So y’all remember Christmas at Joyce’s – when we had Keaton and Mrs. LaSalle over for dinner? Mrs. LaSalle is a super cool old lady, but she’s over 80 and doesn’t cook much anymore. So she decided to take me and Joyce out last week, since she still “owed” Joyce for Christmas. (I never understood that owing people a dinner thing. I mean, it’s nice to invite people back, but nobody’s keeping score. Or maybe chicks do.)
Time has totally flown since Christmas, so we were all surprised to find that it was already March by the time we went to dinner together. Joyce sees Mrs. LaSalle at some of her charity things, but this was the first time I saw her since Christmas.
I really liked Mrs. LaSalle that one time I met her, and I was looking forward to seeing her again. She’s had an exciting life and has a whole mess of great stories to tell about her adventures. She doesn’t make her age a secret (she’s 87) but you’d never guess how old she is by the way she talks and gets around. The only thing she doesn’t do anymore is drive, and maybe her family was right to take away her car. But she gets around a lot using Lyft. (She doesn’t like Uber; I’m not sure why.) Mrs. LaSalle made it pretty clear at Christmas that her family was treating her like she was super old and couldn’t take care of herself, but she’s still living alone in a condo right across the street from Keaton’s building. (That’s the one with the fucked up laundry rooms; Mrs. LaSalle’s building is a lot nicer than Keaton’s…and she has her own washing machine lol.)
The restaurant Mrs. LaSalle took me and Joyce out to is on South Lake, less than a block from her condo, so it’s in walking distance. It’s a place me and Joyce go to a lot. I’ve gotten addicted to their bacon deviled eggs (they’re as good as they sound), and they make a great fillet and awesome super loaded loaded baked potatoes. They do a good hot fudge sundae too – and the beer selection’s great. It’s the kind of place that, if you take me there, you’re gonna find out that I’ve got a good appetite. Mrs. LaSalle even asked Joyce when was the last time she fed me lol.
Joyce always gets the buttermilk fried chicken at that restaurant – I’ve stopped telling her that Mom’s is better – and Mrs. LaSalle had fish. She said she’d love to have had the fillet like me, but that her steak eating days are over because of her teeth. That must suck, but she said the salmon was good. She had a few things to say about the kale that came on the side, however – and she learned a new word from me to describe it: lameass.
Y’all know that I know nothing about wine, and I had a porter to go with my steak. Mrs. LaSalle ordered herself a medium-size carafe of white wine and drank the whole thing. That was after she had a “highball” (that’s what she called it – it was a scotch and soda from what I could tell) before dinner.
After Joyce and Mrs. LaSalle finished watching me eat my ice cream (ok, that made me feel like a little kid, but, let’s face it, I was the youngest person there) and they finished their coffee, Mrs. LaSalle suggested we go back to her apartment. She told us at dinner that she and her husband climbed Mount Everest and me and Joyce were both interested in hearing more about it and seeing some of the pictures.
So we get back to Mrs. LaSalle’s apartment. After I helped her take out the slide projector and set up the screen, Mrs. LaSalle asked if we wanted to have an after dinner drink.
She suggested absinthe.
Y’all know I almost never drink anything stronger than beer, but Mrs. LaSalle made this absinthe stuff sound interesting. She made it sound so interesting that even Joyce (who never drinks anything stronger than Coke) said she would try some.
I know about as much about hard liquor as I do about wine. Like a good ole Southern boy I’ll have bourbon if I have to have something, but this absinthe stuff was a total mystery to me. I’d never heard of it. Since I knew I was going to want to blog about it, I even had to ask Mrs. LaSalle how to spell it.
So it turns out absinthe is green. It’s also illegal in the US because it contains wormwood. I know about wormwood from the Bible, but there it’s used as a metaphor for something real bitter. I never tasted wormwood myself, but, from what the Bible says about it, I coudln’t see how it would make something good to drink. Maybe that’s why it’s illegal. Mrs. LaSalle told us you can get “fake” absinthe in the US without the wormwood, but she gets “real” French stuff that’s smuggled in through Canada (where it’s legal.)
Turns out you don’t just drink a shot of absinthe out of the bottle. There’s a whole complicated procedure you have to go through first, and it involves some special equipment. You need absinthe “spoons”, glasses…and something called a “fountain”. You need some sugar cubes too.
The spoons are a little like strainers you put over your glass, and are designed to hold one of the sugar cubes. The fountain’s kinda like a super cool glass mini water cooler with four tiny spigots. Mrs. LaSalle said hers is an antique from France around 1890. She didn’t say it, but I reckon her glasses and the spoons were antiques too.
Since my description sucks, I looked for pictures of what these absinthe things look like. Mrs. LaSalle’s fountain looked something like this:
And her spoons were like this:
(Yeah, I know, that doesn’t look like any kind of spoon I’ve seen before either. But they call it a spoon.)
So the way it works is that you pour some of the green absinthe into a glass, then you put the spoon over the top and you put a sugar cube in the spoon. Then you put the glass and the spoon under the fountain, turn on one of the spigots, and the water begins to pour very slowly onto the sugar cube, through the spoon’s holes, and into the absinthe. That way the sugar cube dissolves and the liquid in the glass becomes cloudy and a pretty cool light green color. Joyce said it looked like jade.
Neither me nor Joyce had any idea how much water to add, so we left it to Mrs. LaSalle to make our drinks for us, although we watched super closely. We didn’t know what it was gonna taste like, but the process with all the antique things was pretty dang interesting.
Oh yeah – we had no idea how much alcohol there was in absinthe, either. So we had no clue how strong our drinks were going to be.
So finally the sugar dissolved and the drinks were ready. Mrs. LaSalle put them on a silver tray and brought them over to where me and Joyce were sitting on the couch and facing the screen. Y’all know I’ll taste just about anything (that’s how I got to like tacos de cabeza), so I was the first to take a sip. It wasn’t bad. It tasted mostly of licorice, but with some other flavors mixed in. I couldn’t tell which one was the wormwood, although I reckoned one reason you added the sugar was to take away the bitterness of the wormwood. (So why’d they put in the wormwood in in the first place lol?)
Then it was time for the slides.