I woke up early this morning so I could stop at the library on my way to work. I wanted to renew Edible Stories, a novel I unintentionally keep at work, and I had put a hold on Bossypants and wanted it pretty much immediately.
Now, sitting on my couch with a cup of vanilla rooibos, I am disappointed. When I was denied Bossypants, I went straight to the food section to deal with my emotions. Nestled between some gardening books and diet tips was Grape vs Grain by Charles Bamforth. My new favorite activity is tasting—so far I’ve gone to honey, chutney, cider, tea, and mustard tastings—and I thought it would be nice to read about how my two favorite beverages are made and how they should be enjoyed.
I know this book is sort of a rebound book since I couldn’t have Fey, but that isn’t why I hate it. I hate how it’s written. I hate how it is sexist. I hate how despite being a comparison, the author has a very clear bias towards beer. And not even nice beer! He works for BUSCH!
In discussing Prohibition, he emphasizes the role of women in banning alcohol, but makes no mention of any men participating. Some memorable lines from this section include:
“Carry Nation was probably emotionally troubled for much of her life and therefore the most successful “pro-Prohibition” lobby…” (Bamforth 52).
“Women and youngsters now decided that drinking was something that perhaps they should entertain…” (Bamforth 53).
Okay, fine. A lot of women were pro-Prohibition, but a lot of men were too. And a lot of women were anti-Prohibition. He later says something about how it is not uncommon for women to deny the vast majority of people something they enjoy. Plus, those are both speculative generalizations that, while I do not take seriously, a lot of people might believe as fact because an “expert” wrote it.
His bias annoys me because he makes a point to say at the beginning that this is an objective comparison. Instead, he bashes oenology and praises beer-making. In discussing yeast, he warns the reader not to judge winemakers too harshly even though they usually use whatever yeast they can find, unlike brewers who carefully choose their yeast and take pride in their yeast’s quality. He also complains about the stigma surrounding beer drinking. He hates the common belief that wine is enjoyed with dinner while beer is enjoyed while playing cards, but explains his reasoning in a way that is insulting to pretty much all college-age people.
He even goes as far as to say that bartenders don’t even appreciate beer. Okay, so we’re not supposed to pour beer down the side of the glass, but you didn’t have to call the waitress stupid for doing so! What bothered me the most is that after describing this “horrible” scene, he said something about how everyone knows to smell the cork when a bottle of wine is presented to you. Actually, wrong. You are NOT supposed to smell the cork. You sniff the wine in the glass! You swirl it and get a feel for the nose that way!
Anyway, I did learn a few things, but they were mostly technical aspects of fermentation, like pH levels and terroir sorts of things. I am only on page 100 out of 195, but I’m not finishing. I thought about going through and correcting all the typos, but the person who took the book out before me already did that. Now there is just no point.
Oh well. I just got an email saying that Bossypants will be ready for me to pick up tomorrow. That’s what I really wanted anyway.
Tonight was the NYC Beekeepers exotic honey tasting and book talk. The evening began on the Central Park Arsenal rooftop where a spread of champagne, artisan cheeses, breads, pickles, and fruit waited for us. The roof itself was gorgeous and dotted with plants and tables. The only light came from the surrounding buildings, which sounds kind of unappealing (light pollution, ew), but was actually quite beautiful. Or maybe I just love cities.
After our “dinner,” C. Marina Marchese talked about her book Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper. The book starts with Marina’s fast fall into love with beekeeping. Even today, it’s rare to find a beekeeper and even rarer to find a female beekeeper. Marina started as an artist, drawing greeting cards featuring a Queen Bee character. Now she has 16 backyard colonies and flies all over the world to attend honey tastings.
The second half of the book focuses on honey tasting, an art comparable to wine tasting. She describes the language of honey tasting, chock full of adjectives like runny, putrid, creamy, burned. Of course, other nicer sounding adjectives are used too, but I can’t remember them as well as I remember the disgusting ones.
When the talk was over, we went back up to the roof to actually try single source honey—that is, honey that is only derived from one type of plant’s pollen. First, an old lady swirls your spoon in the small jar of honey. When she hands it to you, you’re supposed to wave it under your nose. After all, taste is strictly taste bud business, but flavor uses all your senses. Once you have determined the aroma, you hold a little bit of honey on your tongue and you can think about all of the complex layers in it. We learned that color, texture, and viscosity are also important things to consider, but in the dark it was difficult to tell.
I tried Linden honey, Pumpkin Blossom honey (rare nowadays), and Bamboo honey. The Linden was slightly medicinal and fruity tasting. It was a lighter yellow (I think) and more runny than the buckwheat honey that I have grown accustom to.
Next was Pumpkin Blossom. Maybe my palate wasn’t as neutral as it could have been after the Linden, but it just wasn’t that interesting to me. It was slightly darker in color and slightly thicker too, but it was just too generic a flavor to me. Oh well.
Last was my favorite—Bamboo honey. It was dark and sweet and had a really pleasant aroma too. Before trying it, I likened it to the malty buckwheat, but I shouldn’t really use buckwheat as my default anymore.
When I got home, I signed up for beekeeping classes. I am really doing this. I felt a little bit guilty not occupying Wall Street and instead spending time on a beautiful rooftop eating honey and drinking champagne, but honestly, this is how I’m rebelling. I don’t want to eat the government’s food anymore and so I am learning how to produce all of the things I like to eat. I’m going off the grid, foodwise, and I’m staying off. I can run around screaming and holding signs, or I can learn how to participate in an alternative economic system, one that Wall Street won’t touch for fear of getting stung. Literally.
Last night I decided I should probably use my CSA share. I had picked up last Tuesday, but worked on Wednesday and went home for the weekend on Thursday so I never had a chance to cook anything.
I decided to make soup to keep myself warm in my freezing and empty apartment. I chopped some onions, some carrots, some beets, added a dollup of the sour cream that I accidentally made last week and…I had borscht. I’d never made borscht before, but had eaten it a few times and I know someone who frequently makes borscht and then tells me about it so I knew the basic concept and I knew without ever making it that I had made it. The strange thing about this borscht was that it was extreme late night borscht. I got back into the city much later than anticipated so I basically took a shower while the water was boiling and went to bed right after.
This morning, I had only about a cup of soup left and almost no vegetables. It’s not terrible because I get a new share tomorrow (with eggs, yay! finally!), but I still went to the store anyway.
Things I bought (100% local):
pasta (from North American grains, shaped in Brooklyn)