Because I spend so much time with three little ones five and under, the subject of things that are scary comes up quite often. Topping the list are nightmares, the dark, certain dinosaurs, if they were still alive, and strange looking or very large bugs. Nora loves to tell me, “Freezie, I wouldn’t want to see that thing walking around.” In most cases, nether would I. In fact, I’m sure I said that to her first. And then there are the monsters. I’ve noticed that a lot of their “scary guys” come from shows that they watch, like the evil villains in Spiderman, for example, which makes perfect sense because it certainly happens that same way for adults. We have our monsters too. Tapping into what is often totally uncharted territory, horror and science fiction writers possess a certain level of genius that manages to convince us of things that defy reality. And they scare us. They get inside our heads and take up residence there alongside whatever monster they’ve created. Stephen King is a personal favorite of many readers, as he was for me, until he killed off the greatest character ever in Bag of Bones, unnecessarily I might add, and I couldn’t read him any more. Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, and Peter Straub are also well known horror writers, but if you allow me to make a personal recommendation, I will tell you that Transgressions by the amazing Sarah Dunant still creeps into my consciousness late at night when I’m lying awake. None of these authors, however, would be writing in this genre that they’ve popularized so very well without the early pioneers of horror and science fiction that wrote centuries ago. Names like H.P Lovecraft or H.G. Welles come to mind immediately, but it is actually Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written in 1817 when she was only eighteen years old, that is recognized as being the first true work of science fiction. While the first horror novelist was a man named Horace Walpole, Shelley is also regarded as the first female writer of that particular genre.
I confess that I was never a huge fan of the depiction of Shelley’s green, square-headed monster, who seemed at times to be far too nice and more than a little bit bumbling. I preferred the highly stylized vampire set, with all their lore and tradition, and their fabulous ability to move incredibly fast, scale castle walls, and transform themselves into bats, wolves, and mist. Anyone else out there feel the same way? If so, I’m going to venture to guess that it has a lot to do with early film adaptations of Frankenstein that did not fairly represent what Shelley intended. It was not until many of us actually read the book in high school and beyond that we realized there was so much more to consider. Dr. Victor Frankenstein creates life, realizes immediately that he’s made a huge mistake, and then attempts to escape without consequences. Feeling confused and abandoned, his monster is left to navigate the world as a hideous and frightening creature, despite the fact that he is highly intelligent and capable of feeling great emotion. Recognizing his maker’s role in his misery, he grows increasingly angry and seeks revenge. From a thematic perspective, I think we can easily see how Shelley’s ideas remain relevant in the 21st century. The unchecked innovations of the industrial revolution have in many ways led to climate change and the corruption of the natural world. We stand on the cutting edge of a number of medical advancements that offer nearly the same level of moral conflict as they do hope. The development of computer technology promised to free us from mundane tasks, increase our efficiency, and grant us access to all the information our minds could ever desire and consume. It has certainly done those things, but many of us have also become enslaved by its round the clock pervasiveness and obsessed with the dopamine rush of its notifications. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein invites us to consider the concept that just because we can do something, it does not subsequently follow that we should do it. With progress comes the responsibility to remain vigilant as to what the costs of our advancements really are, and open to reevaluation should those costs climb too high.
That same responsibility also exists at a personal level, although it may not be quite as apparent. If we honestly search our souls, we will come face to face with certain tendencies we have to get involved in situations or activities that have the potential to become dangerously destructive. It’s part of what makes us human. These are our land mines, and while we may have learned to circumvent them, they still present a risk for us all. If we decide to cross a battlefield that we know is littered with them, we are guilty of the same bravado that led Victor Frankenstein to feel certain that it was within his right to create life. After all, should we not be allowed to bravely seize what lies within our reach? Perhaps, but if we are repeating a behavior pattern that we know is harmful for us, it is likely that the outcome will not be a positive one. If this happens, and we become cognizant of having made a mistake, we may be inclined to continue to follow Dr. Frankenstein’s example by subsequently abandoning the monster we’ve created. It is here that we find the biggest landmine of all. If we turn our backs on our monster while it still roams free, it will track us down and demand that we acknowledge what we have done. It will tell us, “I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other” just as Frankenstein’s creature did. And if you happen to have recently watched the 1994 film adaptation, it will do so in Robert De Nero’s voice, which may be the scariest part of all. In short, any behavior that has the potential to cause us to love beyond measure or rage out of control will most likely not end well, or it will require constant vigilance and management at the very least. If we choose to venture in its direction, we proceed at our own risk and will never escape accountability.
Today’s cocktail is one of six on the menu this month at Recklesstown Farm Distillery, all created to celebrate the accomplishments of great women in history. Using the above quote as my inspiration, I began by infusing our Dust Settler vodka with roasted poblano peppers to generate a bit of rage. Poblanos were a perfect choice because I was also looking for a certain level of smokiness that I could pair with a syrup made from pandan leaf tea. Pandan is a spiky, palm-like plant from Southeast Asia used in Vietnamese and Thai cooking that has a flavor reminiscent of roasted corn or buttered popcorn. Corn is an amazing match for poblanos, of course, and, best of all, the pandan tea is intensely green! Lime was the natural choice for the citrus component, and I took its flavor up an additional notch by adding Fever Tree’s lime and yuzu soda. The bubbles also have a way of carrying the spiciness of the vodka right through to the drink’s finish. One dash of our in-house green Chartreuse liqueur, made last spring with 20 herbs grown locally at Specca’s Nursery, added a layer of herbal complexity, and the smashed raspberry on top is meant to symbolize how destructive obsessive love can be. I chose to take this particular cocktail photo with the silo in the background because those of us who work at the distillery agree that this view is super scary, especially late at night when the moon is out, and it’s easy to imagine Frankenstein walking towards us through the field. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! Come in and see us this weekend! Here is the link for more information about us.
Love and Rage
2.25 oz Dust Settler vodka (infused with roasted poblanos)
1.25 oz Pandan tea syrup
1 oz lime juice
1 dash house made Green Chartreuse
1 oz Fever Tree Lime Yuzu soda
Short shake everything but the soda.
Add soda to shaker and stir.
Dump into a Collins glass.
Garnish with a smashed raspberry.