Traditions

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So, under the construct of this blog-a-day-in-December plan, a few serendipitous things happened with the timing of topic suggestions and where the calendar fell. Not the least of which was that my 25th request was for “traditions.” As you may know, the 25th of December is Christmas Day – what could be better for talking about traditions?

However, as sometimes happens, real life got in the way of serendipity. Nearly ten members of my family descended on my tiny apartment for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, where I proceeded to cook a feast of seven fishes, a full holiday brunch, roast beef tenderloin, and about a million appetizers. And then things got really crazy with work. The blog suffered and I made no post on that day or for many days after. As my one friend would say, “le sigh.”

Despite not writing, I was, nonetheless, thinking about family and holiday traditions. But, here’s the thing. We don’t have many. Is that weird? We’re sort of an eclectic, decentralized bunch. We love each other a lot and enjoy getting together, but we’re inconsistent.

Sometimes the holidays mean travel; sometimes they mean staying close to home; sometimes we exchange presents; sometimes just hugs. They usually mean eating turkey. We didn’t this year, much to my dad’s chagrin.

Almost universally, my family values adventure. My one brother skipped the family affair to drive his RV to the outer desert to bake in the sun with his girlfriend this Christmas. My other brother is spearheading an excursion to Oregon in a few weeks to forage for truffles in the woods. At 77 and 71 years old, my parents are currently plotting their fourth move across the country. Me? I’ll be on planes six times in the next four weeks. It’s in our blood.

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

Family Adventure: Early Days

It made me wonder… can adventure in and of itself be considered a tradition? Every year the sous chef and I plan one big trip (Alaska is a serious contender this year), which I suppose is a bit of a tradition? My brothers have both traveled the world, but have always somehow made it back to live in southern California. My parents never fear moving, but always end up as homebodies, wherever they land. When we do gather as a family, it’s rarely be in the same place and the players vary, but the food is always good and the bickering is always measured with laughter.

In the end, tradition seems to be what you make of it. It could be doing the same thing every year, or making it up all new each year. I think that what really matters is to simply love what you do and to never stop doing what brings you joy.

On that note, I have airline tickets to book. Later.

My first flight: Solo at six years old

My first flight: Solo at six years old

Bourbon

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It is a well-established fact that I love booze. Ales? What’s better than a frosty cider on a hot summer day. Gin? I could write prose about gin. Wine? There is decently likelihood that wine gives me hives and I still love it. Got that? I am probably allergic to wine and I still drink it (almost daily). That’s commitment.

But amber spirits? I’ll pass. Scotch and whiskey turn my stomach sour. Brandy and cognac are only good for baking. Rum tastes like bad college memories. And tequila? Oh, tequila. Of tequila we do not speak.

Now, bourbon… she’s a different mistress all together. Bourbon treats me wrong every damn time, and still I love her. Bourbon surprises me and makes me wistful all at once.

If you asked me to name my single favorite cocktail of all time, there’s a good chance I’ll tell you a Milk Punch from the Bourbon House in New Orleans. It’s divine. Be forewarned. If you come with me to NOLA, you will be drinking Milk Punch.

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I love bourbon so much, that, when at a wedding in Louisville, I dragged five totally disinterested girlfriends on a two-hour road trip to the Maker’s Mark estate. Guess who are all fans of bourbon now?

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Like food, the taste of a certain spirit will bring you back places (and, I never want to be taken back to where tequila goes). Bourbon brings me down the bayou. With memories of sitting on the beach in Biloxi, MS, looking at palm trees still bent over from their battle with Katrina. Memories of dancing to slow moving jazz on Frenchman Street. Memories of rocking on a wide Southern porch of a volunteer house, eating strawberries and resting my weary feet.

It brings me back to the amazing group of volunteers that I’ve sweated with in that humid landscape – those that I may have known for only a day, and those who became like sisters. The end of most rigorous days, spent working tirelessly to help a community back to its feet, meant sharing a cool bourbon cocktail and sharing war stories. It’s a special spirit.

If you are now jonesing for a bourbon drink, you’re in luck. This one’s a gem:

The Big Texan Bourbon-and-Grapefruit Cocktail

. 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
. 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
. 1/2 tablespoon simple syrup (see Note)
. 2 basil leaves
. Ice
. 1 grapefruit slice and 1 preserved cherry, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, combine the grapefruit juice, bourbon, simple syrup and basil. Fill a chilled rocks glass with ice. Add 5 ice cubes to the shaker and shake well. Strain the drink into the ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with the grapefruit slice and cherry.

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Source: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/big-texan-bourbon-and-grapefruit-cocktail