Archive for the ‘booze’ Tag
Toast to the Haggis:
Ach! Ye fat bastard, ye.
Ye mid-winter harbinger of constipation.
We thank ye fer showin’ us
That gout isn’t just for rich men.
To the Haggis!
Wetherspoon’s Burns’ Week came around again this year. I’m a fan of offal but Jackie only tolerates pâté so, except for my Burns’ Night indulgence (she likes the whisky part of it, mind) I tend to fill up during this week (and on occasional trips to Florence).
Friday 20 January: Highland Burger with a pint of Welsh Pride (no Scots beer available on the day), Four Candles, Oxford
Saturday 21 Jan: Haggis Tacos, Slug and Whippet, Ruislip
Method: heat some haggis with chilli sauce, cumin, and paprika; put in flour taco shells, add lettuce, cilantro, tomato, and cheese. Yum.
Sunday 22 Jan: Haggis Stuffed Roast Chicken, Slug and Whippet, Ruislip
Recipe: like it says on the tin…Stuff a 2-3 kg bird loosely with haggis (it takes about ½ a tube of industrial haggis from MacSween’s), yesterday, and bake for 20 min per 500g plus 20 min at 200°C. Let rest for 20 minutes before hacking it to wee bits to serve with turnips and taters.
The result was a very moist bird with the savoury scent of the haggis infused therein — but not overwhelmingly so. The haggis itself was enhanced with some of the chicken drippings and even Jackie had a small amount of the filling.
Monday 23 Jan: Scots Omelet, Slug and Whippet, Ruislip
Method: Fry up some haggis and keep warm; pour a shitload of beaten eggs into the pan and lift to allow layers to develop. Usually topped with a bit of grated cheddar and the warmed haggis, this time it is haggis neat, folded and devoured with some black coffee and a shot of whisky.
Tuesday 24 Jan: Another Highland Burger, this time at the Swan & Castle, Oxford
Wednesday 25 Jan: Burns’ Lunch, The Chequers, Oxford plus a flight of three whiskies and smoked salmon to start…obscenely good, but I can sense the gout taking hold if I keep this up.
Thursday 26 Jan: Another Burns’ Lunch, this time at the Four Candles, Oxford with some of the folks from work (to remind myself that they’re not all bad … or sober). They ran out of swede (the turnips bit of the neeps and tatties) with the second order but told me they had run out of the lot so I ordered a double Jura with the intent of sitting with the fellows then walking over to the other Wetherspoons for my own lunch; a prof from biochemistry talked them around to substituting peas (“ach! woman, there’s summinck GREEN on me plate!”) so I got that. But, they charged the “with beer” price and didn’t give me beer (and I already paid for the whisky). Fer fucks sake. EVENTUALLY they made this right.
Friday 27 Jan: Haggis Stuffed Mushrooms, Slug and Whippet, Ruislip
Method: Fill the caps of baby bella mushrooms with haggis (and some others with sausage, others with a little pesto…y’know: hors d’oeuvres) and bake at 200°C until everything is sizzly or until the cheese, if you top with it, melts.
Oddly, I now crave a big plate of liver fried with onions.
At the end of a logistical note from a former visitor to the lab who was returning after a few years to gather some data to answer reviewers’ concerns, she asked a dangerous question: “Do you need anything from the States?” At the end of my reply, I took a punt with, “No, nothing from the States, thanks. I like decent bourbon, but I can get that here.” Then, I hoped for the best.
And, very nearly the best came out of it: a bottle of Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch. No complaints, mind, as a bottle of Evan Williams (even the green label) would have made me quite happy … I can GET decent bourbon here, but it costs a fortune (factoring in the exchange rate, I could buy more than 3 bottles of this in the States for what only 1 would cost here).
And, it IS remarkable booze. Bottled in bond, 100 proof, and evokes wisteria, magnolias, kudzu, and the heat…the glorious, Southern heat. I try not to review things that deserve a proper review. Here is a lovely one if you really want to know what an expert thinks.
I, on the other hand, love to have something like this around for when a doubting visitor asks what I mean by ‘good’ bourbon. I can then hand them a glass, neat, and stammer over the words, “well, this one is all right…see what YOU think.”
“I’m going to build a great buzz and Mexico is going to pay for it,” Jackie declared unconvincingly last night. She works what are termed, here, “unsocial hours” so her lunchtime is 4 pm and today that is 1 hour before the officer that carries the Football discretely shifts across the Inaugural Stage from the side of President Obama to that orange guy. For lunch, she is having tequila today. I hope the bar doesn’t have a tele.
I, on the other hand, am just now boarding a bus bound from Oxford to Baker Street then walking the few blocks down to Grosvenor Square to join an Inauguration themed rally in front of the US Embassy. Should be fun. Do join us, there will probably be a chance to watch the riot squads of the Metropolitan Police in action. The old joke about the bear applies to my hope for large numbers turning out:
When the Met comes at you is it better to run or to offer Passive Resistance?
Oh, mate, we should run.
Do you really think you can outrun them?
No, I only have to outrun you lot.
When I think Trump and Tequila, this is the picture that comes to mind:
I bought some cooking apples — hard, tart beasts worthless as snacks — then promptly lost interest in baking with them. They had aged a week when I filtered the Red Flag Sloe Gin the first week of November, so I cleaned the Winchesters and refilled them with these ingredients:
4 large cooking apples cut to bottle neck sized chunks
1/2 cup of medium brown sugar
4 heaping tablespoons of cinnamon
Vodka to float the pieces (just over a liter)
Notably, this is the first apple infusion I’ve tried that doesn’t involve bourbon. A good shake every week and we filtered it for one of our Thanksgiving treats, something vaguely akin to applejack but with a definitive breakfast cereal tinge.
Apple Jacks for the Apple Jackass in all of us.
There was no sloe gin in 2015 due to me dropping the ball as regards getting out to pick the berries in 2014 after the very good batch of Two Cures (from which we sampled for Quality Control purposes throughout the infusion year starting with the initial mixing). To be fair, I tried after the first cold snap of 2014 but every blackthorn I could find had been stripped bare by less patient practitioners (there had been a Radio 4 programme in which sloe gin featured that year). The year before that (2013), it was time for the Monstrous Erection; 2012 found us drinking from the Devil’s Punchbowl (part of the Step-by-Step process write-ups with the final, delicious step linked here).
Like 2014, last year had a really late first frost…nearly New Year’s Eve. So, I harvested the Monday after Socialism 2015 at the edge of the A420 on the 66 bus route I was still shackled to when we lived in Swindon (the year before must’ve been a fluke). I put the berries in a deep freeze at -80°C for 8 hours to simulate a hard frost (in Siberia). Jeremy Corbin had only recently been made leader of the Labour Party and I mocked up the label’s main theme then in honour of him and Billy Bragg singing a rousing version of The Red Flag.
One year to the week later, and it is filtered and decanted. And, delicious.
The people’s gin is deepest red
It’s lifted to our martyred dead.
And, though we pour it stiff and cold
It warms the throats of young and old.
Then raise the scarlet liquor high;
And, at its pleasure live and die.
Though cowards flinch, teetotalers sneer,
We’ll keep the Red Flag pouring here.
–The Red Flag, sort of.
The Christmas Drinking Season seems to start earlier and earlier (the one for this year, for example, started in Reagan’s first term as President). With Halloween, I reckon it is the OFFICIAL start, though, so here’s a recipe I made up when we first moved to England at the start of 2009:
Malted Milk Ball Hot Toddy
2 heaping spoons of Horlicks (or other malted beverage powder)
2 spoons of Nesquik (or Bosco, or whatever)
2 shots of vodka¹
Boiling water to fill the mug
What makes it spooky? That’s my Edgar Allen Poe mug!
¹ Traditionally, this is made with bourbon or dark rum — both of which are grand — but the only brown liquor I have tonight is single malt.
“When I was an American, I ran as an American, I drank
as an American, I traveled as an American: but when I
became British, I put away those childish things.”
The application for your first adult UK passport is another boondoggle (see ILR saga and Citizenship). Having just been granted citizenship, this should be straightforward but that would be too straightforward.
For instance, Section 4 of the application (required only for your FIRST adult passport) asks for the names, dates of birth, nationality at the time of your birth, and date of wedding of your parents. Seems fair enough; and, if they have British passports you should also supply these details (mine did not and as they are rotting in hell this should be the full extent of the inquiry). But, no. As they were born overseas, I needed also to provide these details for my grandparents even though the application is based on my Certificate of Naturalisation and not on any claim of British Nationality by birth.
Additionally, I had to have the endorsement of someone professional or with other standing in the community that knows me well enough to pick me out of a crowd (or, as is more likely, to avert their eyes if they spot me across a crowded room). I know loads of people with letters after their surnames like DBE/KBE, FRS, PE or CEng, DPhil/PhD but most of the ones I would usually hit up were unavailable in the time I set aside to take this document to the Post Office. I opted for one of the professors I work for at Oxford and all he had to do was sign, date, and write this statement on the back of one of my photographs:
I certify that this is a true likeness of First Middle Lastname
Which he proceeded to do leaving out the word ‘true’ and my middle name. He also failed to date the photo (which I noticed and added myself hoping the other bits would go through). He also needed to fill in some personal details on the form in BLACK ink (which he did in BLUE ink then when I pointed it out he went back over in black). At the Post Office, they rejected the photo for those omissions, and the next one (it is my fault for not checking behind him) for leaving out the word ‘this’ then when I returned with my final copy of the photo done correctly the document checker was concerned that the blue ink might make the passport office reject the application. “But, there’s black ink on top…blue is only bad because it is transparent to the reprographics equipment they use.” I took a clean form, filled in everything myself, and got his signature on that one in the event the manager says that this one shouldn’t go in.
But, that’s only the start. Even though they have seen every pay stub and immigration document I have ever received since the day I applied for the job, have an iris scan, all my fingerprints, and letters of reference from the Chancellor of Cambridge University and a chaired professor at University of Oxford (who is also a Dame Commander of the British Empire) vouching for more than my identity but also my good character — even after all that and granting me citizenship — the passport office required that I come down to an appointment to confirm my identity based on info they have garnered from this application and a related credit check. They had my US Passport, my Certificate of Naturalisation, and access to roughly 5 kg of documents supporting applications for a Work Permit (starting late 2008), a Tier 2 Visa and 2 renewals, Indefinite Leave To Remain, Citizenship, a Patent, Work and Pensions documents, and specific dates for each house I’ve lived in and every trip abroad whether for work or vacation (and letters from University of Oxford and Cambridge University stating that they were aware that I was abroad during each of those periods away).
The interrogation — they call it an interview — was meant to be a relaxed thing and only in place to prevent identity fraud. So, I went in relaxed. My interviewer asked my full name and I gave her those and spelled each of them. I was probably a bit too relaxed from then on. For example:
“What is your occupation?” I started chuckling at that so before I could answer, she asked why.
“I’m a research scientist and engineer but I generally tell strangers I’m a rodeo clown or an underwear model. At best, I just say I work in a lab.”
After a pause, she said, “okay, then,” and briefly consulted her computer screen. “What does your job as research scientist entail?” I resisted, barely, the urge to say, “standing around in my skivvies while photographers and lighting techs work their magic.”
There were odd questions about the house we currently live in and the house we moved from; I tried not to give odd answers but I was already rolling at that point. Then, this came up: “now, I’d like to ask about your family. What can you tell me about your parents?”
“What can’t I tell you about them? My dad died in 2006, mom in 2004 but they were ancient and had never taken care of themselves so they were living in double overtime at that point.”
“They didn’t take care of themselves? Were they workaholics?”
“Ha! ALCOholics, but at least you were half right.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry, we won’t go there, then.”
“Noooo, you brought it up; this is for you.” I couldn’t contain my glee. “Mom was also on a warehouse of prescription meds. She was working dozens of GPs to get ‘scrips. I had a theory that she actually passed away 20 years earlier but the exquisite balance of pharmaceuticals, nicotine, and alcohol gave her the appearance of life or, at least, animation.” Nodding to myself, I added, “that would explain the weird noises she made.”
The Passport Office woman’s mouth was open as she stared, aghast. I clicked my fingers and she shook her head slightly. “Do you have any siblings?”
“Oh, well, there’s my sister but I disowned her and her whole felonious, white-trash brood and if I never see any of them again it will be too soon. What do you want to know about her?”
“That’s enough,” she answered too quickly. “One…sister,” she mumbled to herself as she typed.
A couple of questions later she seemed to have regained composure and asked if I could describe the process I went through such that I was now applying for a British Passport. “Do you mean the whole saga or just the bureaucratic hoops I jumped through?”
Wincing as she nodded and pointing at me with her pen, “yes, just the Immigration process,” then in the brief moment before I could continue, “please,” as though she were asking for mercy.
“Okay, but it’s a better story if I tell you how I decided to abandon America,” I offered.
“No, I’m sure it is, but no.”
“That’s a pity. Right,” and we briefly went through what I remembered of the applications submitted these last nearly 8 years.
At the end, she asked if I had any comments about the interview and I pointed out how I felt it was surreal. She replied, “really, you found this surreal?” so, I responded with a condensed version of the first part of this post about how they already have all this info on me having conferred citizenship just a few weeks ago. “Don’t YOU think that’s all kind of weird?”
“No,” she answered. “I meant to ask how it is YOU found this surreal.”
Her point was valid and I smiled broadly and shrugged. “You do these all day, every half hour?” I asked as I rose to leave.
She smiled and nodded. “But, not usually like this.”
That was just before 9 am Wednesday. My passport arrived just before 10 am Friday.