8:00 a.m. today
Me: “Clearly, it’s time for the hair of the bear.”
My dad: “I can’t think of anything I want in my mouth less.”
Just about every morning, usually while the kids are getting ready for school, I pose the question: “When can I start drinking?”
If you can relate to this, you’ll be happy to pull yourself out of that crusty vomit puddle on the floor and look at the calendar. Because—OMG!—this week it’s Mardi Gras!
Also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras is the last hurrah before Lent, the 40-day period before Easter that Christians earmark for piety, devotion, and giving up luxuries such as booze. This makes Lent terrifying for bears like me, and that’s why we have to get as much fun as we can out of Mardi Gras.
How do we do that?
Glad you asked, my fellow inebriates. Fully one hundred percent of my past efforts to put a bottle or two on the breakfast table have failed. My parents disagree that vodka would mix nicely into Earl Grey tea, or Sambuca into Starbucks. I mean, you’ve heard it all before—my parents just don’t have any sense of adventure.
But they do like stuffing their faces with pancakes… And pancakes just happen to be the traditional Mardi Gras food.
Now, I’m not gonna kid you. There’s no way I’m making pancakes.
- No solid foods here.
- The stove is TERRIFYING. I look kind of like an oven mitt.
So let’s just make the syrup:
1 cup water
1 and ⅓ cups sugar
⅔ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. whisky (I’m using Laphroaig Single Malt Quarter Cask—don’t tell my dad)
1 tsp. maple extract (or imitation maple flavoring)
Okay, so… instructions call for heating on the stove. Too scary. But for you solid-food eaters, I highly recommend visiting lifeasastrawberry.com and seeing for yourself how to make this delicious syrup. I’m doing it without setting myself on fire, thanks very much.
It’s a little crunchy. You probably really should heat this stuff up. You know, melt the brown sugar. Huh. Or whatever, just have the Laphroaig for breakfast. Sounds like the very definition of Mardi Gras.
“Oh boy!” I said when I woke up this morning. “It’s my birthday! Maybe we can celebrate! Maybe we can drink some wine tonight that doesn’t smell like a greasy jockstrap!”
I took this proposition to my mother, who hadn’t had the slightest inkling that the resident Liquorstore Bear had just turned 10 years old. Like, OMG!
(Not only do I get to enter the double digits today; I get to do it before Miss P, who won’t celebrate her 10th until December. In your face, P!)
“So, it’s my birthday,” I mentioned, sidling along the kitchen counter as my mother halfheartedly wiped it. (Have you seen that commercial in which they wipe the kitchen counter with a raw chicken breast to illustrate how germy the average kitchen cloth is? I bet my mother inspired that.)
“Oh,” she said. “Happy birthday.”
“I know, right?” I said, a small seed of desperation popping into existence somewhere underneath my fur. “I’m, like, 10!”
“Wow, 10,” she said, giving the “Wow” a Valium bottle’s worth of emphasis. “I can’t believe we got you 10 years ago. What were we thinking?”
“You were thinking it was a good idea!” And, knowing she would never allow me to reach my point gracefully, I said, “So, what kind of booze are you buying?”
“Hadn’t thought about it.”
“Whisky? A 10-year malt would be appropriate, I guess…”
“I mean, it’s 7:00, LB. It hadn’t occurred to me.”
“Or maybe 10 bottles of wine. Or hey—how about some Tanqueray Ten?”
“I guess we should make you a cake.”
“Or how about some Tennessee Gentleman Jack? Get it? Tennesee?”
“Aren’t you underage?”
This was going down the wrong path. I mean, yes, we always have a cake; the kids LOVE making cakes, but really. OMG.
She must have seen my pained look, because she said, “Oh, you know we’ll buy a bottle of wine.”
“Good! What kind?”
“Well, I don’t know…probably our usual.”
Our usual, lately, is SETUBAL ERMELINDA FREITAS MONTE DA BAIA from Portugal. It’s $11.29 at our local booze store, 13.5%, and is a concentrated, richly tannic, ripe blend that we found on the Consultant’s Choice shelf and have scooped up several times. Arguably not as complex as the sort of wine you might buy for a bear who has provided 10 epic years of enjoyment for a family of four, it nevertheless sports some interesting wood and vanilla notes that linger pleasingly on the palate. My mum enjoys it more than my dad, who always comments that it is “sweet” and elaborates no further—but it does, in fact, stop short of exhibiting a jammy lack of discipline. SETUBAL ERMELINDA FREITAS MONTE DA BAIA is a combo of several grape varietals, the most internationally recognizable being Syrah, and it is aged in half-and-half American/French Oak barrels. Solid food eaters will probably enjoy cheese or game with it, but certainly not birthday cake… Although, when a birthday cake is as thoughtfully decorated as P and V’s invariably are, how can a bear say no?