Communicate or Consternate: the Power of your Tongue

No one will complain that you made something easy to understand.

This was a slide I read while watching a Keynote speaker address members of the American Distilling Institute—a conference I attended this week. He also mentioned that someone had stolen his antidepressant medicine that morning and that he hoped whoever did it was happy with their decision.

For weeks leading up to the summit I felt my enthusiasm grow. It started like most of my decisions to attend an event such as this; I justify it by pointing out to myself and others how much I was going to learn and extol how it is worth the expense, time, and energy to appear.

Then, as the sessions and speakers are more fully revealed in the days before arrival, I grow in fevered pitch with an eagerness that verges on eye-roll worthy, mainly because I’ve become convinced that this one meeting will be wholly instrumental and pivotal to my growth both professionally and personally.

Except the most transformative opportunity offered is typically when I come across a booth at the Expo where some cosplayer Lady of the Lake is handing out plastic swords as well as lapel stickers that say, “Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” I then cover my current lapel sticker from the previous booth that said, “Be like a postage stamp. Stick to something until you get there.”

Alas, the one thing that appears repeatedly throughout the three-day event is proof of how many of us fumble with the sagacious quote above. I become aware that some speakers were selected to lecture at the conference not for their ease of communicating complicated data, rather for accolades granted, accomplishments trumpeted, or they won an arm-wrestling tournament with the conference coordinator on some drunken night, and this was in the kitty.

Don’t misunderstand, there were countless inspiring speakers, but more often than not, the art of communication is something many of us struggle with every single day—whether it’s in the performance of our job description, or we’re chatting with an everyday Joe, newly met or longtime known. It’s a captivating experience to encounter someone or listen to them lecture and find they are silver-tongued and eloquent, but curiously, I’ve occasionally found that the more learned they are, the more unintelligible they may be.

As an example, I filed into a lecture hall, along with about 150 other attendees, all of us excited to hear the most up-to-date and innovative information on how yeast can become our newest BFF, if we truly understand its deepest desires. The professor of brewing science at a far-flung institution began with an apology: “I am about to squish eight hours of university lectures into 45 minutes. Most of it will be intelligible only to those of you with a masters in biochemistry. And onward!”

Only onward was not where most of us went with the professor. Most of us looked around the room to gauge how many of us had a masters in biochemistry and were enjoying the microscopic photos of the principal structures of aerobically grown distilling yeast cells, the table summary of the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas metabolic pathway, and charts highlighting the biosynthesis of amino acids. I quickly realized that yeast and I were likely never going to exchange interlocking jewelry with one another.

My intention was not to sit in on a university lecture far beyond my wheelhouse and fume with frustration over wasted time, rather I had presumed—based on the title—that I might listen, take notes, and then bring home some data to our head distiller that said, if we switch to this yeast, we’ll have bigger yields, or if we utilize this enzyme, we’ll have bigger yields, or the word “yeast” is Sanskrit for, “to seethe or boil,” therefore they may benefit from a few anger management sessions if we’re hoping to see bigger yields.

I think you get my point.

Our takeaway from any exchange is one we hope to capitalize on if we’re in a business setting, or delight in, if we’re feeling out a new friend.

I am particularly good at wholly forgetting who I am when introducing myself to fellow attendees or approaching speakers I want to congratulate after a worthy session. I think my best words are often, “umm … I, uhh …” and something inaudible as I glance down to check my own name tag for identification. Rarely do I recall the pithy pitch I’d practiced in the bathroom mirror just before leaving the hotel that day. I’d be better off handing the person a QR code to scan at their convenience that will bring them to an interactive website with a pull-down menu to pick and choose from.

It also does not help that a “distiller’s” convention starts off every day with a boozy breakfast and a bucketful of hazmat level tastings to fully appreciate some of the latest trends, so I am going to attribute my inarticulate blundering as only the result of that full strength participation enthusiasm I bring to every conference and not general incompetence, okay?

The big picture is that maybe some of us need a little extra help “reading the room” these days. Maybe our messaging skills are rusty, our presentations inefficacious, maybe our wording falls short when trying to explain to people how effective we can be by using words like inefficacious to describe things.

Maybe it would be helpful if a room moderator would communicate to the conference attendees as soon as they discover a speaker is a no-show, rather than assume everyone will figure it out after thirty minutes of speculatively waiting. Some of us take longer to “read the room” than others.

Ultimately, most peoples’ desires are to be heard, to be comprehended, to be deemed adept at relaying vital and useful information to those who choose to listen to them. But for those who really don’t care, may I suggest an introductory slide of benefit?

I am only responsible for what I say—not for what you understand.

If I see this up front, I’ll happily head back to the boozy breakfast for a second round and spend the hour practicing my own high-proof pitch.

~ Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Life’s Luck: From Lemons to Sour Grapes, Mine is Weirdly, all Fruit Related.

Last month sucked. I mean really, really came out looking like an ugly puckery lemon.

I smashed a finger in between two 75lb boulders (yeah, while trying to do that rock wall myself—from last month’s blog).

I got a wicked thrashing from a wrathful, hell-bent-on-sparing-no-one poison ivy plant.

I got diagnosed with a second basal carcinoma (treatable skin cancer that plagues many pasty white Midwesterners who are unfamiliar with this thing local people call summer).

I broke my lawnmower.

I was stung by a wasp whose last dying wish was to leave a flesh wound and memorial to himself the size of an award-winning walnut.

And I got a UTI.

Okay, none of this stuff actually happened last month. That was a lie.

It happened this month.

Month and candor aside, the reality of so many calamities all at once did not bode well under the “Thank God, I got my Covid vaccine—it’ll sure be great to get back to normal” mindset I was cultivating.

Those thoughts ultimately tanked, and in their place crawled splints, bandages, skin grafts, physicians, lab techs, prescriptions, pills, ointments, potions, and spark plugs.

It was often hard to keep track of what went where, and on one miserable afternoon I found myself visiting the library to pick up a book I was hoping would take my mind off my miseries.

I was in line, waiting in the lobby for my turn to come in and approach the desk, when I heard someone triple tsk from behind me. I turned to see a woman as wrinkled as an old crabapple, her white hair braided and wrapped into a bun, held together with what looked to me like a couple of birch twigs and a meat thermometer.

I smiled, nodded politely, and turned to face forward again, only to hear her sigh and utter, “Dear me,” under her breath. She tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned, pointed to one of the many bandages wrapped around my arms and said, “You really should let that breathe.”

“Let what breath?” I asked.

“Your poison ivy.”

I looked down at the book she was holding in her arm. Kitchen Witchery: Spells, recipes, and rituals for something something magical something enchanted something something. I narrowed my eyes at her and tried to ascertain how this witch had discovered one of my ailments. “How do you—”

“You haven’t quite covered all your blisters,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, I really got walloped this time.”

She shook her head. “What did you do, roll in it like a dog in a cowpie patty?”

“No, I was weeding, but I bet my dog had a hand in spreading it.”

“Do you hug your dog?” she asked, pointing for me to move forward in line.

“All the time. He’s the best dog I’ve ever—”

“Stop doing that.”

“Exactly. I know. The oils on his fur transfers to my skin …”

“Not where I’m going. Stop doing it because dogs hate to be hugged. It makes them feel like they’re being devoured, and they’re helpless in that arm lock of stupid humans.”

“Oh.” I stared at the floor for a second before catching sight of her book again. “Well, I’d have to say that I truly feel like I’ve been cursed with something these last few weeks. Just one thing after another.” I looked up at her with a crooked smile. “Any hex breaking spells in that library book of yours?”

“You’re hoping some magic wand will wave away your poison ivy?”

I shrugged. “And my rock-smashed finger, wasp sting, skin cancer—anything that can alleviate those scourges?” I pointed out the ailments around my person.

The old woman studied me for a second or two, opened her book, thumbed through a few pages, and then slammed it shut with a crisp snap. “The book suggests not so much any incantation or elixir, but it is very precise on one specific action.”

“Oh?” I felt my eyebrows raise with hope.

She rolled her eyes. “Stay inside.”

I felt like an idiot.

She looked at me like I was an idiot, so I suppose my feelings were justified. “Ah, well. I suppose most of those wonky spells are simply drivel and gibberish. Are you just reading the book for fun?”

She glanced down at the book again and then spread it wide open to a page with a black iron caldron holding a bounty of vegetables from the garden it sat within. “Nope. I wrote this little beauty—there’s only one copy, and I convinced the librarian to put it here on the shelves. The problem is, I lost the original recipe for my mother’s tomato soup, and every time I want to make it, I have to come back and check out the book. Now that,” she pointed at the page, “is a cure-all for just about everything.”

I gave her a wary look. “How about a urinary tract infection?”

She cracked a smile and spat out, “Ha! That, my friend, is just a curse on all womankind. And no amount of kitchen witchery can make much of a dent in its presence.”

I shrugged. “I guess sometimes we’re just unlucky.”

“As I see it, your dog is going to get a bit luckier with no more hugs. Although sadly for you, I’d say it’ll be some time before anyone is going to want to wrap their arms around your bandaged body.” She searched the ceiling and then said, “Maybe try a bottle of wine.”

“Hug a bottle of wine?”

“No. Drink it. It won’t cure anything, but it’ll sure keep you from being cranky while Mother Nature deals with all your ailments.”

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Why am I Not Surprised?

My phone chirped, informing me I had a call on the other line.

Off to voicemail it went, as I was on a conference call with work.

Then my phone whistled that I had a text.

I followed all worldly business advice and did not glance at the phone, and secretly congratulated myself for continuing to focus on that all-important conference call.

Not ten seconds later, I hear a fist thumping on the back door. The attention stealing gods win this one. I quickly make my apologies, leave the call, and march to the door to see what’s so urgent.

No one is there, but as I’m craning my neck to see around the side of the house, I hear the front porch door slam shut with springs that have never been so up for the job of closing the gap.

I hurry toward the sound and now see a grizzled old man, sweating profusely, his fist poised to give the kitchen door a few new dents.

I fling it open.

“May I help you?” I ask, not hiding my annoyance.

“I called. And then I texted. And I knocked on the backdoor. Takes you a long time to git up and git goin’ don’t it?” He looked at me and shrugged.

“I was on the phone. Who are you?”

“Stanley. Did I surprise you? I’m super good at surprising people.”

I gave him a look that said we’re done here, and then he added, “I’m here to give you a quote about the wall that’s fallin down. You said to my son that you wanna build it back up again, right?”

Ah yes. The rock wall. Definitely needs fixing, but so do a zillion other things around here. I’d called these folks more than a month ago.

“I thought maybe I’d get a heads up someone was coming out,” I said.

His eyebrows rose. “I like surprising people. It’s what I’m super good at,” he laughed.

“I hope you’re also good at repairing rock walls.” I pointed toward the object in question and started heading toward it.

“I was a master carpenter for thirty years. When every other kid was outside playing ball, I was growing up in the basement building cabinets.” Stanley took out his Stanley measuring tape tool and began to walk along the wall. I wondered if he might be erroneously thinking I wanted cabinetry inside my rock wall.

“I bet a lot of people would wish to have that skill, although the price of lumber now is surely hindering work, right?” I was being polite, but I wanted to hurry up with the quote. I had to get back to work.

“I’ll tell you what’s expensive, darlin’. Drums!

I felt my eyebrows fuse together, but Stanley took no notice. “I wouldn’t know,” I said, hearing my words tinged with exasperation.

He pointed a finger to the sky. “Well, I would, because I used to be one. Did I ever tell you the story about when I got a call from a bunch of guys in Montana who said their drummer just up and quit and they needed one pronto? I packed my whole kit into the trunk of my car and made it there 19 hours later. They were playing at the Holiday Inn, but were staying at the Ramada Inn across the road, and when I went to the front desk to ask for the room of the drummer, they sent me to the drummer who was in the band playing at the Ramada Inn and not the Holiday Inn guy. I pounded on his door and when he opened it, I told him I was here to replace him.

“Well, you woulda thought I just told him his dog died, cuz he collapsed with grief. It was really funny.”

I looked at Stanley with disbelief.

“We straightened it out, but boy was he super surprised, cuz I do that really well.”

I pointed to the rock wall. “Any idea how long it might take to repair this?”

Stanley pulled a handkerchief from his shirt pocket and swiped across his brow. He shook his head. “Whatever length of time it’ll take, no doubt it’ll be a easier job than the one I had when I was a long-haul truck driver. Whoo-ee! That work is exhausting, and the stress of it tries to kill you every which way. People have no idea how hard it is to drive one of those big wheelers. You can’t see anything, can’t control your speed for nothin’, you’re always white knuckling the steering wheel if you’re East Coasting it. Midwest and the Northwest ain’t bad—that’s just straight and narrow—”

“Which is exactly how I’d like this rock wall to look. How bout it, Stanley? Can you do it?”

He looked at me with widened eyes. “Oh, I doubt it’ll be me. I just had a heart attack a month ago—and hip surgery to boot. My son just sent me here to measure. Maybe get some exercise, right?”

My teeth begin to itch. “I could have measured the wall and sent those dimensions to you.”

Stanley laughed and said, “Yeah, but then my son wouldn’t have gotten me out of the office and off the phone with clients now then, right? He really insists I get moving a bit—really wants me to be healthy.”

I turned away from Stanley and mumbled, “I think he really wants to get some work done, actually.”

Stanley chuckled and put a hand against a tree to rest. “You know, it’s super surprising just how much he’s like my ex-wives, always encouraging me to get out of the house and office. Did I tell you how many ex-wives I’ve had? I bet you’d be super surprised.”

“I’d be more surprised if this job ever gets done.”

“I think the surprising thing is going to be how much it’s gonna cost, so I’d suggest you better stop lollygagging around here with me and git back to your phone calls, right? Go make some money, honey. That’s a phrase I used to say to the girls when I used to—”

I held up my hand. “Don’t wanna know, Stanley.”

He snorted and slapped a thigh. “Okay then.” He turned and headed back to his truck. “I’m sure you’ll hear from us soon.”

I shook my head. “I’ll be surprised if I do, Stanley. Super surprised.”

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Why You Should Always Bring Two Trucks to a Demolition

“I’m going to get rid of that hot tub,” I said to no one in particular about 500 times in the last two years.

Okay, that’s not true. I’ve said it to everyone who has ever walked past the antiquated, broken down, monstrous piece of rotomolded plastic that surely had people wondering if I was going to invite them to a bubbling bacterium filled night from the 70s.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

Never happened ever.

I hate hot tubs. Hate them.

They make my skin crawl both figuratively and literally. I am just not a jacuzzi natured nut. I’m not much of a pool person either. More of a “if you’re hot, go stand under the garden hose” kind of a girl. I don’t even own a bathtub, so why was there a giant tank of promised tranquil times in my front yard taking up valuable real estate where other valuable, contributing items like tomato plants, a patch of grass, or a host of plastic pink flamingo might live?

I’ll tell you why. Because no one wants to haul that junk away.

So, I looked at doing it myself. But there’s the tiny component that includes “disassembling” involved. My thought was this is doable, for if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life thus far, it’s that the solution to any problem is viable even if you only have access to three things:

  1. Duct tape
  2. WD40
  3. YouTube

It was a great idea for about 30 seconds. At the 31st second mark of the first video I watched on how easy it is to dismantle your old hot tub I’d changed my mind. Easy is not a word I would pick. I would instead pick words like onerous, laborious, and ignorantly ambitious.

They required power tools with gas tanks, multiple blades, and signed waivers in order to purchase. As I was far more fond of my fingers than farcical waterfowl, I picked up the phone and furthered my search for anyone willing to haul this sucker away.

After countless calls to every variety of company with the name “junk” in it, I finally settled on one who’s name I can’t recall but could aptly be named “Umm … Sure, if I Can Shove it in My Truck.” It wasn’t necessarily their enthusiasm that won me over, rather that basement price of stating they could do the work for 60% less than everyone else.

I am a penny-pinching son of a gun, and the thought of holding onto a few more pennies made me suddenly envision buying my new flock of plastic feathered friends at someplace fancy like the Garden Decor´ section at Walmart, rather than straight off the clearance shelves at the Dollar General. 

But then Willie and the gang showed up with a pickup truck that would definitely always be chosen last when team captains were divvying up the choices for all the pickup truck games. Tiny red flag.

Willie put his son to work—Willie Jr—and then left to answer the phone. I heard the sound of angry steel come to life, ripping through fabric and plastic and wood and thought that could have been me. And then a minute later I heard the sound of Willie Jr cry out and thought that would have been me.

“Snake!” I heard lil Willie cry.

I came out onto the porch and looked at Willie Jr. pointing out to Willie Senior the head of a black snake who was obviously just as surprised as the two of them and shared the same expression.

“Don’t kill him. That’s Hortense. He’s just a garden snake,” I said.

“Hortense? Is he a biter?” Willie Jr. asked.

“Only if you’re a rat,” I answered.

“Well, you have the face of a rat, Willie, so I’d watch out if I were you,” his sister said.

The sound of Willie Jr’s angry steel sprang to life again in answer.

That could have been me, I thought.

I brought out a pitchfork and handed it to Junior. “You ever had spaghetti? You just need to twirl that feller up onto here and then walk Hortense out to the woods where he can be safe.”

Junior was not thrilled. But he did it. And then the angry steel returned with a chorus that began to sound like it was running out of steam.

From the porch where I sat studying a library book, I heard snippets of phrases like Did you bring the extra battery? And Well, we’re gonna have to plug her in. Also, What do you mean it’s not working? Did you hit water? And finally some sort of thunk. Like a head falling to the table.

Junior and I finally found another suitable and working outlet for the angry blade brigade and the work resumed. Until …

“Snake!”

I came out onto the deck again. “That’s Hildegard. She’s probably wondering where Hortense is.”

And she’s probably wondering what the hell is happening to her house, I thought looking around with despair. Plastic, insulation, fiberglass, foam, and wood were scattered everywhere. Good lord, it looked like my attic went on a binge and vomited onto the lawn.

“How’s it goin?” I asked, noting it had been over three hours of work thus far. Three hours for five people against one hot tub. The YouTube video has one guy, one crowbar, and fifteen minutes, seven of them spent explaining to the camera what he was doing.

“Nearly done,” I heard Willie Senior offer up. Behind him, Junior was wrestling with Hildegard who was determined to stay in her home come hell or high water … or high-powered chain saws. Maybe she had babies to protect.

Poor Junior. That could have been me.

An hour later, as the sun was setting, I brought out a tray of glasses and a bottle of bourbon. “Good work, lads and lasses,” I said, seeing nothing but a concrete slab where the hot tub used to be.

“The truck is full up. Can’t fit anymore into it,” Willie Senior said, pointing toward it.

I saw half the hot tub, or what used to be the hot tub, shoved into the back and spilling out the sides. The other half was in several large piles on the lawn and driveway.

“We’ll come back for the rest tomorrow,” he said.

“And the check for payment of services?” I asked, suddenly realizing that question now took the place of whatever last sentence was in first place for Stupidest thing I’ve ever asked. My sluggish brain now foresaw being stuck with a driveway full of junk while I chased down a handyman who’d never return my calls.

Willie Sr. smiled and winked. “We’ll come back for it tomorrow.” He hitched a thumb again toward his truck. “Can’t fit anymore into it.”

Well, there you have it, I thought to myself, a man who owns a garbage company is a valuable treasure of honesty himself.

Maybe instead of the flock of flamingos, I’ll erect a statue of Willie.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Galapagods and Goddesses

“So what are you most excited about, Mom? The giant tortoises? The penguins? The Blue-footed Boobies?”

That last one always makes every one laugh—until you see a picture of the bird, in which case you’re trying to figure out how to slyly shove one of those cutey patooties into your suitcase to return home with.

“The distillery,” I answered truthfully.

I heard the distinct sound of a hand suctioning itself onto a forehead. It would be a familiar thump as well over the next couple of weeks, as we were nearing the end of Chloe’s “Countdown to the Galapagos” calendar—the trip of a lifetime my daughter had gifted me.

Weeks earlier she had surprised me on a Zoom call.

“I’ve checked with your work—all is thumbs up, and all the animals will be looked after. I’m taking you to the Galapagos Islands.”

“What?” I was stunned. “Why?”

“Firstly, you’re welcome. And secondly, as a thank you.”

I chose to ignore the firstly bit and moved on to the latter half of her explanation. “Thank you for what?”

“You know, the whole thanks for raising, clothing, caring, feeding bit, plus all the extra effort helping me get to where I am so that I could accomplish what I have.”

She was referring to her ever so awesome job and lifelong dream of sending shit up into space. “You are welcome. I knew those math flash cards were going to pay off one day.”

“I’m serious,” she said. “You were there with the support and encouragement and shoulder—”

“Don’t forget ice cream.”

“Yes, and ice cream too,” she added.

“Why the Galapagos?”

She smiled with glee through the screen. “Well, I may never be able to take you to Mars to study what we’re hoping to discover there—possibly some origin of life, so I’m taking you to where Charles Darwin first studied it on our little planet.”

Obviously, Chloe knew exactly how the poetic parallel would fill me with admiration, and it neatly explained why she had mailed me a beautiful copy of On the Origin of Species just a few days before phoning.

And so, every day for the next two weeks I received some version of the text ELEVEN MORE DAYS TILL GALAPAGOS, MOTHER!!! And I would send her back a picture of one of the animals I could not wait to lay eyes on.

This, of course, after researching whether any of the islands had some form of working distillery upon them, and after discovering one did, announcing that this was where we had to go first.

“We are leaving work behind, Madre—no computers, no spreadsheets, and no liquor apart from that which any charming South American bartender hands you in a glass, got it?”

“But this is not work, Chloe. This is learning. This is research. And as we are going to be spending hours wandering through the ample exhibition halls, gardens, library, and living labs of the Charles Darwin Research Station, we surely will wish to further our research on other aspects of the islands’ elements as well, right?”

“Discovering how some old geezer is distilling sugarcane will likely disappoint you. It’s not going to be like you’re in Scotland, and as you’re hunting through castles and stone circles you accidentally stumble upon some ancient, perfect, long silent but suddenly brought back to life prized distillery.”

I huffed. “I will not be disappointed, Chloe. Clearly, there is an artist waiting to be appreciated—and likely frustrated that Charles Darwin is constantly overshadowing his work. I aim to aid his need for recognition.”

“You aim to be poisoned, likely by a large dose of methanol, is my guess.”

But my sweet, generous, overly and uncomfortably educated child was wrong. Meeting Adriano Cabrera of El Trapiche was one of the most memorable moments ever.  Maybe because having seen some of the world’s most impressive and flush-with-cash companies, with their shiny copper pots, their massive barrel-filled warehouses, and their gleaming tasting rooms, experiencing Adriano’s barebones setup was the refreshing, reaffirming chapter I needed to slip in to my ‘book of life.’ It brought back the this process is magic feeling that can sometimes be buried beneath all the new glamour whisky making tours now provide to consumers.

Not one of the countless distilleries I’ve visited ever employed animals as part of the workforce, and yet Adriano had harnessed not just a braying donkey to run the press that squeezes the liquid out of the cane sugar, but every bit of flora and fauna he had available to utilize.

All throughout the facility—and by facility, I mean a long, open air shack—he was growing plants indigenous to his island of Santa Cruz. Whether it was the sugar cane, the coffee bushes, or cacao beans, the surrounding landscape was filled with flowering plants.

Those flowering plants brought birds, butterflies, and bees to pollinate them, and those thriving plants introduced an abundance of wild, ambient yeasts. Those indigenous yeasts then fermented that sugar cane juice, which attracted a good handful of insects looking to score a solid buzz on their buzziness and ended up dying for the cause. And still flying with the theme that Adriano was capturing flavor everywhere, surely there’s got to be a scientist who would agree with me that those insects added a bit of nuttiness to the mash, or that their natural fats and mineral-rich exoskeletons left some “flavorprint” behind.

It doesn’t matter. I have empirical evidence. My tongue was the judge.

Once that mash trickled downhill via garden hose to the antiquated, blackened oil drum that was his makeshift still, flames licking and embracing its bottom half as it heated and fractionated the fermented juice within, the magic was nearly done.

Adriano’s method of testing his alcohol’s proof was to use a scuffed-up glass hydrometer, but more to my amusement, was his flamboyant technique of simply throwing a cupful of distillate right onto the still’s flames.

If it goes boom, we bottle, could be a motto he might consider putting onto the label.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding as well, which to me—any small, albeit worrisome, overdose of methanol aside—was a nip worth sipping and a risk worth taking.

As I see it, the El Trapiche distillery succeeded in distilling the entire experience of The Galapagos Islands’ essence of origins into liquid form. The smells, the taste, the sights, the sounds. The true flavor of all its endemic species.

Charles Darwin would have been proud.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.