Thursday, November 27, 2008

A great way to fall off the wagon

While I've been grading, my dear friend Marcy has pointed out that our dear alcoholic current president has apparently been partaking of the national drink of Peru.

In an effort to explain the significance of the pisco sour, I provide below a recipe for the drink that I had published in the International Cookbook for AU's International Student and Scholar Services office. (Please feel free to order the cookbook, which has been created to raise funds for an emergency fund for international students on campus, something greatly needed. Not only does the book make a great stocking stuffer, but you'll find a whole menu that I've come up with with Peruvian food.)

Pisco sours also make a great drink for Thanksgiving, as would making the stuffing infused with some pisco, as I did a few years ago. If I only knew the president would have partaken with us, I would have invited him over for dinner!

Pisco Sour
Submitted by Jeffrey Middents, Assistant Professor of Literature
Serves 4

History tells us that the War of the Pacific ended in 1883, but disputes linger on over 100 years later. The northern territory claimed by Chileans in the middle of the Atacama desert turned out to be very rich in nitrates, copper and saltpeter – and happened to be a wonderful growing area for grapes. Today, Chile is internationally recognized for alcoholic beverages made from grapes, including a lucrative wine industry and, recently, pisco. Peruvians would claim otherwise: a very potent type of brandy distilled from grapes, pisco has historical connections to many areas of southern Peru, including Chicha, Ica, Arequipa, Lima, Tacna and – not so surprisingly – Pisco. Although both countries now make pisco, there are subtle differences, primarily involving how long the fermented drink is aged. Although Peru has filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization for proprietary rights to the drink, it may still be easier to find Chilean pisco in the United States. As a Peruvian, I would disapprove and tell you to purchase it online... but if don’t tell your guests, they’ll never know.

The pisco sour is a very simple drink to make, and a favorite among tourists. I will warn you that its taste similar to lemonade masks the very potent alcohol. Being American and not knowing the Peruvians are notorious for starting everything late, my father mistakenly arrived on time for a function in his honor held in Peru in the 1960s and started drinking this tasty concoction – only to find he had become rather inebriated by the time the event got under way. (Thankfully, he didn’t make a scene.) The recipe I am providing here is a more traditional preparation; in a rush, my good friend Barbara says that substitute limeade concentrate for the limes and sugar syrup works just as well. The general proportions are 3 parts pisco for 1 part juice and 1 part sugar syrup.

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 7 ½ oz. pisco*
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 ½ oz. key lime juice
  • Ice, lots of it
  • Angostura bitters (optional)

  1. Combine sugar in a small saucepan with just enough water to moisten it. Heat over very low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  2. Add the lime juice and pisco to the still warm sugar syrup and beat quickly until everything is mixed well. Put into blender and add enough ice to double the volume.
  3. Blend at high speed for approximately 30 seconds, until the ice has broken up. Add the egg white and blend for one minute. There will be a signature foam on top of the liquid. Add more sugar if you’d like a sweeter
  4. Serve in old fashioned or white wine glasses immediately. If desired, place a drop or two of bitters as a garnish on top of the foam in each glass.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A time to laugh, a time to cry

The family was heading out late last week for our semi-annual joint haircut at Cabello's, having let our manes get quite shaggy. We scheduled the visit on the day I didn't teach, which corresponded with the day that Xan was not in school due to a day of parent-teacher conferences. Ange had to teach, however, and so just before the appointed time, we were parked relatively close to her classroom to wait. We were listening to a mix-CD (is that what you call the slightly more modern version of a "mix tape," before we get to playlists?) made by a friend as a party favor for his three-year-old's birthday party earlier this year. Since this CD features Elmo, Xan was in a particularly good mood.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, a quiet voice from the back seat of the car said, "Dada, when someone kills, that means someone dies, right?"

I was a bit shaken by this, but the word "kill" has come up a few times before. I think one of the kids at his school had talked about "killing" things, perhaps because he has a video game or something and I had dissuaded Xan from blithely using the word, trying to indicate the serious finality of killing. He also understands the concept of death, somewhat, mainly because his great-grandfather died only a year ago. So I said, "Yes, that's what that means."

There was a pause.

And then: "Dada, when will I die?"

In the rear view mirror, I could see the earnest expression on his face. At that point, I had to figure out how to hold it together. I was not preapred for this at all, nor the way that such a question would put me near tears. Quite frankly, I don't think about this possibility at all because, deep inside, I know this would crush me in ways I really can't imagine. (This, even though we upped our life insurance the other day. My own potential death? Apparently, I can handle that.)

I replied, "Oh, sweetie. I have no idea when you will die. Hopefully, not for a very, very long time."

He pondered that. "When do people die?" he continued.

"We don't know," I said. "No one ever knows when they're going to die. That's why we have to do the best we can while we're still here."

He seemed to accept this, and I gave him a squeeze. I did think, however, What on earth inspired him to ask that question?

On the way home from the haircut, the CD had started over again and I realized that one of the songs we had heard in the morning was Dolly Parton's version of the Byrds' "Turn, Turn, Turn." I absolutely love this song in virtually any form (part of my amusement comes from the fact that this is probably the only #1 pop song to be inspired by the Book of Ecclesiastes), but of course the song posits a series of opposites. In fact, as I thought about it, I realized that a few days earlier we heard the song and Xan, having processed the concept "kill = bad," had said, "Dada, they said 'kill.' That's bad." I had explained what the song was trying to do, and that we needed the bad things in life in order to appreciate the good. Somehow, however, I hadn't thought about him processing the concept of death as it might apply to himself.

All this simply means that I better take my copy of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" out of the car.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back from outer space (or maybe just Macchu Picchu)

I'm so very sorry that it's taken me this long to get posting again. In all honesty, I simply vowed that it wasn't right for me to blog while I still had some papers due back to my students. It's been a rougher semester than what I originally planned. Among other things, the infamous tenure file got submitted and I had to quickly race through edits on the book. Speaking of which, as it turns out, if you think I'm not legit about this whole getting published thing, I apparently now have an official ISBN! How exciting! You can now even read the synopsis, and even pre-order at Amazon! (Hopefully by the time a cover is designed and/or the book actually gets published, the powers that be will have figured out that my middle initial isn't "R." Sigh...) I can't think of anything more fabulous than that.

Well, maybe I can. Because you know what would be really fabulous? These days, I've been getting into Bollywood movies a little more. I even showed Dil se... to my general class this semester. What a shame, however, that I can't combine my growing interest for Bollywood films and my Peruvian heritage. I mean, wouldn't it be cool if, say, a Bollywood film were to film in Peru or somethng? Maybe some giant science fiction flick starring worldwide goddess Aishwarya Rai frolicking around Macchu Picchu with some alpacas frolicking in the background?

Well, well. Dreams really do come true!

And this flick might even be better than the last science fiction film set in Peru (which, mind you, encouraged the main Lima newspaper El Comercio to create a brand-new "no-stars" rating). The only reason to apparently see that flick was to catch super-telenovela hunk Cristian Meier naked. That, and a fake UFO over Maccu Picchu.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

O? Yeah.

More a little later today on yesterday's election experience, but for now, I'll note that Angela pointed out to me last night that the first president that Xan will ever remember will be Barack Obama.

And that is a wonderful thing.