You comment to my post asking for five words. I will give you five words that I think of when I think of you. You will post them to your blog and post what those words make you think of, in depth.
The words sileri gave me are as follows: crusader, honeycomb, natural, egg, mix
I am a little confused by this one. I guess I'm always surprised when people see me in this light. One, I don't think of crusaders as being a very positive thing since they were essentially invaders who tried to use their religious status as an excuse to invade and oppress other people. I am incredibly disturbed by the historical crusades because I am very disturbed by anyone who takes religious dogma to that extreme. I also don't really see myself as being a crusader or a cause-driven person, even when you're talking about it in a positive sense, because I don't do a lot of this, and when I do it, it's mostly in a sort of quiet, understated and analytical way, I think. I like to share my personal stories to help people understand why certain causes are important. I make no apologies for my political beliefs, and I do a lot of volunteer and activist work because I think that it's important-- I am a big believer in the "if you don't riot, then you can't complain" school of thought: it's up to us to actively work on change. I guess the Serenity Prayer also holds a lot of importance here: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. If something can be changed for the better, I believe that I have two choices: work at changing it, or sit down and shut up. If it's not important enough for me to be willing to work to change it, then it's not important enough to whine about.
Some changes are big and hard to effect and require a choice that would be destructive to other facets of my life. For example, I really, really wish I could have gone out to Wisconsin to support the Wisconsin 14. I remember openly weeping while I watched the footage from the Wisconsin State House. But I couldn't be there and it would have been unreasonable to be there. So I wrote letters and sent money. Because that's what I could do. And I think that is a reasonable way to try to effect change if one cannot be there to actively work on changing things.
I started raising bees a little over a year ago, after a year or so of campaigning (crusading?!) to get my father to agree to let me use part of my parents' property to keep their hives. I live in New York City, in an apartment building, and have no space for bees, but my parents have lovely property and lots of space for them.
My bees are my little loves. All 50,000 or so of them. I like to stand at the door to the big hive and let them land on me, crawl all over me, I like to pick them up and pet them and watch them at work.
I have never been stung.
My love affair with bees started when I was about seven years old. I had gotten my first "real" bicycle-- I had had a kiddie bike my parents had bought at a garage sale, with training wheels, but they bought me a new bike, a black and red and silver Gary Fisher Piranha that I named "Perry." I wrote stories about that bike. Anyway, I was allowed to ride the bike up across the railroad tracks to the candy store a few blocks away from my house. At one point in the ride, there was the option of riding a short cut through a parking lot and then down a tiny pedestrian walkway through the local Village Green.
I was with a friend that day, and we cut through the parking lot, and reached the walkway, and there, in the middle of the walkway, was a massive swarm of bees unlike anything I'd ever seen, all buzzing together. My friend freaked out, she wouldn't go near them.
I remember trying to convince her that they wouldn't hurt her, but she remained distraught and unbelieving.
And so I got on my bike and rode through the swarm, the bees buzzing around me, and it was only a split second, but I knew, when I passed the bees and left them behind, that I loved bees and they loved me, and bees would never hurt me unless I gave them a reason to.
I think I was eleven when Fried Green Tomatoes came out as a movie. I was entranced with Idgie, the Bee Charmer, and knew that that was what I wanted to be someday. I identified with her so much, partly because as a kid who hadn't quite realized that the way I looked at girls was the same way she looked at girls, but also because the way she looked at bees was the way I looked at bees.
To this day, I have never been stung. I have heard people say that every beekeeper gets stung. I haven't been doing it for very long, this is my second year, but I have never been stung. I don't even wear the bee suit most of the time. I just go out and talk to them and play with them and pet them and love them, and they love me back.
I guess this is another one of those words that I'm surprised to see anyone associate with me, but I guess I love nature and I love things that grow and things that are fresh and real and that I can see coming from the earth. But I don't-- well, I use a lot of synthetic things, and I'm probably not as good at being eco-healthy as I could be. I do my recycling and try to use cloth bags and stuff, but I am a little lazy, I am sorry to admit.
I struggle a lot with this aspect of my life because I am at once proud of it and want to encourage others to do it, but I also am very aware that it is a result of my privilege-- my class privilege, in the sense that I have the resources to eat the way I choose to eat, and to spend time growing things as a hobby, and also my locational privilege, in the sense that I am lucky to live in a place where I have a lot of natural options available to me, and parents who have property where I can grow things and raise things, and parents who are willing and able to drive to exciting local farms to get the best in fresh things to eat. So on one hand I always want to gush and tell people that there is nothing better than eating a fresh wonderful thing you have grown yourself but I also don't want to be throwing my privilege in other people's faces when I know a lot of my friends can't afford or are not capable to live and eat the way I do.
But gosh, it is just...when you pick a food out of the ground, and put it right in your mouth, there is nothing more luscious than that. When you open a bee hive and lick honey off of your fingers, right out of the comb, there is nothing more amazing than that. And when I say these things, I wish all of you could experience them, because they are so incredible.
When I was a little girl, my parents kept a garden. My mother was a vegetarian and much more-- well, militant-- than I am now. I mean, for every fresh natural healthy thing I eat, I also eat gross chemically-colored things, because those are amazing and wonderful in a different way. But I grew up eating homemade yogurt and homemade wheat germ, and later, homemade beer, and these things were just normal to me. They got me into a lot of trouble when I started going to school and was utterly, horribly, terribly mortified the first time I put a Twinkie in my mouth and the cream spurted out (and yes I know that sounds dirty, but dude, I was four). I remember the first time they gave me carrot seeds to plant. When we moved houses, we did less gardening, but when I was in high school, my parents made me a gift of a corner of the yard specially to plant a flower garden, and I did that for a number of years, even after I was in college.
I am so happy we have a garden again. Being in the garden, with dirt under my nails and the sun beating down on my arms, is one of the healthiest feelings in the world.
Hee! I love chickens. I don't know how long I have loved chickens for; it has not been for as long as the story I just told you about bees. I do know that when I was in college, at some point, I invented my invisible chickens, who laid invisible eggs. I don't even remember a lot about them, except that I used to brag about them all the time, and at some point there were giant invisible chickens, which I rode.
Eggs are amazing. They are these things that could have been alive, but are not. They are delicious and golden and white and pure perfection. The taste of a perfect fresh runny yolk is one of the most divine things in the world.
God, I do go on about food, don't I? So much food, so many flavors. So much deliciousness and I think my last question is going to result in a food-related answer, too.
I didn't used to like eggs. I remember liking them as a very small child, but then I went through my picky phase, where I eschewed so many foods I liked as a small child. I'm not sure why, but this went on for a long time.
The thing that changed my mind? You're going to laugh.
Fried rice. I developed a lust for fried rice from the Chinese take-out place that we always ordered from in high school while I was doing school plays. And the little delicious shreds of egg that speckled it.
When I was fifteen, I went on a student exchange to France, and we went to a pizzeria that was supposedly "American-style" pizza. It was not at all American-style, but it WAS topped with a fried egg, over easy. That was one of those culinary epiphanies that changed my life. Dipping a pizza into a delicious, runny golden egg yolk was an experience I have repeated many times since but never exactly replicated.
And after that, I loved eggs. Eggs are magic.
I know what this word is supposed to signify. I know you know what this word is supposed to signify. I'm supposed to be talking about cocktails.
And I'm going to talk about cocktails, but there's something else I need to tell you, first.
I love flavors. If that wasn't obvious by everything else I've written here, I am obsessed with flavors, with the subtleties and intricacies and layering of things that all belong together.
I don't know how old I was when it started. I do know that as a very tiny child, I put everything in my mouth. Everything. My way of interacting and observing the world was not with my eyes or ears or fingers, but with my tongue. Dirt. Plants. Rocks. Paper. Glue. Paint. Wood. Plastic. Rubber. Cloth. If I could put it in my mouth, if I could bite it off and chew it, I did. I loved to taste things, anything, and it didn't matter if the taste was pleasant or caustic.
I remember that when I was maybe six or seven, in one of my mother's attempts to get me to stop biting my nails, she bought this very bitter stuff that you were meant to paint your nails with, because it was supposed to be too hideous to eat.
I loved it. Putting it on my fingers made me bite my nails even more.
When I was nine years old, my mother went back to school, and I became a latchkey kid. My ascendance to this new identity came with the fact that I was going to have to cook for myself a couple of nights a week. And sometimes for my little brother.
My mother made sure there were foods in the house that were easy to cook. Frozen pot pies, leftovers, couscous, macaroni and cheese in boxes.
It was the macaroni and cheese that started it. I got bored with the flavor of the mild cheddar mix that went on the macaroni and cheese. I got into the spice cabinet. A little mustard, curry, paprika, and hot pepper later, and the macaroni and cheese was much better.
I kept doing it. I discovered a talent that I didn't really know I had, because I'd never really been encouraged in that milieu before-- academic creativity was encouraged, but in spite of my mother being a wonderful and talented cook, she'd never really taught me how to do much besides bake cookies.
I started altering recipes. I stopped cooking with recipes all together. My mother started keeping me in the kitchen with her when she was cooking, not to help her cook, but to taste everything she made and tell her what to add, what she needed more of. Sometimes I would name things that would shock her or surprise her, but they almost always worked. Not always. But almost always.
And then I got to high school.
It's a funny thing, high school. Kids are not supposed to be drinking, but of course they are, but of course with a few exceptions, their parents haven't taught them how to drink. So here I am, going to parties at sixteen, and I was one of those goody two shoes kids who always followed the rules, but then the other kids discovered this new fun game: if you gave me a shot of liquor, I could tell you exactly what was in it.
They were mesmerized. And fortunately, I had a high enough tolerance that I could play this game for hours without getting sick.
I don't think I really started mixing drinks in earnest until 2003. Before that, I could make a really fucking good piña colada, and a couple amazing spiked milkshakes, and just some basics, like a Manhattan or a martini. In the winter of 2004, I moved to Boston, and then that summer, I moved across the street from a bar in Cambridge where I conveniently became a regular. And I used to go over at brunch, and the bartender would give me tastes of whatever new thing he was working on, and ask me for suggestions.
2004 was also the first year I did the Huge Big Amazing Thanksgiving Spectacular, which also marks the first time I took the cocktail mixing out of my comfort zone. I don't even remember exactly what I made, but I remember loving it. I'm not even sure I mean loving the drink, I mean loving the experience of mixing it.
But I stuck to recipes, and for a long time, I read recipes and followed them exactly. I'm not sure what it was about mixing liquor that was different for me than making sauces, but I wasn't very experimental. Unless I was making a milkshake. I made DIVINE milkshakes. I started getting more confident, and playing around more. I remember mixing some cinnamon thing at Christmas, 2006, that everyone was going nuts for.
The first real experiment I remember was my first Peep cocktail, that I made for Easter one year, I think in 2007. I was at my grandmother's, and she didn't have any of the proper ingredients for any of the drinks I knew how to make off the top of my head. So I was stuck improvising. The drink I made was kind of terrible and awesome at the same time, it had creme de menthe and campari-flavored whipped cream. Who puts those things in a drink?! Apparently neophyte Tea does! I would never, ever make that drink now.
If you look back at my "bartending" tags, I started keeping track of my recipes sometime in 2008. By then, I was mixing drinks pretty much every weekend, but it hadn't occurred to me to write down what I was putting in them.
I still feel sort of silly writing them all down sometimes, because I don't know if people actually want to read about what the heck kind of gin I'm mixing with what the heck amaro and which the heck bitters, but I like to keep track for myself.
What you all don't see is the number of other crazy things I mix. Sometimes I post my ice creams. I don't really post my sauces (I made a beer-based barbecue sauce a couple of weeks ago that was to DIE for), I don't post my rubs or my seasonings or my salads or my salad dressings or my soups, or any of the other things that I mix.
And I mix a lot of stuff.
Do you want to play? Let me know you want words, and I will give them to you!