Friday, July 18, 2008

Good Spirits by A. J. Rathbun

I exercise tremendous restraint when purchasing cookbooks. If left to my whims, I could easily purchase 2-3 new cookbooks with each visit to or a book store. My restraint isn't rooted in strong willpower or firm resolution. Instead, it boils down to one fact: I only have so much space on my kitchen bookshelves.

While I'm blessed to have ample bookshelf space in my kitchen, I know that restraint prevents my bookshelves from being cluttered with books I never use. Therefore, I apply a simple rule to cookbook purchases. If I buy a cookbook, I have to take one of my cookbooks (not one of my wife's) off the shelf. As you can see, this leads to some difficult decisions. I'm emotionally attached to my cookbooks, so it breaks my heart to see one get dethroned and relegated to the basement bookshelves.
No book is safe. Even the mighty fall. Rick Bayless, Peter Reinhardt, Bobby Flay, and Emeril. All have books that didn't make the cut, so they sit collecting dust in my basement. It's a cruel world, but a man who strives to live by Thoreau's doctrine of "simplicity, simplicity, simplicity" doesn't tolerate cookbooks that don't contribute to family meals on a regular basis.

I satisfy my craving to purchase cookbooks by checking them out during my weekly visits to the library. This works well. It's free, and I know that the books are just a temporary guests in my home. However, this past week I found a book that might take a place of honor on my bookshelf. The book is A. J. Rathbun's Good Spirits: Recipes, Revelations, Refreshments, and Romance, Shaken and Served with a Twist. I know what you're thinking. Do I really need a book for cocktail recipes? Can't I find most drink recipes online? These were my sentiments before I picked up Mr. Rathbun's book. Typically with cocktail books, the pictures or drink ingredients motivate me to try a new cocktail. With this book, it's Mr. Rathbun's witty, well-written introductions to each cocktail that have me doing an inventory of my liquor cabinet and planning to make a drink.

The following introduction for a drink called a Social illustrates my point:
For many, it's Mondays. For me, it's Tuesdays. For some, even Wednesdays are that deadliest day of the week, the day lips don't even form "hello" when walking past friends in the halls or city streets, where the number of words one feels like speaking could barely fill a thimble (if words had weight and took up space, that is). Circumvent your normally silent day by prescribing yourself a few Socials before any socials situation. They loosen the tongue and lighten the spirit.
The above charm isn't reserved for the drink introductions. Charm is splashed throughout the book, even in the instructions for preparing drinks. For a drink called a Nutty C, Rathbun tells the reader, "Stir with a song in your heart and a stir stick in you hand." I love it.

As you can see, Mr. Rathbun brings a poet's passion, beauty, and grace to life. Don't we all need more passion, beauty, and grace in our lives? This book is a welcome addition to any bookshelf. Now I just need to determine which of the following books will be dethroned.

P.S. Mr. Rathbun is a Kansas State University grad. When a diehard University of Kansas fan, like myself, can recommend something associated with KSU, you know I'm serious about it. Buy this book.

Later today I'll prepare a cocktail from the book and post a blog entry about it.

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