There are multiple times in our lives when we are confronted with powerful choices: we can either continue to drive on the road we’ve been traveling, or we can branch off in a totally new direction. Experts call these moments intersection points and assign great significance to them. The importance of an actual crossroads has roots in folklore and mythology where it is thought to represent an opening between two worlds, most literally interpreted as the juncture between the one we’re currently living in and the one that is next for us. Therefore, if we stand in that exact intersection spot, we are able to see both our past and our future. Some darker interpretations tell us that we can see a whole lot more than that. If anyone out there reading is a fan of the series Supernatural, you may remember this concept being presented in its extreme form, otherwise known as the crossroads demon, summoned in the actual intersection point of two roads with the intention of brokering some sort of a deal with the devil. This idea had its origin in the thought that because the veil between worlds grows thinner at a crossroads point, it is easier for a demon to slip in and tantalize us with some sort of twisted offer. The most famous literary example of this type of bargaining can be found, of course, in the multiple retellings of the legend of Dr. Faustus. While I do NOT put any stock in the existence of crossroads demons, I will readily admit that because I was a huge fan of the Supernatural series, I do get a major case of the heebie jeebies when I drive through lonely intersections late at night. What I do believe in though is that there is a bit of bargaining that occurs within our own minds when we are faced with crossroads decisions that is related to what we will carry with us and what we will leave behind. This thought is especially relevant to me as I write this post.
I have always found gardening to be one of life’s most rewarding pursuits. I was introduced to it at a very young age, growing up first in the city of Camden where everyone had gardens in the open area that led to the Delaware River behind our row homes, and then later in the suburban town we moved to when I was six. My parents were fortunate to again have an empty field at the back of their property that my father quickly transformed into a huge garden. My own gardens that I grew as an adult were much smaller in scale, but they still seemed to produce a bumper crop every year. My dad and I differed in our ways of doing things. I like raised beds, and he preferred gardens that stepped down. He saw no use for flowers among the vegetables, and I liked to intermix the two, sometimes even according to color. He’d reach for the strongest spray in his lean-to behind the garage at the first sign of pests or fungus, and I preferred organic methods that made him laugh. I felt very close to him when we talked about ideas for planting, or when I consulted him for help. By the time I was growing things of my own, he’d given up his own garden and enjoyed spending time in mine as a result. HIs parents were gardeners too, as were my mom’s parents, so there was also the feeling that we were continuing a tradition that had started many years ago. I share that same sense of connection with my son, Zachary, who also loves to garden, and I’m pleased to say that my daughter, Wendy, has also taken up the practice in the last few years. It definitely feels like something that runs in the family in a very deep way.
As some of you may recall, I am a huge fan of the 2018 movie Call Me By Your Name and actually wrote a post about it back in March of 2018 that was entitled I Remember Everything, arguably the film’s most well-known line. A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of the book, which I’d had on my reading list since I’d seen the movie. How I wish I’d read it sooner. It was fabulous! One of the issues I often have with movies that are based on books written in the first person is that we tend to lack the information we need to fully understand the emotional depth of their stories. In the movie Call Me By Your Name, we are given glimpses into what Elio is feeling, but only through hesitant dialogue and yearning looks. For example, there is a part early on in the film when Elio plays a song on the guitar that catches Oliver’s attention. Oliver wants him to play it again, and Elio eventually obliges, but he does so on the piano, making it sound very different. It’s not what Oliver was hoping for. There’s an exasperated exchange between the two characters, and eventually Elio plays what Oliver wants to hear. The relevance of this scene is hard to understand in the movie, but in the book, it becomes a moment that is highly portentous. The back-and-forth between the two characters happens in much the same way, but later that night when Elio is writing in his diary, we learn how much he is struggling with understanding Oliver’s moods, which range from ice to sunshine, and the extent to which he finds his own equally inscrutable. He concludes the entry by saying, “We are not written for one instrument alone; I am not, neither are you.”
When I first began creating cocktails on my own, I tended to stick with ingredients that I liked to call perfect dance partners. Cucumber and lime. Pineapple and ginger. Basil and lemon. It’s a fairly long list. As I gained confidence in what I was doing, however, I recognized that if I was ever going to make drinks that pushed limits, I needed to expand my bag of tricks. I bought a book called The Flavor Bible, and I read it from cover to cover like it was a Taylor Jenkins Reid novel that I was devouring under an umbrella on the beach. Although it’s primarily intended to be a guide for coming up with your own dishes while cooking, I found that it was not all that difficult to apply its concepts to the world of cocktails as well. Suddenly I was thinking more along the lines of grapefruit and vanilla, blackberry and chocolate, hibiscus and rose. Trying these combinations helped me to develop my palate, and I subsequently learned to trust my own instincts. Now when it occurs to me in the middle of the night that cherry mushroom syrup and sambuca are going to work in a cocktail called Carrion Dreams, or banana liqueur and yellow chartreuse will pair up nicely in another called Morning Star, I’ve learned to roll with that intuition. Sometimes things that appears wildly disparate on the surface run on a quiet engine of unexpected compatibility.