Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In the News: Neighbors, the French and Gin

In today's New York Times there's a great story about the people of Houston, a city that's still barely functioning after Hurricane Ike blew through in mid-September, sharing what they have with neighbors and friends.

One of them, Eric Moen (above), the director of youth ministries at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, put up a tent in his driveway and invited his neighbors on Kimberly Street to contribute food from their non-functioning freezers to cook and eat together in what they've dubbed the Kimberly Cafe.

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French chefs are putting together a list of traditional foods they feel are threatened with extinction as a result of development. This list will be submitted to UNESCO which, in 2003, made it possible to designate so-called "intangibles" such as “oral traditions and expressions” and “performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; traditional craftsmanship.”

One critic, François Simon of Le Figaro, wrote sarcastically that "Opening the door of a restaurant, making a soufflé rise, shelling an oyster, will become part of cultural activity, like falling asleep at the opera, yawning at the theater or slumping over Joyce’s ‘Ulysses.’” To Ms. Simon, I say, "Why not?"

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And last but not least, genever, the progenitor of modern gin, is being imported to the United States by Bols, who first produced it based on an “old-school formula” dating from 1820. Described as "malty and complex," it is said to have more flavor and often a lower proof than English gin.

According to the article, most experts recommend drinking it straight, on the rocks, though David Wondrich, the author of “Imbibe!”, a history of cocktails, said, "All it takes is a bit of sugar and bitters for a gin cocktail made with genever; aged genever is terrific in an Old-Fashioned.” And apparently the drink called a Tom Collins is made with English gin, while one made with genever is a John Collins. My only question is, when do I get to try some?

Photos by Michael Stravato for The New York Times (top); Coucou of Rennes chicken by Jean-Paul Cillard for Écomusée du Pays de Rennes (center); Bols factory illustration from Bols (bottom).

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