Burton on the Bay
When I Drink Martinis, Im Old Fashioned
You are what you eat and even moreso, you are what you drink (sometimes a damned fool).
I dont think anyone can argue that pair of observations, especially the latter if for no reason other than there is more subtlety in the impact of food than drink on appearance and demeanor. As poet Ogden Nash wrote:
In recent years, theres no respect for tradition in what we eat and drink or by those who peddle either or both. The God-awfulist things are being done to what we chew and what we swallow without chewing. And Im not just referring to that Preston wife released on bond, according to police, after she found a new use for steamed crabs.
Seems her husband brought home a dozen hard crabs, seasoned and steamed them. But the party was soon over. There was a disagreement, and police said the wife settled it by stabbing her husband in the nose with the pointed end of one of the crabs.
That must have stung. Add all the seasoning, and you might say thats like rubbing salt into a wound. Whew!
Rodericks Rule on Crabs
Perhaps that couple now wish they had abided by Dan Rodericks rule, which he has cited several times in his column in The Sun. He suggests Marylanders not eat crabs seeing that our favorite crustacean is enduring hard times in Chesapeake Bay.
Methinks there are two loopholes in Dans reasoning.
One: Most of the steamed crabs we eat dont come from Maryland these days (nor from the Chesapeake), so wed be accomplishing little for the blue crabs of our Bay (other than saving a bundle of cash) by switching to, ugh, calamari.
To confess, Id eat the last crab from the Chesapeake before Id munch on a piece of squid. Call it what you want, deep fry it, broil it, change its name, but its still the same old squid that so many Bay fishermen use as bait for hardheads and flounder.
Two: Though Rodericks suggestion is an avenue for those concerned about the crab situation to make a statement by passing up a tray piled high with spiced crustaceans, it isnt a solution. Crabs are short-lived creatures, and they cant be stockpiled.
But were getting off subject, which is whats being done these days with food and drink beyond the use of a hard crab as a rapier to settle a family argument. Next thing we know the Annapolis City Council will try to ban the sale of crabs. Thats once they succeed in outlawing toy guns.
What Goods a Martini with More than Gin
I see by the Wall Street Journal that the legitimate martini just might be as threatened as the blue crabs of our Bay. Those who market gin have long looked with envy at vodka, which sells so well among those who prefer screwdrivers, bloody Marys and so many other mixed drinks not to mention vodka martinis, of which there is no such thing.
Until recent years, Noel Websters big book defined a martini as a drink of gin with a bit of vermouth added. But revisions the past couple of decades suggest vodka can be used instead of gin. As if that isnt enough, now the peddlers of spirits are tinkering with the very basics of my favorite drink, the super-dry martini.
And theyre sneaking in by the back door to do it. Theyre adding a bit of color to make the traditional transparent gin a shade of blue, something like ocean waters far off the coast. Thats only the beginning. Theyre tinkering with the taste. Beefeaters gin has a variety called Wet that has a hint of pear flavoring.
As if that still isnt enough, a bartender was commissioned to concoct a new drink or two featuring Beefeaters Wet. What did he come up with? The Wet Blue Martini that combines Wet with lemon juice, syrup, blue Curacao and Sprite. How can the exquisite flavor of juniper berries the backbone of true gin survive such a concoction?
Maybe Im old fashioned, and I dont mean the drink by that name, but a real martini is a good slug of gin with barely a trace of vermouth added. James Bond likes his straight up in a bird bath. Ill take a small fancy glass with ice cubes to chill the drink.
The only other thing in a legitimate martini is an olive or two or more. Me, I prefer to kill two birds with one stone: Soak the olives in vermouth for weeks, and when theyre added to the gin, youve got all the vermouth you need. The unique flavor of gin is the heart of a good martini.
There are some who think they get enough vermouth by placing a bottle of it next to gin. To them thats the true meaning of the proverbial shade of gin for the perfect martini. Others add just a few drops of vermouth into the gin and shake gently. Long gone are the days when a martini was considered a mix of three or four parts gin to one of vermouth.
No lemon, cocktail onions, sliced carrot or other veggies or anything else other than the olive or two and a few ice cubes belong in that mix of gin and vermouth. Such foreign additives are for those who belly up to the bar and ask for that misnomer, a vodka martini.
If all of this isnt bad enough, I heard on WTOP the other day of still another new drink trying to chisel in on the martini turf: the nicotini. Its a martini with a cigarette stuck in the middle of it like a pier piling, which it is claimed will reduce the hankering for a nicotine fix when one is in a bar or anywhere else where smoking is frowned on, as it is most everywhere these days.
If youre a beer drinker, dont get smug. A few purveyors of the hops are doing the same thing with suds these days, and nothing like a subtle hint of pears. Name a fruit or a seasoning and one of these days youll be able to quench your thirst with a brew flavored the same. And I thought my drinking companions in Western Canada were pushing things too far when they mixed tomato juice with their old Carlings Red Cap.
What Goods a Melon without Seeds
If youre a teetotaler, dont get smug either. Look at what theyre doing to some of our traditional foods. Watermelon is following in the footsteps of seedless oranges. Its not easy to figure whether the new seedless watermelons are a cash-cow gimmick (seeing as you pay several times more for a comparable seedless melon), or whether the citizenry demanded their melon sans seeds.
The seedless variety hasnt been around for long, but already in many markets it outsells the traditional fruit, though it seems to me the sweet and red pulp isnt as tasty or as juicy as the original.
Did it ever occur to plant breeders that the creator put the seeds in watermelon for a purpose beyond planting new crops next year? The tedious task of removing the seeds by fingers or kaplew via the mouth was a built-in safeguard to avoid stomach cramps from over-indulgence.
Those promoting the new seedless variety have it both ways. They charge more and their patrons eat more, which might also be their reasoning behind the new fancified gin martinis. A good martini man knows when to quit, but when his drink is a concoction of fruits, syrups and other additives, its like drinking lemonade.