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Discoveries and rants.

I’m going to attempt to tie together several fairly disparate threads in this post, so bear with me.

After a most enjoyable weekend spent drinking cocktails in somebody else’s apartment, I decided that there was no reason I should not have the materials to make simple mixed drinks on hand at all times, because man cannot live on screwdrivers alone. So I invested some of my paltry wages in the optimistically-named “Perfect” vodka and “Stock” coffee liqueur, notable mostly for costing 1/6 as much as Kahlua while still remaining somewhat drinkable – the bottle crows “In the Tradition of Perfection” (perfection is apparently a common achievement in the world of budget liquor, which I guess makes sense if you’re not shooting high in the first place) and informs the drinker that “Distillerie Stock maintains 20 distilleries throughout the world and is recognized in over 100 countries as ‘Producers of the World’s Finest Liqueurs, Vermouths and Brandies’.” I would tell them that “20 distilleries” translates to “inconsistent product,” but to their credit, after partaking of enough of the fruits of their labor, I didn’t care anymore.

Anyway, the point is, White Russians are delicious, even when made with bottom-shelf booze. Which brings me to a rant. The White Russian has been utterly ruined by The Big Lebowski. Say you’re in a bar. You want to order a White Russian, which is perfectly understandable because the White Russian is wonderful, but suddenly, you stop short and realize that you can no longer unironically ask for the drink, because a veritable legion of twenty-somethings has decided that the most effective way to attract mates is shouting “And stay the fuck out of my beach community!” at the top of their lungs. I mean, shit, I like The Big Lebowski — I own The Big Lebowski — but as much as I may identify with the lackadaisical title character, I don’t structure my social discourse around the movie (arguably, this is because I don’t leave the house enough to have constructed a consistent social discourse, but I digress). Ever since the movie clamped its hands around the necks of the English-speaking world’s young adults in a pop culture death grip, you can’t sidle up to a bar and say “Gimme a White Russian” without running a terrifying risk of having someday yell “SHOMER FUCKING SHABBOS!!” in your ear.

No, no, that just won’t do at all.

The upshot of all this is that the White Russian has now become a drinking-at-home sort of drink, and drinking at home is optimal because it offers both all the fun of a bar (drinking) without any of the collateral unpleasantness that is part and parcel of the bar experience (other people). So it was in the course of fixing a White Russian this evening that I stumbled upon a most epic and fortuitous discovery. You see, I had previously made a run for more milk, and as I have done several times before, I failed to really pay attention to what I was buying (because milk is milk, right?) and wound up getting the Tnuvah “Al Ha-Boker” milk, a fairly new product “specially formulated for morning cereal,” which is Hebrew for “it’s thicker than normal milk and it tastes like vanilla.” I think I keep doing this because the packaging is yellow and I’m attracted to bright colors. Anyway, still oblivious to my mistaken purchase, I mixed up the White Russian and took a sip.

It was wonderful.

Imagine it. Vanilla milk. Coffee liqueur. Vodka. On the rocks. It’s like drinking a Frappuccino, except it gets you drunk and it doesn’t make you feel vaguely unclean afterwards. I think this means that I’ve inadvertently invented a new drink. I’m going to call it the “Ashkenazi.”

theashkenazi.JPG

Delicious! I’ve had two already!

My other recent discovery is eggplant. Eggplant is as ubiquitous in Israel as suicidal driving, and it comes in almost as many interesting variants, but I’ve always steadfastly avoided it. I blame this, like most things, on my mother. My mother is an excellent cook, but her upbringing in Iron Curtain deprivation has bestowed upon her some bizarre tastes in food, and one of her favorite dishes involves the hours-long baking of an innocent eggplant, after which she removes the skin and beats the hell out of the naked eggplant with a meat tenderizer until nothing is left except a steaming gray pile of pulpy Soviet baba ganoush which makes the house smell like the gym socks of Novgorod.

It’s not her fault, she grew up deprived of Freedom, Justice and Liberty.

So understandably, coming from this background of childhood eggplant abuse, I wasn’t much into all things auberginal. But I’ve given them another chance, partly because they’re all over the goddamn place, partly because 5 million Jews can’t be wrong, except about minor issues like the intentions of struggling German artists. And I have been pleasantly surprised. Fried eggplant slices? Tasty. Sabich loaded with hummus and amba? Mind-expanding. Eggplant stewed with garlic, olive oil and tomatoes? Better than most women. Harry, my spiritual advisor in matters of food, claims eggplant is the caviar of the Jews. I’m inclined to believe him.

So what have we learned today? To be bold in your accidental experimentation, and to not let your mother’s follies stop you from living your adult life to the fullest – something every Jewish boy should take to heart.

21 Comments

  1. Barbara E.

    2/5/2007 at 8:57 pm

    Baked stuffed eggplant, featuring garlic, cilantro, sundried tomato slices and a squeeze of lemon.

    Quickly baked eggplant mashed with chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper, and the ubiquitous cilantro.

    Just 2 delicacies my husband whips up if he spies an eggplant/aubergine/melanzana roosting in the fridge.

  2. packen

    2/5/2007 at 10:33 pm

    What the hell are you talking about? It’s not “hours-long baking”, it’s 10 minutes tops at 500 degrees. And it’s great, I just had some today. Don’t listen to him.

    I do, however, approve of the “Ashkenazi”, that was clever.

  3. harry

    2/6/2007 at 2:05 am

    Packen, I think Michael was saying that his mother would overbake the shit out of the eggplant, not that hours of baking is required.

  4. Joy

    2/6/2007 at 6:57 am

    Ever heard of Amarula? It’s like “Ashkenazi” except it’s been around for ages!

  5. Nathan

    2/6/2007 at 6:59 am

    There is only one thing in the world that can make me puke as soon as it touches my lips: egg plant.

    White Russians are girly drinks, that is why men should drink them at home.

    Gin, Rocks, 4 limes – repeat. That is a drink.

  6. michael

    2/6/2007 at 7:10 am

    Barbara – if I had an oven, I would totally try that. Honestly.

    packen – you are using your considerable powers for evil. Stop it.

    Joy – never heard of it…but I Googled it and it looks delicious. Now, I’m pretty sure it’s unavailable here, so I think you should mail Jewlicious a bottle in the interest of fostering valuable cultural exchange. We’ll send you arak, unfair of a trade as that may be.

    Nathan – I’m manly! And if you don’t believe me, I’ll show you my enchanted forest of chest hair! I just express my innate masculinity in other ways, like refraining from revealing how much I enjoy Moulin Rouge.

  7. packen

    2/6/2007 at 8:12 am

    Harry, thank you for the translation–meine English is not so gut. Besides, who am I to defend Michael’s evil mother?

  8. Joy

    2/6/2007 at 8:55 am

    The unfair trade sounds good to me. Email me a postal address, and i’ll send you a bottle.

  9. Chutzpah

    2/6/2007 at 11:51 am

    That is so funny. I always wondered why my Grandma Chutzpah would do that to eggplant! That was her best recipe! As for any meat or poultry dish she would always say “That damned Butcher sold me a tough cut of meat again”.

  10. Jewish Mother

    2/6/2007 at 2:46 pm

    Don’t peel it. Don’t peel anything.

  11. Ezra

    2/7/2007 at 3:08 pm

    Sometimes you eat the bar, and, well…

  12. Jon C.

    2/7/2007 at 5:57 pm

    nice ezra, the dude abides

  13. themiddle

    2/8/2007 at 12:32 am

    Michael, speaking of discoveries, I’ve just been re-introduced to one of my favorite jazz recordings.

    This is a little gift of discovery for you – I believe it was recorded in the year of your birth.

  14. michael

    2/8/2007 at 1:22 am

    Damn! Give the Tony Williams some!

    Nice awkward bopping back and forth on the part of Freddie Hubbard…

  15. Tom Morrissey

    2/8/2007 at 10:09 am

    Michael, why not reciprocate with something from the year of Middle’s birth– King Oliver, say, or Johnny Dodds?

    Freddie Hubbard– the best hard-bop trumpet player, bar none.

  16. michael

    2/8/2007 at 10:28 am

    I’d say Lee Morgan gives him a run for his money…but their styles are similar, and of course, Lee Morgan has the extra bop cachet of being dead in unfortunate circumstances.

  17. Tom Morrissey

    2/8/2007 at 2:01 pm

    Never did get to the bottom of the story of Morgan’s demise, did they? …Just listened to some Morgan this morning to get me out the door (Blakey’s ‘At the Jazz Corner of the World’).

    He’s way up there, but Freddie gets the nod for being versatile enough to play with anyone, from Dolphy to Andrew Hill to Dexter Gordon, etc.

  18. michael

    2/8/2007 at 2:15 pm

    The first time I bring a potential lady friend to my place, I play her the title track off “Moanin’.” If she is not moved, well…it was never meant to be.

  19. Tom Morrissey

    2/8/2007 at 2:34 pm

    I’m gonna try that! Though, if she’s hot, I’d be tempted to give her a second chance– say, with one of the ballads from a Dexter Gordon Blue Note….

  20. themiddle

    2/8/2007 at 3:19 pm

    King Oliver?! 😆

    Dude, I remember New Orleans when it belonged to the Acadians.

  21. Tom Morrissey

    2/13/2007 at 11:43 am

    Michael, I meant to pass this along earlier– a gratuitous trumpet player plug: Tomasz Stanko. Check out his stuff on ECM, esp. his most recent, ‘Lontano,’ and ‘Litania’.

    Polish jazz. Which, I guess, is the biggest seeming contradiction in terms since Utah Jazz.

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