Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a small armchair in the sun-filled lobby of Penn Princeton hospital waiting for good news and for inspiration to come to me about this blog post. There was another similar chair directly across from me that was unoccupied until a young girl in scrubs sat down and became absorbed in some very focused work on her laptop. She seemed to suddenly finish whatever it was that she was so intently doing and before I knew it, she was gone. A while passed before I realized that she’d left a small book on the arm of the chair that looked like a journal of some kind. It had flowers and leaves on it and a dark green ribbon that marked a place in its pages, maybe for the last entry she’d been working on earlier that day. I’m not certain if it was the reflective mood that I was in, or the lingering energy of the spooky eclipse that I’d watched at 6:00 am that morning, or the way in which the light was hitting the arm of that chair in such a particular way, but that little book began to take on a strange significance for me. It had to be important to the girl. Did she realize it was lost? Would she know where to find it? What was it meant to represent for me as it sat there looking so forlorn and left behind in that sunshiny place?
I think that most of you would agree that it is our natural tendency as human beings to place a great deal of significance on our possessions. Maybe some of us do it less than others, and we feel more spiritually evolved, but very, very few of us have reached that place where we can truly say “oh go ahead, toss my Rutgers mug that I’ve had since freshman year in the trash. I’m so over it.” I am reminded of a scene in Toy Story 3 (my favorite of the four) in which Barbie menaces Ken by grabbing his green Nehru suit jacket with the gold accents and threatens to tear it in half. She’s trying to extract information from him for those of you who may not have seen the movie. (Aside: watch it tonight!) “Barbie, not the Nehru!” Apparently it’s from the 1967 Gruvvy Formal Collection, and the minute the first stitches begin to give, Ken cracks. This raises the following question: under what circumstances will we allow ourselves to believe that attachment to personal possessions is okay? Is it in the case of sentimentality, as covered in the first example above? I still have things that were my mom’s, even though she’d be the first person to ask me why on earth I’m keeping them. And what about Ken’s Nehru jacket? It is vintage, after all. Does the fact that it’s a collectible item that represents an entire fashion era grant him allowance? Or what about the lonely and forlorn journal? It begins life as an ordinary book of blank pages, but ends up being filled with memories, gratitudes, and visions. Surely that elevates it to a more sublime level above the class of ordinary possessions.
It would seem to me then that the determining factor in this argument we’re making is the meaning behind the possessions we regard so lovingly. We may not be okay with a person valuing a $100,000 car or a 3 million dollar house only because it makes them feel superior to everyone else, but if they sat us down and explained that they grew up in extreme poverty and watched their parents claw and scrape for every penny, we just might drop our judgement, especially if they explained that their possessions healed those wounds and allowed them to overcome fears of not being able to provide for their own family. Maybe. I suspect that there are some of us who will still say that possessions cannot, or should not, ever have that kind of relevance, although I’m comfortable with admitting that I am not part of that group. I have a 2019 black VW Beetle. Her name is Evangeline, and we are in a relationship. She is the best car I have ever driven, but aside from that, I value her for two very important reasons: she’s the first car I ever bought on my own, and because I’d always wanted a Beetle for as far back as I can remember, she represents the symbolic manifestation of a very deep wish for me. I also doubt very much that she is the object of anyone’s envy. Likewise, if I have my mother’s purse and my father’s wallet because they still make me feel tangibly connected to them, I believe that’s very different from surreptitiously swiping a piece of jewelry or a family heirloom that I knew my brothers really wanted. It all comes down to the personal meaning that a possession has for us, and the driving force behind what makes us value it so much. In both of my examples, I know that the motivation behind my attachment is pure, and I would never want it to be misunderstood as anything but that. What we may regard as a trivial possession for someone else may be the very thing that helps manifest a deep yearning or soothes a profound hurt, and while we may think that it’s within our right to play judge and jury when assessing another person’s propensity to value and hold onto material things, the only motives and intentions we can really police are our own. We all know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, when it is appropriate to hold on and when the time has come to release.
For today’s cocktail, I decided to focus on representing the process behind the ideas in this post, rather than on using the ingredients themselves as symbols. I quickly realized that it was the same kind of deconstruction technique that I used two weeks ago when I created the elevated Jack and Coke drink. By breaking down the concepts behind our attachments to material objects and looking at them individually, we are able to reassemble these thoughts in a new way that has the potential to redefine our perspective. Because I am also working on this idea for Recklesstown’s January menu, today’s post gave me the perfect opportunity to explore the idea of deconstructing another well-loved classic. I decided to break the rather hedonistic piña colada into its individual parts and recreate it as something that moves in the direction of being some kind of health elixir. I removed the heaviness that comes from the cream normally found in the drink, but kept the coconut, pineapple, and lime profile. I then went in a totally new direction by adding carrot, ginger, gin, and Velvet Falernum. The end result was a cocktail that held onto the ghost of the original, while still allowing us to reimagine it as something totally new, but just the tiniest bit challenging to get our heads around. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! I wish you a weekend filled with everyone and everything that you hold closest to your heart.
1.75 oz your favorite gin
.5 oz Barrow’s Intense ginger liqueur
.75 oz carrot juice*
.25 oz pineapple juice*
1 oz lime juice
.75 coconut simple syrup**
.25 John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum
Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with micro greens.
*Use Lakewood, Knudsen, or fresh squeezed.
**Dissolve one cup sugar in one cup good quality coconut water.