Monday, March 17, 2014

The Flavia

Adapted from Julia Reed's Corpse Reviver No. 2 in But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria

The Flavia

I wrote this on March 17, 2014. On August 28, 2020, the unimaginable happened, Julia Reed died of cancer while vacationing with friends. I say unimaginable because even though I didn't know-know her, she was part of my life. I had all of her books; I collected her newspaper columns; I read everything written about her I could get my hands on. I wanted to meet her but didn't think I really had to because she was already my friend. She made me laugh and shared her best recipes. She introduced me to her beloved beagle, Henry. She gave me decorating tips. She seemed larger than life and too good to be true. It's hard to say Rest In Peace for the girl whose motto was Let the Good Times Roll so I'll just say thank you.

Alex Witchel and Frank Rich used to be tops on the list of people I have never met who I want to invite me to dinner. I was hoping for great conversation and these lamb chops. But not any more.

I want Jon Meacham to invite me to his place for a party.

Yes, we can discuss Thomas Jefferson. Yes, we can talk about Winston Churchill and FDR. Yes, I can ask what Joe Scarborough is like and see if he doesn’t think Mika Brzezinski should get the Nobel Peace Prize for trying to keep the decibel level on Morning Joe down.

But what I really want is to have Jon Meacham’s wife Keith and her friend Julia Reed have me over so we can cook and eat together.

There is nothing that makes me happier than discovering a new canapé or spending long days - and nights - planning a party. I have clocked so many hours with my friend Keith Meacham, who, like me, was born in the Mississippi Delta, armed with legal pads and Post-it notes, poring over seating charts and mapping out possible menus, that her husband Jon, the author and editor of Newsweek, now refers to us - with more than a hint of derision - as the “crabmeat caucus.”
 from Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties by Julia Reed

I keep Julia Reed’s food columns from The New York Times in a binder.  (The one called Member of the Club is my favorite.)  Her books Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialities and But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria are dog-eared on my shelf and downloaded on my Kindle and iPad for easy access. I even went as far as subscribing to Garden & Gun magazine so I can read The High and the Low, Julia Reed’s monthly column.

In a previous incarnation, I lived in Atlanta for eight years. I celebrated Thanksgiving weekends cheering for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on their home turf or watching the Georgia Bulldogs play football between the Hedges. I ate my fair share of “puhmenna” cheese, hot pepper jelly, and had a Varsity Hot Dog or two, and I agree completely what Julia Reed meant when she said this about New York:

In a city where “hors d’oeuvres” all too often mean ubiquitous skewers of dried-out chicken saté or half-cooked snow peas with an ambiguous “fish paste” piped inside, it is relatively easy to wow people, and I have yet to discover a deviled egg or a giant lump of crabmeat bathed in homemade mayonnaise that didn’t do the trick.
from Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties by Julia Reed

The 2014 holiday season is upon us, and in honor of Julia Reed, on New Year's Eve I will be drinking as much Veuve Clicquot as I can get my hands on, but once January second rolls around, and the post-holiday doldrums kick in, I’ll be dreaming about green grass, blue skies, 80-degree days, and this drink - my go-to summer cocktail for entertaining, which I adapted from Julia Reed's Corpse Reviver 2.

It's named in honor of Flavia de Luce, the intrepid sleuth in Alan Bradley's marvelous mystery series that begins with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, because with the Pernod left out, the corpse is left cold, not revived.

Flavia (pronounced Flay-via)
Adapted from Julia Reed's Corpse Reviver No. 2 in But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria

For one drink

1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce Plymouth Gin
1 ounce Triple Sec, Bols if you can get it (I never use Cointreau because I think it is too "heavy.")
1 ounce Light Lillet
Garnish with a cherry (I use Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino Cherries, made with pure cane sugar and no red dye.)

Shake, shake, shake the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice until very cold.  Serve in a martini glass garnished with a cherry.

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