When I was 21, I did the Europe thing and have never been able to eat canned tomato soup since. Did you know tomato soup is actually supposed to include real tomatoes? Like chunks of them, or a least in a puree texture? Tomato soup should actually not be so condensed you could drink it through a straw. And though it’s a scary thought when you are used to Campbell’s, it’s also a freakin’ delicious one! The same goes for hot chocolate --- Swiss Miss just doesn’t do it for me anymore. If I make hot chocolate now, I require at least ½ bar of melted chocolate. And not that Hershey’s crap, either. Eating a Hershey’s bar is comparable to chewing on a brown crayon – all I can taste is wax!
The wine situation...ohhhh the stories....! Falling off a cliff while in search of a dragon's grave...racing down slides at 4am at a playground in Spain...tripping over a potted plant and chipping ones front tooth...*sigh* Good times, all around. But let me sum up the greatness of it all with one bit of information: In Italy, you could buy wine in small boxes for something to the tune of 60 euro CENTS – a large wine juice box, if you will. That means you could get pretty sauced up for just under 1 USD, and totally smashed for 2. So, I can’t say I drank “better” wine in Europe than I did in the states, but I will say there was a much larger selection of “cheap” wines. Hence, I tried a variety of cheap wines, and variety is really what it’s all about in wine tasting. So I ask you: how are you supposed to know a Chateau Mouton is better than Franzia if you’ve never dipped into the Franzia from time to time?
Minneapolis is when I started getting interested in breads and making my own alcohol. Why? Well, because I had nothing else to do. Nine months out of the year, it’s pretty dangerous for you to go outside for more than 6 minutes at a time unless you want frostbite or to lose feeling in all appendages. Thus, the nights (and some days) were reserved drinking and baking. And reading, smoking, and watching a hell of a lot of movies. It wasn’t such a bad life, in retrospect…
Baking bread appealed to me for 2 reasons:
1.) I love carbohydrates (duh – if you remember Installment 1 of this -- the rice and toast??) and
2.) it takes for fucking ever to make. And I was all about wasting time.
The “moonshining” thing kind just happened naturally – my first Thanksgiving home, I went to the Chell’s and discovered delicious, aromatic joy of Mike Chell’s Apple Vodka, made with crab apples soaked for 4 + weeks in a vat of cheap vodka. I made my own batch a couple of months later, and my dear friends in the same region have experimented with lemons, cherries, and other fruits; all which have turned out magnificent and tasty. That summer, I started making wine popsicles as well; also a huge success (in my humble opinion), and they made for a great liquid breakfast on the go.
Now that I’m in Puerto Rico, I’ve had the chance to experiment with rum: Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies, anyone??? Rum Pecan Pie. Grilled Pineapples with a rum marinade. Delish! I would like to think I don’t use this hobby *solely* as a reason to infuse alcohol somehow into everything I eat, but let’s be honest…it’s a pretty good trick :)