The scenes in which Tereus gets my innocent, teetotaling hero drunk and cooks him a steak are loosely based on the raffish habits of my mathematician friend, Sol. Once, when I had a bad cold, Sol cooked the best chicken soup I’ve ever tasted, and left it warm on my porch. On another occasion, he made me a shockingly good steak with sides of asparagus and roast potatoes.
Sol is half-American, half-Lebanese, and outwardly thoroughly Americanized. Like Tereus, he’s so firmly masculine that he can wear an apron — and probably a dress — without exciting the usual ribald mockery. I attribute his kitchen wizardry to his Lebanese half, along with the fact that he’s well-dressed and occasionally wears oudh. All three seem vaguely suspect by American standards of masculinity, while dandification and perfumery, at least, are to be expected in a cultivated man from the Middle East.
Like Tereus, Sol is something of a bad influence. Now that I think about it, the only cigarette I ever smoked was one he bummed off of strangers outside a bar. So he’s indirectly responsible for Valentine’s occasional cigarette, and Inglorion’s getting hooked while developing intelligence sources among slaves in the Underdark. Inglorion and Valentine share a hookah in this episode, which I wrote after visiting a local restaurant and hookah lounge with Sol after we’d been rock climbing. I bullied him into taking me because I hadn’t smoked a hookah in years, and needed a refresher on the details.
NB: Sol is not the source of my rock climbing stories, or my brief flirtation with vaping. That’s the delightful Brian Rasmussen, who loves Cher and sings Prince during tricky portions of lead climbs. What little I know about climbing trad, I learned on the fly from Brian. One day I will write about him, and provide his recipe for roast duck.
Anyway, I’m not going to write up a recipe for the perfect steak, because Sol never uses recipes — he’s that good — and I haven’t come up with one that I can wholeheartedly endorse. Instead, I will provide a sangria recipe which has served me well over the years.
When Tereus finds two bottles of wine and decides to make sangria, he uses fresh, unrefined ingredients that he’s scavenged or produced himself on his home farm. As you’re pulling this together, consider using local honey, fruit and wine, and aiming for a bit of terroir. Also, this is meant to be drunk over the course of a leisurely evening, as part of a banquet or symposium. This is not about getting trashed. Choose a wine that will stand on its own, in your normal price range or a little higher. If you’re reading this from Tucson, I recommend stopping by Tap and Bottle on Sixth Avenue for something local or unusual.
Take 1 1/3 cups of red wine, or the red wine you have left over after making marinara sauce, or a full bottle of red wine (if you do the latter, you’ll be fine — just add more fruit). I use malbec or sangiovese, but that’s just a habit. Anything that’s smoky and has licorice, tobacco or spice notes will do.
Add 1 cup of fresh-squeezed tangerine juice. Obviously substitutions are possible. Don’t use a bottled smoothie, or anything sweetened or fake.
Whisk in a scant 1/4 cup of raw, unfiltered honey. You can use sugar, but I earnestly implore you to find good, local honey — the stuff that looks creamy and has a few bee parts suspended on the top. You can find it at a farmer’s market or co-op, or at local specialty stores. If it resists whisking, you can heat it for 5 seconds in the microwave.
From here, add some combination of the following, or any fruit that’s very ripe, and has an interesting texture. I’ve been meaning to try black figs, in keeping with the local produce theme. Berries and stone fruit should be crushed in your hands, and allowed to squirt and drip into the sangria mixture.
One or two limes, thinly sliced and unpeeled.
A sliced blood orange.
An overripe mango, peeled and crushed.
A small flat of blackberries or raspberries, washed and picked over.
One or two ripe kiwi fruit, crushed, if you have the patience to peel them. I don’t, so I usually just omit them and eat them while standing over the sink, fuzz and all.
If you have prickly pear syrup, that would be an appropriate addition.
It is acceptable to add rum. I don’t, because I’m a lightweight, and would become unpleasantly trashed if I drank sangria with rum. Tereus certainly would if he had it on hand. You know best.
This sangria can be served in popsicle or drink form. Purists would probably let the flavors mingle for some period of time before serving it as a drink. Again, use your judgment.
For popsicles, cut any fruit into small pieces, and pour the mixture into popsicle molds. Freeze for 6-8 hours, then remove from the molds by running hot water over the outsides and pulling on the sticks. In the future, when there are potlucks again, these will make you the toast of the party. I recommend you dry run them now, in quarantine.
To serve as a drink, ladle 3/4 of a cup or so of sangria into a drinking glass. Add a few ice cubes, and top with seltzer water. Definitely eat the fruit, either by fishing it out with your fingers as you go, or by using a spoon at the end. It’s a messy drink, but you’re not a vulgar trash person, so you’ll consume it with the proper air of teasing sensual enjoyment.
To that end, spritz yourself with a tobacco-based cologne like Slumberhouse’s ultra-masculine Jeke. Wear silk, or cutoffs and combat boots.
Put on Johnny Cash singing “Hurt.”
Stare at the ceiling. Sing along, then listen to the rain. Enjoy.
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