A week or so ago, I was driving up to work at Recklesstown Farm Distillery in Columbus when I happened to see one of those large swaying banner flags at the edge of a gas station that read, “Today’s Coffee Flavor: Espresso!” Well now. Am I the only one who finds the idea of a gas station espresso to be a bit of an oxymoron? I doubt that I am, but I can’t say that with absolute certainty. What I can say, however, is that Andrea and Ernesto Illy, father and son chairmen respectively of Illycaffé, would most definitely agree with me. Illycaffé, or just Illy, was founded in Italy in 1933 and remains a family controlled business that specializes in espresso and markets to 140 countries worldwide. Their annual revenue is over 600 million euros, and in 1999, they established the University of Coffee, Unicaffe, in Naples, an institution dedicated to coffee education and research. According to Ernesto Illy, “the quintessential expression of coffee is espresso.” Andrea takes that concept one step further by stating that “espresso is a miracle of chemistry in a cup” and “coffee is the official beverage of culture.” If we consider our favorite morning drink in these terms, I think that most of us would see the possibility of finding either a miracle or culture at a mini mart along Route 206 to be a highly unlikely one. But what if we happen to have an overwhelming desire for an espresso just as we read the words on that banner flag? Will any cup that we can get our hands on suffice at that point? I wonder.
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.
Since I had the opportunity to be away for a few days this weeks, I decided to reprise one of my favorite vacation posts that I wrote back in 2018. It was actually part of the Monday Poetry in a Glass series I was doing at the time. The poem I chose was a haiku poem about a dragonfly, written by Matsuo Bashō.
The dragonfly Can’t quite land on that blade of grass.
I was struck by the poem’s simplicity back then in much the same way as I am now, but I remember the that there was something additional that made me gravitate towards this particular one. I felt compelled to write about it. There was an incident that happened while I was at the beach that August involving a dragonfly that flew into the house one night in the midst of a bit of chaos. It was, without a doubt, the largest dragonfly that I’d ever seen, absolutely beautiful in shades of iridescent blue and green, and it caused quite the commotion as it tried to navigate its new surroundings. My daughter has a no-kill policy when it comes to most insects, and so we’ve all become very adept at catching things carefully and helping them find their way back outside. This dragonfly, however, tested all my skills. After 15 minutes of Herculean effort that probably should have been captured on YouTube, I managed to coax it into a colander and return it to safety. After things calmed down, I couldn’t help but think about how incongruous it was that it had found his way into the house in the first place. Dragonflies are not nighttime bugs. It should have been sleeping in the marsh somewhere. Did this one have a particular message for me?
Two days ago the biggest super moon of 2022 graced us with its fullness. This particular July spectacle is called the Buck Moon because it coincides with the point in summer when the antlers of male deer have reached their largest size. As many of you know, every moon also has a symbolic interpretation that’s closely tied to the name assigned to it by The Farmer’s Almanac. Sometimes these meanings are a bit obscure, or their correlation is very broad, but that’s not the case with this moon. We can grasp its signification fairly easily, and we quickly understand that it’s all about channeling our own potential for growth while recognizing what might be standing in our way. The energy of any full moon, in general, is always about releasing that which does not serve us. This particular full moon pushes us to let go of the impediments that are preventing us from taking the next steps on our journey, the ones that will challenge us to grow and become what we’re meant to be. Does this all sound a bit over the top to you? It should. Full moons are loaded with drama, especially those that are incredibly big like this one. Not only do super moons outshine other full moons in terms of clarity and brightness, but they also score higher on the energy and impact scale as well.