Monday, June 13, 2011

Moonshine redoux

This morning I went to a homebrewing supply store to purchase some materials to make moonshine, purely for book research, of course. The shop was not large and was packed floor to ceiling with all sorts of accouterments for making brews of one kind or another. The smell inside was warm and earthy, caramel sweet, like a deep, mossy forest. As soon as I walked in, I forgot everything. Why hadn't I brought a recipe? Why hadn't I written down the things I needed, the mash fermenter, the boiler, the worm pipe, the slobber bucket (whatever that is), the hydrometer (what does that do?)?

The guy behind the counter looked friendly enough. There were two customers ahead of us, one of which was in a concentrated monologue with the clerk about putting his boat in the water and sailing around the world. Was he planning to brew beer on the boat? Another guy came in, bought a bottle of something.

"Credit or debit?" the clerk asked.

"Whatever's easier for you," the guy said.

"Want a bag?"

"Don't need one."

Purchase finished. Beer brewers are basic folk.

My turn.

"I want to make some moonshine," I said. "What do I need?"

The clerk took a step back so that he was against the wall behind the counter and crossed his arms.
"I have no idea."

"That's what everyone says." He nodded.

"I know it's illegal," I said.

"Yes, it is."

"I can buy a still on eBay," I said.

"Then that's what you should do."

I explained that I was doing research and needed to make just a little to be sure I understand how it's done.

"We sell equipment here," he said. "What you do with it is your business." He said some guys come in with no idea how to make hooch and expect him to demonstrate. "They know nothing. They haven't done any research." He looked around, checked the door.

"For all I know," he said, "you could be from the ATF."

"I'm not from the ATF. I'm doing research, as I said."

"Right." His arms were still crossed. He was looking down his nose, protecting himself.

"Well, thanks," I said. "Maybe I'll be back for ingredients."

When we got back in the car, I told H, "This is going to be harder than I thought."

"It smelled good in there, though," H said.

"Yeah. Maybe I should make beer instead of moonshine."

Stills on eBay go for a couple hundred dollars. And it's complicated. Copper is the best material, so I've read, but the copper oxidizes and has to be cleaned each time it's used. And there are other dangers, like ergotism, methane poisoning, and several other kinds of poisons generated in the distillation that can make you blind or psychotic or kill you. Which makes me think my moonshine ancestors had to be pretty smart to get a still up and running and sell the stuff at pubs. I have a lot to learn.

I didn't post a picture of Tania and Damien yesterday. Tania is the Greek beauty who grew up in Queens. She's planning a "big fat Greek wedding," and why not. Damien is an only child, and his mother is jumping for joy that he's found the love of his life. Their wedding will be a joyous celebration.

I also promised the answers to the comma practice exercise. Let me know how you did:

1. Her hand zoomed out and grabbed hold of my wrist. [no comma]

2. On one side of us was a small grocery, and on the other side was a pay-by-the-week motel where a few old bachelors lived year-round.

3. She had found a small twig and pressed her thumbs together to spin it between them. [no comma]

4. When the women came out, Daddy and Charles Asher carried chairs down from the screen porch and sat them up in a circle near the clothesline.

5.“Templeton, if I ever catch you poking-oking-oking your ugly nose around our goslings, I’ll give you the worst pounding a rat ever took.”

6. Underneath her rather bold and cruel exterior, she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and true to the very end.

7. Everything on the farm was dripping wet. [no comma]

8. Charlotte, sleepy after her night’s excursions, smiled as she watched.

9. The children answered their cheer, and away went everybody to the Fair.

10. When the wind had died down, and the barnyard was quiet and warm, the grey goose led his seven goslings off the nest and out into the world.

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