This is one of the cocktails we served at this past weekend’s Kinfolk Herbal Infusions workshop here in Chattanooga, TN. I created it to be not only appropriately festive for the understated & elegant flutes and gorgeous quartz crystal votive West Elm gave us for our fete, but also to be a mindful, refreshing blend. One befitting this time of year not only in it’s flavor profile but in it’s meaning as well. The base of this cocktail is a simple syrup infused with feathery sage & piquant ginger, a bright and earthy concoction that’s equally refreshing and festive in a glass of sparkling water for those of you who, like me, abstain for whatever reason, as it is in a crisp glass of Prosecco. Plants being more than plants but being rather our symbiotic cohabitants of this mortal coil, this bubbling drink is more than just a palatable way to sling back enough alcohol to feel comfortable with your family. Instead, we can think of it as a tincture, as a potent medicine that lends itself to mindful savoring & promotes strength, prosperity, and cleansing. Heed the metaphysics of the holidays & the delicious foods and drinks we create and enjoy a whole new dimension of experience.
I remember one year when I was living out in California, taking meager solace in the sea & more substantial solace in a dear, brilliant neuroscientist shortly after my divorce, I caught the red-eye back home for Thanksgiving. Just for Thanksgiving. I remember walking in the front door. It smelled wonderful, and all I remember, truly, is my mother smiling. She was, against all reason at the time, happy to see me. I wasn’t in good shape. But there everything was, just as it had always been. My father was making his famed deviled eggs, my mother had the much revered “Coca-Cola butt ham” & her pumpkin pies ready to go, and we packed it all up in a wicker picnic basket and drove up Lookout Mountain to my Aunt Brenda & Uncle Jim’s house, for their house is the province of the feast. My Aunt Brenda is the one who orchestrates the affair—she makes the dressing & smokes a turkey out on the deck in their little Weber (it’s a skill). She also makes all manner of other treats—pecan pie & gravy not the least among them. There are usually no less than 5 pies at our Thanksgiving: buttermilk, pecan, chocolate, pumpkin, and usually something else…apple? I don’t know. I lose count. So much pie. Glorious.
I know that as much as we all want to be perfectly mindful during the holidays many of us find it to be a rather intense amount of work (especially the cooks & hostesses among us!). So, I’ve put my curatorial skills to use for you & created this holiday gift guide for the various sorts of women you might have in your life, from the cook to the stylist to the naturalist to the mystic. Or for the sort that’s all of them rolled into one like me. Which are you? Take deep breaths, bake lots of pie, forage for pine cones, and try to enjoy the season, however you choose to celebrate. And stay tuned for the 30+ year old evolution of my Aunt Brenda’s jalapeño cornbread & buttermilk biscuit dressing (a.k.a. stuffing) recipe tomorrow!
There are a few things I don’t have to think about in this life. By think I mean that razor faculty. That analysis. That untying of a concept or action, unpacking it in order to understand it. I don’t have to think about the words to the Jesus & Mary Chain’s April Skies; I don’t have to think about And the world comes tumbling down, hand in hand in a violent life, making love on the edge of a knife. I do, however, have to think to conduct a solid 90% of social interactions. I don’t have to think about my blind, mystic, quantum faith. I do have to think about time; it’s an amorphous blob to me naturally. I’m not made for space time and remarkably lousy at navigating it. I don’t have to think about who I care for. I know. I don’t have to think to draw my runes, to hear. I don’t have to think to sink deep into sleeping swan pose.
I do have to think to say no. I live in a natural state of optimistic yes. I don’t have to think to be abstract; I’m forever spilling my metaphors all over people without ever bothering to explain they’re metaphors. To take me literally is to figure me insane. Or stupid. Not that those aren’t thoroughly fair assessments from time to time. I can be, it’s true, insanely stupid. I don’t have to think to work. It’s an instinct. Experiment, create, document. I don’t have to think to season food properly. I have to consider, but I don’t have to think. And I don’t have to think to make biscuits or scones, which is probably why this is the 3rd scone recipe to grace this site. I can have them in the oven in a few minutes flat. I don’t use a recipe, no. It’s a choreography I know well. I almost don’t have to use my scale. But I do. Hubris is probably no more delicious than it is becoming. But I can mumble my 80′s incantation; I can, bashful & alone, half sing under the April sun, under the April skies, sun grows cold, sky goes black with a smoky, quartz seer’s crystal burning a hole in my pocket, flour in my hair & the air smelling of white sage. I can weigh, pinch, stir, fold, fold, fold. And I can forget plenty of things that need forgetting.
Uniform is a new series on the blog about the language of clothes. I grew up in actual uniforms, kindergarten to my senior year of high school. So clothes have always held a special thrall for me; creating my own uniform was novel. And this first segment is about pants, about Tennessee made denim to be exact. I dress practically, mostly like a boy, and with the odd bit of lace thrown in. I like slacks and button ups, boots and wide brimmed hats. I rarely wear bright colors, and I expect the bulk of my clothes to do work. Naturally, I own denim. Lots and lots of denim, chambray to stonewash. I own more pairs of high waisted jeans than anything else, mostly due to a search for the platonic ideal. I never found them…until I did, and you’re looking at them: the Elizabeth by Nashville based Imogene + Willie (pronounced eye-mah-jean). I don’t just like to buy my food from real people when I can; I like to buy my pants and bowls and all the objects that make up the fabric of my daily life from real people. In this case, I got my pants from Carrie & Matt. You can read their story here (and the stories of their grandparents, their inspiration, one set of whom the shop is named after). I just had the chance to visit their store while weekending in Nashville, fell ever more in love what they’re doing & wanted to share this southern gem with you all.
As a lot of you (especially if you follow me here) have probably gathered, along with food I have a passion for aesthetics in general, spanning everything from Cy Twombly to to mantle vignettes to linen smocks to the death of a beautiful woman. To pants. Which is why I’m incorporating new features into this space, features that will allow me to share those things with you too. But don’t worry, there’ll be no shortage of southern victuals & baked goods. That said, I was, for the better part of a decade, hotly concerned with the philosophical defense, definition, and differentiation of aesthetics, of beauty, art & taste. I could entertain very long discussions of why an original work possesses (or, depending on your position, does not possess) more intrinsic worth than an exact replica. My relationship to the notion of beauty has been ever evolving. But I think it started with fashion or, more precisely, with a leather mini skirt. When I was 9.