Friday, April 25, 2008

The Gin Strategem

As the sun caresses the Mediterranean, giving way to silky pastels and floral blossomings, all the while the mercury ascends its crystal lattice like a fundamentalist martyr off to a perceived heaven - the evidence of spring seems to be irrefutable. This has been greeted with progressively shorter skirts and descending blouses driving young man’s fancy towards piques of the amorous or alternatively towards retrograde rejectionism.

I am well fitted for the retrograde – especially in its liquid forms. My strategy to combat the heat has always involved gin and artificial temperature control. While strategy is suitable to me at the moment, it has become clear to me that it is one that may prove itself to be untenable during my Peace Corps assignment in Niger – a nominally Muslim (and thus largely non-drinking) country largely devoured by the gaping maw of the Sahara of which the majority of the population live in adobe huts sans electricity or running water. Temperatures there regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result of these rather obvious limitations, my strategy to beat the heat as it were is in need of recalibration. One cannot reform a flanking strategy in the face of trench warfare after all.

But for now, I have gin. Wonderful stuff gin. Surely the cleverest use of juniper berries that humanity has yet conceived of (what else are you going to do with them? roast them with lamb?). It is a good multi-use alcohol, from the humble gin and tonic to the most elegant of martinis (and Christ, I miss “American” Martinis) to the slightly more post-modern - but nonetheless delicious - gin and ginger ale. (Important side note: the number of martinis that one should consume in a sitting corresponds to the rules governing women’s breasts: three is too many and one too few.) And what could be more refined than a well-made gin and tonic – ice, lime, gin, tonic, and in one especially rare case, lavender infusion– its difficult colonial legacy aside? Indeed, the gin and tonic was the brainchild of English colonial officers in India trying to find a way to make their anti-malarial quinine tablets more palatable. The discovery that the bitter things could be dissolved in mineral water made them slightly easier to choke down (and they were enormous circa 1820 or so), but the bitterness of the things – these being the days before artificial sweeteners – lingered on like a wronged divorcee. Finally, in typical English fashion, a decision was made somewhere along the line that the stuff could be mixed with gin (which was swilled in the officers mess, often in the form of pink gin – gin and bitters – which remains one of the least creative uses of gin. The result of combining the gin with the tonic brought about a chemical reaction sweetening the water and giving one quite a nice drink. So the gin and tonic, along with the Indian railway system may have been the only good thing to come out of colonialism. Debates may continue to rage on early Indian democratic institutions and their indebtedness to the British legal and parliamentary traditions; but the case for gin and tonic remains airtight.

My last post, which I failed to publicize, was about sanity, which seems to have taken me by surprise. Life seems to be moving quickly, almost more quickly than I would like. Sometimes, it is important – nay, crucial - to sit back, and sip the juniper.


dr-m said...

It's comforting to realize that you are still the same fool you were when you left.

Darrel Ramsey-Musolf

Brian said...

"The Gin Strategem" was always my favorite Hardy Boys novel. That or "Dude Ranch O'Death."