The swizzle sticks that my family had were shot through with a touch of colour, in the Venetian way. In fact, I think they were from Venice. It is funny when such memories emerge from the deep recesses of the storage of the mind - along with the bulky wooden games we had shipped from magical Parisian toy stores. What a distant world. Yet perhaps as we grow, we regain part of the world we knew as children.
All this thinking began when I finally decided to use the Ramazzotti that has been sulking in the larder. My brother and I were mostly raised on wine, a statement which is as low on political correctness today as is the level of Ramazzotti after I came upon a stellar cocktail recipe. Je plaisante.
The only proper cocktail I really ever enjoyed was the sidecar. The last time I had one was in Burma, in what I suppose was one of those life-changing experiences. I was a freshman, the books I had with me were Nietzsche's Ubermench and Hesse's Siddhartha, the former I abandoned: too much on top of the challenging scenes surrounding the hotel. Inside, colonial fans spun slowly from ornate ceilings, cocktails being mixed in hand-held shakers occasionally breaking the refined silence; outside, people improvised seating with boxes and bricks, the streets more like broad, dusty paths.
Thus the memory of the sour drink. If you share an affinity for the sour, know that you can mix Ramazzotti with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a simple syrup made of one cup sugar, one cup water, and thyme - brought to a boil, and herb allowed to steep between 10 to 20 minutes. This discovery caused me to long, momentarily, for those swizzle sticks.
Food is also memory, though I am reluctant to sound like I am jumping on the latest epicurean bandwagon. I mean it in a more Proustian sense, as hackneyed as that may sound. Everyone's madeleine is their own personal favourite...
The other day, I went to market and bought some okra. The farmer gave me a sheet of paper prepared by his wife, in the local script, with two recipes. It begins, "Okra was once found in abundance at this market, but today it is a rarity. In the summer, the okra is a pleasant vegetable, preferred by some over all others. Many readers will recognize it: it is a long, green, ridged pod..." And the recipe? To blanche the okra, saute onion, add seeded, chopped tomato, a little garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, and the blanched okra: over a low heat for 20 minutes. Divine!
But what makes it divine is also the shared aspect, the personal contact involved in the recipe. It awakens that primordial custom of breaking bread together - that once the bread has been broken, one will not be attacked by one's fellow diner.
To share more, one must be prepared to make more sacrifices. Sometimes, I feel friction between my idealisms and what I am comfortable giving up. And yet all the while, I feel convinced that the ridges in the swizzle stick and even in the okra should eventually combine the ingredients most pleasantly.