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Wildcard Wednesday: A Guest Post

In the true spirit of Wildcard Wednesday, the following is a guest post by a friend who lives and works on the other side of the world in a “dry” land. The post chronicles his experience making his own artisanal fermented beverage, aka “moonshine.”
I’m friar Loshlane and my sidekick is friar Pumpernickel. We are not real friars, but to maintain anonymity in our rebellious endeavors, in a land reflective of the prohibition years in America, we thought it best to exercise discretion while sharing the story of the birth and development of our baby. Born on September 5th, she is five gallons (somewhat less now) of bubbling, breathing, discharging, joy. Meet Miss Mead! 

Friar Pumpernickel and I used a traditional uncooked mead recipe as our guide. We believe if ancient orders could concoct relatively safe beverages worthy of religious celebration, neither should we require modern apparatus and tedious technique. According to one source, the first mead was gathered, not made by humans. Bees made it. Accidentally of course, and I’m sure the first human to dip his hands into the hollowed tree for a drink found the effect of fermented honey water quite interesting. And humankind has been chasing the mind altering effects of alcohol ever since.
Friar Pumpernickel chopped fruit while I activated the yeast. We multiplied by five a recipe for one gallon and used a five-gallon water jug, still sealed, effectively eliminating the need sterilize the container. The water provided a known clean source. Tap water, especially in a foreign country, won’t do. We emptied half the water, stuffed in apples, raisins, oranges, and peaches. Then we added the yeast.

Now we had to aerate her. The directions said shake vigorously for ten minutes. Friar Pumpernickel said, “Yeah, good luck with that.” I eyed him apprehensively, looked over at the jug. Replaced the original cap, secured it with duct tape, and I took it to the hallway. I laid it on its side, expressed my apologies, and began briskly kicking the jug around the apartment. This is the only time you’re allowed to handle your mead in this manner! So get all your frustrations out now.

After aerating, and in honor of Robert Boyle, we stretched a balloon across the mouth of the jug to maintain a pristine environment for our newborn, while allowing for expansion and expulsion of excess gases. Within two hours the balloon began to inflate. I mean really inflate! Millions of tiny cells were eating sugars and converting oxygen into carbon dioxide in magnificent cellular respiration! We carefully executed an extremely delicate balloonostomy; we made a needle hole near the top of the balloon to relieve excessive pressure. The balloon properly attached and vented we placed our newborn into elementary school where she learned the way to refinement through exhaustive repetition, or repetitious exhaustion.
At fourteen days the yeast was still in full respiration so we allowed her a few more days. Finally on day eighteen we racked our baby, sending her off to secondary school. At this point we added pureed peaches, four in all, enough to give the remaining yeast something to gnaw. Our young mead studied for another twenty-three days, when on that day we racked her again. Off she went to finishing school.
At forty plus-days her complexion and bouquet have improved dramatically. The yeast scent is gone and her flavor has mellowed from brandy-like to that of a Riesling.
So now we wait for Miss Mead to age. We’re going to rack her again around day seventy-five. Until then we ponder the days of speakeasies and rum runners, and salute those who lifted the first mouthfuls of fermented drink to their lips.
10/20/11: An Addendum from the Guest Blogger to fellow mead-making enthusiasts:

Take some time to Google mead and vegan mead. And take a look at the recipe on – on the left hand column, look for “Fast Mead Recipe.” There are some steps there that I think are vital to making a traditional mead, steps one must follow, steps not mentioned in modern techniques. The photo of the bottle lying on its side is important in demonstrating one of the steps. Preventing aeration at this point is as important as aerating in the beginning of the process. We really kicked the crap out of our jug, for ten solid minutes, in order to achieve the aeration you see in the first picture. The nice thing about our jug was the handle, it acted as a sort of mixing paddle, very nice effect.We are just beginners at this. So I recommend you do your research. We researched this topic for nearly a year before finally deciding to move forward. 

Wildcard Wednesday: Vegan on Vacation

After working non-stop for what seems like forever, Jon and I got away for a few days recently and took the train to Providence, Rhode Island. We wanted to see WaterFire again, and also to visit Newport. I love to travel by train — not only is it often cheaper and more convenient than air travel, but it can actually be relaxing and the travel time is about the same as it would be by car.  You can bring your own food to enjoy on the train, although they do have a few vegan choices in the cafe car. Along about lunchtime, we tucked into a nice crisp romaine salad that featured chickpeas and couscous, along with a flavorful vinaigrette dressing.  

In Providence, we found a reasonable selection of vegan options while dining out.  Among them were two fabulous meals that stood out.  On our first night in town we went to Apsara Palace, an unassuming restaurant that serves spectacular Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, and Chinese cuisines.  Even though we arrived early on a Wednesday evening, the place was crowded with locals and it stayed full the entire evening.  Our server was knowledgeable and friendly, and the food was among the best of its kind I’ve had anywhere. We shared a vegan appetizer platter that featured fresh nime chow with two sauces, vegetable dumplings, scallion pancakes, among other delights.  The satay noodle dish was at once spicy and sublime. And the lemongrass tofu — heavenly.
On our last day in town, and on the other side of town, in Little Italy, we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at a wonderful Italian store that was like a Disneyland of Italian ingredients.  I actually brought an extra suitcase along on our trip because I knew I wouldn’t be leaving that shop empty-handed. At Costantino’s Venda Ravioli, I bought several packages of pasta shapes that I’ve rarely seen outside of Italy, as well dry-roasted favas and chickpeas, black olive paste, and a few other goodies.  (This is a photo of one of their gift packages — not what I actually bought!)
Before my shopping spree, however, we devised our own customized vegan lunch platters from among the sprawling deli counters that fill the store.  Artichokes were prepared fried, stuffed, marinated, and grilled.  And we tried some of each!  Broccoli rabe sauteed in garlic, roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes, and grilled green and white asparagus, all found their way to our plates. And, oh, the olives! Seated at one of the little café tables in the store, we savored our wonderful meal and just for a minute it felt like we were actually in Tuscany.
I discovered one other thing on our trip: I’m really bad at remembering to take the camera — it spent most of our trip inside a suitcase at the hotel. So, sorry, no photos of our wonderful vacation food!
Party Vegan Giveaway Update:  I have yet to hear from Monday’s winner of Party Vegan.  If I don’t here from Bagheera Yoga by Thursday morning, will choose another winner from among those who left a comment on that post.