Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Concoctions New and Old


When we were kids, my friend and I used to make concoctions in his basement. We would find some sort of bowl, usually an old butter tub or somesuch, and mix the chemicals we found in his basement just to see what would happen. The results were largely dull, but once in a while a strange green vapor would rise or we would create something with steam that poured down the drain just like in the monster movies. It was great, probably toxic fun.

These days we're much safer and not confined to the basement. Last Christmas Eve, along with another friend, we concocted an eggnog that was pretty good and was at least as much fun to make as to drink. There was that same childlike excitement and then a fairly adult kick of alcohol involved to take the place of acrid smoke. I got to thinking about that eggnog as I lay on the couch yesterday and came across a great recipe on NPR.

The thing with the concoctions from our youth is that they left us with good stories to tell. We both remember the best mixtures and the excitement bubbling forth from them and it's the kind of story that I'll tell my kids when they are older and confide the risks they took behind my back as my friend and I did behind our parents' backs. The recipe for the eggnog we set out to create today is a similar thing. The article has about seven hundred words of story before it gets into measurements and instructions. That's my kind of recipe, one that discusses history, chemistry, possible poison, and the passing down of old books.

My friend came over and we talked for a bit while we waited on our other friend's wife to drop off the rum. That in hand we went shopping for bourbon. We came home and cracked a dozen eggs into a bowl and beat them with an electric mixer. We measured the bourbon and rum together and added that mixture to the eggs. Very slowly. I mean, very, very slowly. It took half an hour to put it all together, according to the recipe, and through it all we talked as we used to when mixing less tasty stuff in his parents' basement. A project that takes this much time, patience, and faith in a recipe demands partnership and so we stuck it out together.

In the end we had a mix that nearly filled a 64-ounce growler we had put to use to hold the mix while it sits in my basement cedar closet to mellow. Had I come across the recipe at Thanksgiving, the mix would have the full time to mellow and sweeten. As it is, we will have to do with just five days of aging and see how it goes on Christmas Eve. We're both curious as can be.

More than that, though we are thirty-five years away from the days of basement concoctions, neither of us are beyond the enjoyment of play. That's really what today was all about. I'm laid up after surgery and my friend came over to my house to play and keep me busy. Five days from now we will tell the story of this concoction, and likely share the stories of the ones from long ago, as we share the eggnog around the tree with friends and family. The stories keep going. And what is there to do but write on?