Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History

Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History

By Steven Grasse

I have somehow found myself in the midst of reading several books that I am just "meh" about, but feel like they deserve more stars than my actual enjoyment would indicate. My personal feeling on this book is a 3, but the book delivering on what it states is a 5, so I'm comprising on 4. I think a ton of people would really enjoy this book, I just wanted a bit more substance. I mostly picked this book up because I greatly enjoy the YouTube channel Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc. which has a series about 17/18th century American cooking, so that was kind of what I was looking for here. 

Let's begin this by saying that I don't drink very much. Alcohol of all kinds tends to either make me instantly sleepy or trigger migraines so I've just learned to stay away for my personal well-being. That being said, the history of the alchemy of alcohol intrigues me, a lot. I mean, really, who came up with this stuff? Some of the methods of fermentation and cooking the liqueurs and alcohols in this book are just mind boggling. It would never occur to me to attempt any of them and think they would work, but obviously someone did. The author does an amazing job of detailing the exact ways to make everything from traditional mixed drinks, to ciders, to rum, to even non-alcoholic drinks. It was truly impressive to read about since I don't have any background in backyard-brewing.

Interspersed between the sections of recipes are the authors stories of the colonial era (with an obvious slant towards the imbibing side of things), and various historical facts. It all seems quite well researched, but I could never pick up on the cadence of the writing. It seemed to be trying to mix modern with colonial vernacular, but it just came off as awkward most of the time. There were a few spots that were confusing enough for me to read, re-read, re-read again, and still not understand what was being conveyed. This is my major gripe with the book, because it really took away from my enjoyment of the history which is given just as much importance here as the recipes.

Taken all together, I did like this book and was impressed with what it was trying to do. I haven't mentioned the artwork, but it's absolutely lovely. The cover is an example of the cute little watercolors found all throughout as simple images of foods, or scenes illustrating a point in history. This is definitely a worthwhile read if you want to try the recipes, but maybe not as much if you're just in it for the history. 

Copy courtesy of ABRAMS/Abrams Image, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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