Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thirsty Thursday - A Drink for Dear Old General Washington

Benjamin Franklin once said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". The sage was onto something, a bit of wisdom that applies equally to the boardroom and the barroom. If you really want to make a standout cocktail, the ingredients you use must be carefully considered, of the best quality, and painstakingly prepared. Today's Thirsty Thursday segment will give you a chance to prepare something your friends have probably never heard of and celebrate the birthday of one of Mr. Franklin's cohorts, General George Washington.

In September of 1784, after vanquishing the British and winning independence for the colonies, Washington and his nephew crossed the Allegheny Mountains in the process of planning and surveying the best route for a new road. In preparation Washington was said to have packed a canteen of Madeira, port, and Cherry Bounce for the trip. Preparing to succeed indeed!

Cherry Bounce is a spiced fruit cordial that requires a couple of weeks of preparation, so if you want to celebrate the first president's birthday in style get cracking! Here's the recipe (according to Epicurious):

10 - 11lbs fresh sour cherries or 1lb 9oz of preserved cherries (preferably Morello)
4C brandy
3C sugar (more if you want a sweeter cordial)
2 cinnamon sticks broken into pieces
2-3 whole cloves
1 (1/4in) piece of fresh, whole nutmeg

  1. Pit  and half the cherries and put them in a large bowl. Using a potato masher to slightly crush the fruit, extracting as much juice as possible. Strain through a large, fine-mesh strainer, using a spoon to press the fruit and extract all the juice (you should end up with about 8 cups). Put the mashed cherries in the freezer or refrigerator for later use. If you're using preserved cherries, drain the fruit and set the juice aside before halving and mashing the cherries. Add any pressed juice to the reserved jarred juice. 
  2. In a lidded 1-gallon glass jar, combine the juice with the brandy and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Put the lid on the jar and put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours (stir or shake occasionally). 
  3. Bring 2 cups of the cherry juice to a simmer over medium heat. Here's where you'll guage the sweetness of your cordial. Give the juice a taste and add more sugar, if desired. Drop the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg into the pot and stir. Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Strain, and discard the spices. 
  4. Return the spiced juice to the 1-gallon glass jar. Cover loosely with the lid, and let set in the fridge for at least 2 weeks, occasionally shaking the jar. 
  5. Cherry Bounce should be served at room temperature in small cordial or wine glasses. Store the remainder in the refrigerator. 
Nice and sweet, but if you want to spike the celebration with a little irony, you can use your Cherry Bounce to make a cocktail known as a Communist:

2 parts Orange Juice
2 parts Gin
1 part Cherry Bounce
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Combine all the above with ice in a cocktail shaker, give it a good rattling, and pour into a martini glass.

The history of this little lost gem? Hard to say, it appears in the 1933 Canapé Parade booklet Cocktail Parade. Canapé Parade published a series of recipe booklets during the early 1930's, giving the home cook ideas for everything from cheese boards to pate. The cocktail edition is a list of period drinks coupled with strange, delirium tremens inspired illustrations that make you wonder if you've somehow become inebriated just by touching the pages. It's an interesting peruse for anyone whose interested in period food and drink, definitely worth a look. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Funnies - Time Change (1892)

Visiting Englishman: By the way, what's the difference in time between New York and Philadelphia?
New Yorker: About twenty years.

Life Magazine January 21, 1892

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Florida Trips on Clyde-Mallory Lines

Ah, winter. Anyone who's reading this on the East Coast is probably wondering "what does this jerk from Indiana know from winter when we've got 3 feet of snow and they've got squat?" Fair question, I'd take the snow myself, but then I'm one of those weirdos who really love a good snowstorm. Here in Indiana winter's a time when the sun goes on hiatus and we roll out the gray flannel skies for about five months. Even though I do like the cold and get as excited as a schoolboy when there are predictions of snow, I can't help but let my mind drift southward when the wind is biting my ears. Yes, the holidays are done and it's time to think about retreating from the cold and, if you spring from the Midwestern blue-collar soil like I do, that probably means Florida.

The old saying goes "getting there is half the fun", but in our day and age the airlines have gone to extremes to punish anyone who goes about with thoughts of enjoyable travel. To fly to Florida we're goaded and prodded through security checks by TSA agents who were to inhumane to work at Guantanamo Bay. Afterward we are herded into holding pens while our flight is delayed so that the baggage handlers can work over our suitcases with blackjacks before evenly distributing them on planes bound for Eastern Europe and the Sudan. Eventually we trundle into steerage where we sit in seats designed by Joseph Mengele and fight for space with the UPS parcels. Eventually we're winging our way to Miami via New Jersey with a seven hour layover in Potsdam. Yes, modern convenience is a wonderful thing! Oh what fools our grandparents must have been. Why just imagine what a trip to Florida must have been like a hundred years ago! Okay, you don't need to imagine, I'll tell you.

In the January 1918 issue of Outdoor Life Magazine, the Clyde-Mallory Lines ran an ad for 5 and 12 day tours to Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Miami, Palm Beach, Key West, Tampa, and St. Petersburg with a full stopover in Charleston, SC. Passengers would depart from New York and enjoy meals in the ship's dining room, relaxing in the smoking lounges, dancing, music, and deck-side sports and entertainments as they made their way down the Eastern Seaboard to their final destination. Then they'd wend their way through Florida, eventually rendezvousing with their return ship

The 12 day tour went for $65.40 which, adjusted for inflation, roughly equates to $1065 round trip. However, considering the obscene excess of modern cruise ships, the amenities probably seem paltry. There are no all-night binge-bars, no casinos, no eight-story mezzanines, no in-pool movies, just three squares a day served on real china, the sea air, and the scenery passing by as you made your way southward. Something to be said for simplicity, the lack of screaming kids, not worrying about gaining 25 pounds just because you're exposed to 24-7 all you can eat buffets, and the time to write a letter or postcard or two. Yep, I think I'll trade the Mega-Giganto-Disney-Princess-in-your-bathroom Cruise and just enjoy the sea itself.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Lockheed and the Land of Waterfalls

I have to admit that I didn't choose this ad for the airplane or the destination. Sure the Lockheed Lodestar was a great little airplane and that South African Airways has a storied history, but it's the falls I'm interested in talking about.the nature of waterfalls.

Notice the one featured in the ad, the one that pours into...nothing. I'm interested in the land of disappearing waterfalls. Maybe it drops thousands of feet into an underground realm peopled by trolls, orcs, and goblins? Maybe it showers down on the lost city of Shangri La? All I can say is that doesn't happen in nature.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Funnies - An Old Wheeze Reapplied (1920)

An Old Wheeze Reapplied

"Mayor, do you think folks will live longer under prohibition?"
"Damme, no! But it will seem longer."

Life Magazine, January 1, 1920

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pan AM and 7 Hours to Europe

I did a quick check and the standard flight time from New York to London hasn't changed since this ad ran back in 1959 when jet airlines were a new thing. The Pan Am Jet Clipper economy-class probably compared favorably with today's business class for amenities (sure, you couldn't get jabbed $500 for internet service, but who needs that) and most likely exceeded it for leg room and service. Yet today no air carrier can figure out how to treat their customers like anything more than cattle. Hmm...

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Funnies - Catnip (1920)

"I suppose the next thing they'll prohibit catnip."

Life Magazine, January 1, 1920

Friday, January 8, 2016

Tobacco Redeemer

So, a week into the new year, how are those resolutions coming along? Well, it might help to know that for as long as we've been marking time, we've been promising to fix the nits and gnats of our habits and character come New Years Eve. It's also pretty striking that we've been promising to change the same things about ourselves for time immemorial: get fit, get a better job, go out and experience life, or kick bad habit "x".

Case in point, a hundred years ago the Newell Pharmical Company of St. Louis, MO promised to "banish the tobacco habit" with its bupkis cure-all Tobacco Redeemer. So far I haven't been able to find any information on what Tobacco Redeemer actually contained, it may have been heroine for all I know, but I'm pretty sure it didn't cure you of tobacco cravings in 48 to 72 hours. All I can say for sure is that from the time of World War I through the twenties, Newell was plastering every trade magazine with ads for the stuff.

It might be telling that Newell Pharmical eventually became Rubbermaid, producer of trash cans since it looks like they spent the first half of their existence selling garbage.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bob Hope's Favorite Star Kist Tuna Dish

1959 and Bob Hope is a spokesperson for Star Kist Tuna? Huh, didn't figure that one. I mean ham, yes, but tuna?

Regardless, there apparently was an entire series of star's favorite Star Kist tuna recipes including Macaroni Loaf.

You know, if there's one thing you don't want in a loaf it's tuna. If there's another  thing you don't want in a loaf is macaroni. So a loaf that's both tuna and macaroni, well...

Still, if you're interested in giving it a try, well the recipe's enlarged below.

TWA Travel

1950 and the skies are open for travel, at least to western Europe. In the background you can see one of the most iconic aircraft of the fifties. The Lockheed Constellation was the first big time airliner. It crossed the Atlantic to Paris and London carrying 95 passengers, a number that would make the big airlines of today squeal and want to charge $500 a bag for carry on luggage. Ah, but this was a different time, a time before the "shut up and sit down" model practiced by the airlines today. It was a time when TSA wouldn't tazer you into submission for approaching the fence separating the tarmac from the public parts of the airport. A simpler, more civil time and a perfect kickoff for travel season.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

100 Years Ago: Ominous Overtones

Let America Beware: Some Day the Sun will
Rise Above the Stars
Kladderdatsch, 1916
On August 14, 1914 Japan entered World War I, formerly declaring war on Germany at the request of the British government. For doing so, the Japanese government had been promised possession of all German colonial territories in the Pacific should the Allies win the war. Japanese forces took possession of Shandong province in China and cut off the German settlement at Tsingtao by October and went on to seize the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands.

In 1915 Japan presented China with what would become known as the Twenty-One Demands. These saw Japan as the new and most important power in the Pacific. China would become little more than a Japanese protectorate and the colonial privileges enjoyed by the European Allies and United States would be rescinded in favor of Japanese interests.

This little propaganda cartoon printed in 1916 by the German paper Kladderdatsch (a paper that would later be a major promoter of the Nazi party) was meant to stir up animosities between the U.S. and the Allies. The hope (seemed to be) that the threat to American colonial concerns in China and the Pacific would be enough to fracture the alliance and stop arms shipments to Europe. Instead, the Twenty-One Demands proved so unpopular with the Allies that Japan withdrew the final group of them, leaving colonial possessions in the Pacific and China in tact until World War II. The damage done to the Japanese reputation, though, was irreversible...they had become a naval power, but would never have the close relationship with Europe they'd enjoyed before. Strange how, in a way, Kladderdatsch predicted the eventual strike on Pearl Harbor, though...

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Funnies - Thinking of Beer (1920)

"Officer arrest that man! He seems to be thinking of beer."

Life Magazine, January 1, 1920

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Scandalous Tango

I don't write about my passion for dancing often enough. I convinced my wife, Kelly, to take up tripping the light fantastic almost ten years ago after a weekend's old movie binge. After seeing a few dozen smoky supper clubs with smartly dressed folks dining and dancing to the swing of Benny Goodman or Cab Calloway, I'd pretty much punched my own dance ticket and we started taking lessons that same year. Later I'd find out Kelly had thought (and maybe hoped) this would be a passing fad and that I'd kick the jitterbug after I found out how much work it was to learn dance. Coming up on an decade later and we've only expanded the sorts of venues and music we call our own.

For those in the know, we started pretty much in the same way as everyone else who goes to one of the big, industrial dance complexes for their instruction. We got a good teacher who we really loved and we started out with American Ballroom's version of East Coast Swing, Rumba, Waltz, and Foxtrot.  It took us a year to get pretty good - good enough that we started asking a simple question, what did we really want to get from dance anyway? The answer is, like most things in life, complicated. We wanted fun, we didn't want to compete or medal or fulfill anyone else's definition of "good dancing", but we wanted to keep learning and growing. So, at the three year mark we made the controversial decision to drop the Ballroom Waltz and Foxtrot neither of which felt right to us. We justified this, thinking we just were "swing dancers" and should focus on that dance alone.

Now, ten years into dancing, we understand that it wasn't that we didn't like the Waltz and Foxtrot, we simply didn't like the Ballroom Waltz and Foxtrot. You see, as a culture we've become so disconnected with dance that we assume there's really only one Waltz, one Foxtrot, and one of every sort of dance and furthermore that the one right way to do any of these dances is the way you'll see on some schmaltzy, staged, reality show like Dancing with the Stars or Strictly Ballroom. Don't get me wrong, Ballroom dance is legit and if you're happy with it, more power to you, but it's important to realize that not only isn't Ballroom the only way to dance, it's not even the original.

Before Irene and Vernon Castle began the quest to "civilize" dance in the early 1900's, every region had its own collection of dances, many having evolved from similar dances in nearby regions. Fads rolled across the country, like the "animal dances" of the ragtime era, and you were likely to have learned to dance in elementary school and polished your style by picking up moves from relatives and friends. The resulting dance world was a wild, mish-mash of styles and steps that often left societies mavens aghast and offended with they perceived as the bawdiness and downright immorality of youth culture.

A quote from the preface of the 1917 book Dance Mad or The Dances of the Day captures the general attitude of those who would dare be creative on the dance floor, "Some rising young dancer stumbles on to a new step, while practicing; he teaches it to some innocent girl; of course she asks, What is it? Then the villain thinks quickly of a name; his mind instantly recalls some slang phrase he has heard while making the rounds, with no sense of shame he calls it by the new (?) name, regardless of how degrading or ridiculous." The turn of the 20th century was the era of ragtime and the scandal of "animal dances."

As far as the scions of good taste were concerned, the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear, and the Bunny Hug were a bona fied sign of the impending collapse of American society and the Apocalypse couldn't be far behind. Suddenly young people were...touching...even embracing in public! The dances were banned in cities across the country and there is some evidence that fears of the Turkey Trot might have led Woodrow Wilson to cancel his inaugural ball in 1913. In jurisdictions across the land, from rural Kansas to New York City, you could land in jail for any of a number of "lewd and suggestive" dances. Heck, in Cincinnati, Catholic bishops told their flocks that they would not be forgiven for the sin of dancing the Turkey Trot. Enter Vernon and Lillian Castle.

The Castles chief contribution to dancing was to popularize a formalized style of dance roughly equivalent to what we'd call Ballroom dancing today. Gone were the hugs, silliness, and creative interpretation, and in was a system that endorsed one "right" way to do a few dances that were acceptable for social and public dancing.  Take a quick look at the difference. First you've got an example of the dance too risqué for President Wilson, the Turkey Trot, followed by Lillian and Vernon Castle performing their own Castle Walk.

Does one of these look more fun than the other? Well, though having too much fun in public was one reason the uptight wanted to ban many dances, there was a far more sinister reason and it mainly had to do with race and class.

America, the great mixing pot of the world, has long had trouble practicing what it preaches and that shortcoming extended (and probably still extends) to the dance floor. As far back as the 18th century, British cultural mavens were decrying the Waltz as "... the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last … it is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressor on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion." In America, World War I meant Johnny wasn't only exposed to trench warfare in Europe, but he also got to experience one or two French clubs and dance in ways deemed immoral and indecent back home. He likely heard black musicians playing syncopated tunes by performers like Josephine Baker, Django Reinhardt, and Sidney Bechet. They came home wanting to drink and play away the hidden pains of war and having a penchant for forbidden music.

But back home segregation kept whites separated from African American and Latin American performers and their music. Old taboo dances like the Fox Trot were updated to make them a little more jazzy, but it would take the final overreaching of the moralists to really bring African rhythms and syncopation to a broader and whiter audience. Prohibition aimed at eliminating the vice of drink from the land, but all it really accomplished was driving drinking underground. Gang-run speakeasies featured  African American musicians like Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and King Oliver. Every move to tighten moral control resulted in an equal backlash by youth culture: skirts got shorter, women bobbed their hair, men donned Harvard bags, slang became more outlandish, and dance got closer, more outlandish, and sexier. By the time World War II commenced, the proverbial cat was out of the bag and people were dancing the Lindy Hop and Jitterbug in Harlem on a Friday night.

And that brings us back to where I started, my own dancing. After experiencing the Ballroom version of the Fox Trot, Waltz, and (eventually) Tango, Kelly and I came to the decision that we wanted to learn something different. Just last year we began taking lessons in Cross-Step Waltz (a version that was common during the American Civil War), the Jazz-Age Fox Trot, and most recently a 20's era Valetino-style  Tango. In the coming year I'll try to give updates on what it's like learning these dances and our progress.