The Book

It’s sitting in front of me, propped upright, on the kitchen table. I keep looking at it. It’s really a book!!!  And it’s so  beautiful! The lower border made by abstract skyscrapers with script scribbled up their sides; all lain against an indigo field. Why do authors (or editors) who’ve spent years of research and writing, find it so incredible when a courier arrives bearing baby in cloth covers?

Reference:  Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s incredulity upon finding that her book, North to the Orient had found a publisher. As she wrote in her diary on May 8, 1935.

We go over the business of the book. I think publishers are like obstetricians. There is the same fuss of making you feel what a wonderful little woman you are, and then getting down to the facts about the head size, pelvic bones, etc. They have a decided bedside manner. After all, though, they are right, you must get over the feeling that you are accomplishing God’s mission…However, I feel embarrassed talking of clothing my book, just as though the doctors were talking about an unborn child. ‘You don’t really mean to say it’s going to walk around on two feet like other children?’

(New York Diaries:1609-2009 p. 152.)

Yes. And, eventually, it will require its own ATM card.

Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree, I’ve discovered, is a relative newcomer to the New York holiday scene, at least according to the Nineteenth Century literary critic Evert Duyckinck, who writes in his entry of December 24, 1852:

“… The fog at Barnum’s Circus to the South gave an English atmosphere and distances to the street view. Christmas Trees offered for sale on the sidewalk in front of the Hospital, the [tops] of evergreens set in a square of wood and the branches hung with a few showy ornaments. This German Christmas tree within the last ten years has become quite an inhabitant of our parlors… “

(New York Diaries: 1609-2009. p. 416.)

The inhabitants of my own parlor are usually purchased from the Quebecers (Qubecoises?) at 6th Avenue and Christopher. It’s too early in the season to buy just yet. That would be panic shopping. But if you have nerves of titanium, you can wait until late in the week  before Christmas and hope to grab that single, fabulous 8’ tall, Norfolk pine, marked half price because one side is missing. That side fits against a wall nicely. And who’d be so rude as to inspect the backside of a Christmas tree?

Cherry Bounce

Cherry Bounce

Thanksgiving, 2011 (Actually celebrated the day after for logistical reasons.)

I’ve never felt the urge to operate a still, but after reading Philip Hone’s diary entry of January 3, 1837, the temptation became irresistible. Hone, a city father and faithful keeper of a nightly journal, writes about making a stop on the New Year’s circuit at the Mayor’s house where knickerbockers could always count on taking a “morsel of pound cake” and  single glass of “cherry bounce.” The bounce turns out to be a liquor dating back to Colonial era, possibly of Dutch origin. Martha Washington (whose tenure as First Lady began in New York City) kept a “pocket diary” with her personal recipe for the cordial that fueled a revolution.

Extract the Juice of 20 pounds of well ripend Morrella Cherrys Add to this 10 quarts of Old French brandy and sweeten it with White Sugar to your taste—To 5 Gallons of this mixture add one ounce of Spice Such as Cinnamon, Cloves and Nutmegs of each an Equal quantity Slightly bruis’d and a pint and half of Cherry kernels that have been gently broken in a mortar—After the liquor has fermented let it Stand Close-Stoped for a month or Six weeks—then bottle it remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into each bottle.”

In order to serve it at New Year’s, the batch had best be in the works for a month, however a shorter fermentation time will work.

I shared this with my sister, Joanie,  who caught the fever. We decided that we would start a batch in September and break it out at our Thanksgiving dinner at the family manse in St. Joseph, Missouri. (A daring move since the elders in our family are fanatic teetotalers.) We figured that three months would produce a really potent brew.

Joanie found a more streamlined recipe (but substituted rum for the prescribed bourbon.)

She ended up with about a quart in a carafe which she stored in a cool place under her kitchen sink. You have to visit it once a day to upend it gently. Not shaken, not stirred. (See photo taken about approximately three weeks.)

At Thanksgiving I was charged with taking the first sip. (The elders abstained.) It was, uhhh, a little rummy, but yummy.  A single cherry would be great atop a scoop of vanilla sorbet.  In a glass?  A short shot will do. I’m sure Martha sent her guests home very happy.