hour each way to my job in Beer Sheva.
Almost as soon as I started doing this commute, word got around among the Army and University crowd and I began getting requests for 'tremps' (rides) from people in my community (I've written about this at length in the past).
After some time, I began to get 'regulars'; students who had to go south every Sunday morning for the week's classes as well as soldier's serving at bases throughout the Negev desert.
I've mentioned this because at the end of the first academic year, three young women who had been my 'regulars'; traveling with me almost every week, chipped in and presented me with a touching gift: A 'Pakal Cafe' (פק''ל כפה). That three letter Hebrew acronym stands for פקודת קבע לחייל which very roughly translates as Standard Equipment for a Soldier. In the US military it would be General Issue (GI).
So what is a 'Pakal? Technically it can be anything that is standard equipment for a given task, role or setting. But if you copy and paste פק''ל into a Google image search, most of the results will be for coffee kits. And that's what those girls gave me.
Despite its name, Israeli coffee kits are anything but standard. The ones sold commercially share certain commonalities in that they contain at a minimum:
- A small camping stove
- Fuel for the stove
- Containers for sugar and coffee
- At least 3 small cups for serving the coffee
- A pouch of some kind to hold it all
In case you didn't have the patience to do the Google search I recommended above, here are a few commercial offerings that show the range from simple to elaborate:
The reason these girls settled on a פק''ל as a thank you gift to me was that they'd noticed that every morning I brought a thermal travel mug full of coffee with me for the drive, and assumed (correctly, as it turned out), that coffee played a fairly central role in my daily routine. Giving me the ability to fix a hot cup of coffee while camping or on a day trip was indeed a very thoughtful gift.
Over the years, my daughter Ariella has 'borrowed' most of the components such as the little butane stove and the coffee/sugar containers. But despite my having made so many modifications and substitutions in the contents of my פק''ל that it doesn't contain a single item from the original gift kit... in my mind, what I use is still the פק''ל I got from the three University students.
Today my kit includes my venerable old Svea 123R stove (which I've had since the mid '80s);
Instead of the fragile glass cups, I have substituted collapsible silicon cups (which are also easy on the fingers when the coffee is piping hot):
And I use a range of tiny Tupperware-style plastic containers for coffee, sugar and Splenda.
I've been toying with the idea of adding a little hand grinder to the kit, but the expense (about $25 bucks) and extra space/weight has kept that out of the kit so far.
But given that people love to customize and modify their 'Pakal Cafe' (e.g. travel size French Press, mini espresso maker, etc.), I am wondering what's in yours? Anything unique or interesting?